Humble Evangelism

September 29, 2015

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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?


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  1. Kate September 30, 2015 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Don’t you think that evangelism can also be shown through your actions? People can see Jesus Christ through who you are. That gives them the opportunity to ask what you believe in and how you are the way you are. I’m a veterans therapist, and despite all world views, you can still hold your own beliefs solid without designifying your own. Think about it.

  2. Joshua Hook October 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Yes, absolutely! When I looked at the life of Jesus, he talked to people about faith, of course, but his talk was always paired with behaviors: loving people, healing disease, meeting physical needs, etc. I think the actions piece is a key aspect here, and I’m glad you brought it up.

  3. Dave October 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Josh, this is a critical discussion on the “how” of sharing one’s faith. However, I see it as bleeding into the “why” but not addressing if the “why” is correct. You define evangelism as, “sharing one’s religious beliefs with another person, with the hope that he or she would come to share the same religious beliefs”. Given the self-focus of that definition, it makes sense that Christians (including myself) have shared their faith in an arrogant way, as the goal was to get agreement with ME and my view. This inevitably leads to non-altruistic reasons for sharing with others (e.g. needing to be right, wanting to feel better than someone else, proving someone wrong, not believing I could be wrong). And this leads to the guilt/shame that I and many others have felt.

    I’d argue that the path to humility is to consider the perspective of God (whether the Christian God or the God of other religions). I believe that His “why” evangelize is that it gives others the chance to gain the best (e.g. relationship with Him, “heaven”) and/or avoid the worst (e.g. absence of relationship with God, “hell”). If I’m privy to that information and aware that I once didn’t know it and now do, I believe it will naturally take us to “humble evangelism” and in the ways you describe. But the “why” needs to be correct or the “hows” risk leaving us at, “wow, that was such an interesting discussion about faith” and not taking the crucial next step to, “and therefore, my/your life/beliefs should change because of the truth shared in the discussion”.

  4. Joshua Hook November 5, 2015 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Dave, I think you bring up some challenging points here, and I have been thinking about your post quite a bit. I think your last point about how a person’s views should change based on what was discussed brings up the tension between humility and evangelism. At some level, evangelism involves a desire for the other person to change and bring his or her view more into alignment with my view (which I think/hope is aligned with God’s view).

    Another interesting thing I think you bring up is humility to God’s perspective. Sometimes I have trouble understanding what that looks like in practice, especially in situations that involve religious disagreement or conflict. Ostensibly, both parties might think that humility before God involves ‘sticking to their guns’ on important religious or spiritual matters, which doesn’t quite align with most conceptualizations of humility that we use in our relationships.

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