teaching the whole counsel… on evangelism

It’s interesting that in the most obvious direct instruction on the methods of evangelism in the New Testament, we hear about a seemingly passive approach:

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (I Peter 3:14-16 ESV)

Of course, this doesn’t preclude direct forms of evangelism.

But of all the discussions I’ve heard on evangelism (and I’ve heard a bunch), it seems uncommon to hear this sort of “passivity” or more relational approach encouraged as a really important piece of our faith-sharing repertoire. It’s not the only way to go about it, but we at least have to obey this passage, and our lives should match up with its expectations. Right?

What’s more, the “gentleness and respect” and “good conscience” portion seem really important to Peter here. For him, apparently evangelism required a really strong dose of personal inspection – both regarding one’s approach and one’s lifestyle.

So my question for college ministers is this: As you teach and train evangelism (and I hope you do both), do you teach each of these components? And do you present them not as “sidebars” but as crucial to an effectively evangelistic student?

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