When I was in college, I was a big advocate for evangelism. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, evangelism involves sharing one’s religious beliefs with another person, with the hope that he or she would come to share the same religious beliefs. I am a Christian, so my evangelism looked like sharing about the life and teachings of Jesus.
As I grew older, my attitudes toward evangelism grew more complex. Partly because of the values I developed as a counseling psychologist, I thought it was pretty important to respect people’s cultural background (including their religious beliefs). There seemed to be a disconnect between respecting a person’s religious beliefs and trying to get a person to change his or her religious beliefs to align with mine.
Religion is an important aspect of many people’s lives (as well as an integral part of culture), so I think it’s good to connect and have open discussions about what we believe. I’m not one of those people who think it’s a good idea to avoid all discussion of religion or politics. However, when it comes to evangelism, I have begun to wonder what humble evangelism might look like.
To be honest, this has been a difficult question to explore. Maybe it’s my own religious baggage that I carry around with me. Maybe it’s my discomfort with other people trying to push their views on to me. Maybe it’s because a lot of the evangelism I see in my everyday life doesn’t strike me as particularly humble (e.g., the person on the street corner who blasts everyone with their religious perspective whether the people passing by like it or not). So what might humble evangelism look like?
- Humble evangelism acknowledges the limitations in my own worldview. Whether I like to admit it or not, there are limitations in my worldview. Christianity hasn’t gotten everything right in the past, and there are likely beliefs I hold right now that are wrong. Humble evangelism doesn’t offer one’s religious perspective as the final word on religion. Instead, humble evangelism is honest about the limitations of one’s religious perspective.
- Humble evangelism is other-oriented rather than self-focused. When I did evangelism in college, it was often more about me than the person I was talking to. I did evangelism because I thought I should, and I felt good about myself afterwards. Humble evangelism is more focused on the other person than myself. This means I place the other person’s wants, needs, and desires above my own. This means I respect the other person’s desire to talk about religion (or not).
- Humble evangelism is a two-way street. When I did evangelism in college, I expected the people I was talking with to change their views, but I was not willing to shift my own views. In humble evangelism, I am just as willing to be affected by the person I am talking with as I expect that person to be affected by me. Humble evangelism is a mutual exchange about religion and one’s beliefs, rather than a one-way presentation or sermon.
Discussion: What do you think about evangelism? How do you feel about discussing your religious beliefs with others? Do you think it is possible to engage in humble evangelism?