What leads to more evangelistic Christians? Several factors can increase the likelihood believers will share their faith with others.
By Daniel Price
A recent study from Evangelism Explosion conducted by Lifeway Research found Christians say they’re seeking evangelistic conversations but not actually having them. The number of those who are never or rarely active (50%) and those who are somewhat or very active (50%) in evangelism are nearly identical. But there’s a larger percentage who are never active (24%) as compared to the very active (13%) group.
Seeing how those different groups answered other questions provides meaningful insights into how attitudes and perceptions impact a person’s willingness to engage in different evangelical actions.
These eight traits are predictive of an evangelistic Christian.
1. Connect faith to everyday life
We asked respondents whether their Christian faith impacts every aspect of their everyday lives. And we saw an increase in the level of agreement with this statement corresponding to an increased frequency of evangelistic actions. In other words, those who say their Christian faith impacts every aspect of their lives are more likely to share their faith more frequently.
2. Biblical beliefs about heaven
When asked about the certainty of going to heaven, those never active in evangelism are least likely to be sure (33%) and most likely to believe no one can know (21%). Meanwhile, those very active (76%) are most likely to be sure they’ll be with God in heaven.
Only 30% of those who never engage in evangelism profess Christian beliefs when asked why God should let them in heaven. These percentages increase significantly with increased evangelistic activity. Those who are never (38%) and rarely (38%) active are the most likely to say they should get into heaven because they’re good people. Those never active in evangelism (24%) are also the most likely to say they don’t know.Christians who are never (38%) and rarely (38%) active in evangelism are the most likely to say they should get into heaven because they’re good people. Click To Tweet
The lack of certainty is surely impacting a Christian’s willingness to personally participate in evangelism. It’s not surprising that those who have questions or false notions when it comes to understanding the assurance of heaven for believers are the ones who are not active in evangelism. Believers trained in proper theology of eternity are more likely to want to tell others about Christ so they can have the same assurance.
3. Open to faith conversations
Faith conversations can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, but those who say they’re open to engaging friends or strangers in these conversations are more likely to participate in evangelistic actions. Whether it’s having a faith conversation with a friend (13%) or a stranger (34%), people who are never active in evangelism are the most likely to say they aren’t at all open to having these conversations. Those who are very open to conversations are more likely to be very active in evangelism with both friends (79%) and strangers (63%).
The pattern remains the same when the conversation is specifically about the Christian faith. The likelihood of people being more active in evangelism steadily increases the more open they say they are to such conversations. Based on these insights, developing an openness to having evangelistic conversations can be a first step toward engaging in these conversations.
4. Warm feelings toward evangelism
A Christian’s feelings toward evangelism provide significant insight into their level of engagement with evangelism. Individuals who are very active in evangelism are most likely to be eager (37%) and willing (68%) and least likely to be indifferent (4%) toward evangelism. As Christians cultivate a willingness and eagerness to evangelize, they’re more likely to participate in evangelism more frequently.
Respondents were asked whether they believed non-Christians viewed evangelistic conversations as pushy, rude, hope-filled, worth hearing once, worth exploring, or something they were open to. People who are very active in evangelism are most likely to say non-Christians believe it’s hope-filled (31%) and worth hearing once (35%). Those who never engage in evangelism are least likely to say non-Christians believe it’s hope-filled (5%), worth hearing once (8%), worth exploring (6%), or something they’re open to (8%).If a Christian has positive feelings about evangelism and believes the people they’re engaging with also have positive feelings, they are more likely to take evangelistic actions more often. Click To Tweet
This demonstrates how a Christian’s perspective on how others will respond directly relates to their participation in evangelistic activities. The more often Christians engage in evangelistic conversations, the more opportunities they have to be a part of well-received spiritual conversations. If a Christian has positive feelings towards evangelism and believes the people they’re engaging with also have positive feelings about evangelism, they are more likely to take evangelistic actions more often.
5. Ready for evangelism
Respondents were asked to select one statement that best describes how proactive or reactive they are with evangelism. Christians who are never active in evangelism are least likely to “try to bring up faith in conversations with everyone” (1%) or “look for natural opportunities to bring up faith” (6%). They “won’t talk about faith with most people” (46%) and are the most likely to be uncertain about their own posture toward evangelism (14%). Meanwhile, those very active in evangelism are most likely to try to bring up faith (35%).
When it comes to readiness to tell someone how to become a Christian, those never active in evangelism are the most likely to say they are “not sure what information needs to be shared or where to start” (51%). They’re least likely to be “ready to share the basic steps” (12%). Christians who are “ready for any opportunity” tend to be very active (53%) in evangelism.Those who are never (51%) or rarely (39%) active in sharing their faith are the most likely to say it’s difficult to share Christ with non-Christians. Click To Tweet
Those who are never (51%) or rarely (39%) active in sharing their faith are the most likely to say it’s difficult to share Christ with non-Christians. Those who are somewhat (73%) or very (80%) active in evangelism are more likely to say they feel it’s easy. Are the active participants doing so because it’s easy for them, or is it easy for them because they practice evangelism regularly? It is not easy to know, but clearly, the ease of sharing is directly aligned with the practice of doing so.
6. Embrace responsibility
When asked about pastoral responsibility in equipping congregants for evangelism, Christians who are never active in evangelism are least likely to say this is the pastor’s responsibility (50%) and most likely to say they’re not sure (27%). Those who are somewhat (80%) and very (78%) active in evangelism are more likely to say it’s the pastor’s responsibility to equip congregants to share the gospel.
Most Christians who are somewhat (82%) or very active (88%) in evangelism say every Christian has a personal responsibility in sharing the gospel. Christians who are never active (39%) are the least likely to agree. Clearly, the levels of evangelistic activity for Christians are connected to their beliefs regarding evangelistic responsibilities. Those who are unengaged exempt both pastors and Christians from any requirements to prepare others for evangelism or participate themselves. This conviction allays any concerns over failing to interact with others to share the gospel. Individuals convinced of their responsibilities tend to be more actively engaged in evangelism.
7. Positive perceptions of evangelism
Our perceptions shape our impressions of reality and directly influence our actions. This is true across many aspects of life, and evangelism is no different. People who are never active (62%) in evangelism are the most likely to say it’s offensive and disrespectful to encourage someone to change religious beliefs, while those very active in evangelism (54%) are most likely to disagree.
Similarly, when asked if sharing with a nonbeliever is the most loving thing one can do, those who are never active (30%) are least likely to agree, while those who are very active (89%) are the most likely to agree. Those who are never active in evangelism are least likely to say sharing with a non-believer how they can be a Christian isn’t scary (37%), indicating a higher level of fear aligned with a reluctance to share.
8. Training in evangelism
Whereas many of those who are very active in sharing their faith say they would prefer to learn by experiencing “real-life conversations with a trainer” (31%), nearly half of those who never engage in evangelism say they would never be trained in evangelism (44%). Among those very active, less than half (43%) are unfamiliar with any of the evangelism methods covered in this study. Those who are never active are almost universally unfamiliar with any of the methods (93%) and have not been trained in any method (95%).Christians who are never active in evangelism are almost universally unfamiliar with any of evangelistic methods surveyed (93%) and have not been trained in any method (95%). Click To Tweet
It’s clear many believers either have limited options for training or refuse the options that are available. If the goal is to activate a believer’s obedience to God’s instructions on evangelism, pastors and church leaders should make evangelism training available and encourage believers to be trained.
Growing evangelistic Christians
While it’s impossible to determine the direction of the relationship between specific beliefs and evangelistic activity, the preponderance of evidence implies there are ways to increase the likelihood of an individual becoming more active in evangelistic activities. The fundamental starting point should be an assurance of their own salvation. If a Christian isn’t certain why they should get into heaven, it’s logical they would have less incentive to share with others.
Another step is addressing how someone feels about Christianity and their impressions of sharing Christ with others. When one believes their faith impacts all aspects of life, it’s likely to affect how they feel about sharing with others. There should be a concerted effort to help people understand evangelism is not meant to be offensive but a truth to be generously shared out of love and concern for others. Finally, training is valuable, as people who feel more ready are more active in evangelism. There’s room to debate the specific technique but not the accessibility and application of training.
Daniel is a statistician for Lifeway Research.