Honestly? You evangelize by addressing problems with theology and by being part of their lives.
Let’s talk about theology first. What are the problems young adults are grappling with? We face uncertainty in every aspect of our lives, we face global injustice in a variety of ways and places, we face systemic racism and hatred. What does the gospel offer? What does God offer?
For one thing, He wrote the history of the world before the world existed. What is uncertainty to a God Who predicted major world events centuries before they happened? What is uncertainty to a God Who knows humanity inside and out? The Bible depicts people, and the stories, commands, and poetry resonate as much today as when they were written.
He is a God of justice, and He is a God Who does not look on the outside. Over and over through the Bible, the Lord subverts human expectations and customs. Over and over, He fights for the marginalized, the oppressed, the shunned. The weak–the women, children, disabled–are His special concern, and He makes them our special concern.
That’s powerful. I cannot think of any other god that can claim to know humanity so intimately, so compassionately, so perfectly, and so justly. And He became one of us! He does not merely look down from on high, He joined us. He can say “yeah, I know what hunger feels like. I know loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear, joy, sorrow. I have felt them Myself.”
The gospel is not “Jesus loves you.” The gospel is “Jesus is the rightful King of the universe, Who proved His immense worth and justice and mercy and love by living among us perfectly, dying sinlessly, and rising from the dead to reign at the right hand of the Father.
But how do you get to the point of discussing these problems? And what about the personal problems: the messy family dynamics, the personal insecurities, the ups and downs of life?
Movie nights, dinners, hiking trips, grabbing groceries for each other. Life. When you make people part of your life, they make you part of theirs. When you’re (forgive the buzzword) real with each other, you have opportunities that surface-level street preaching doesn’t afford.
I’m not knocking street preaching at all! It can be a wonderful conversation starter! But discipleship and gospel living is a day in and day out thing.
This idea isn’t mine. I picked it up from Rosaria Butterfield’s “The Gospel Comes with a House Key,” in which she advocates sharing life with neighbors as the most practical way to live out the gospel. I can attest personally to the worth of this mindset.
My neighbor is gay. She knows we believe that’s a sin, she accepts our point of view, yet we’re friends. She barges into my apartment when she wants chocolate, we walk her dogs for her, she takes me out for coffee and bookshop dates…and she talks about philosophical problems and spiritual questions with me and my husband. We have so many opportunities to talk about the practical implications of the gospel with her because we’re friends. I know about the woman she loves; she spent last Christmas with my family.
I don’t know if she’ll be saved. I’m praying she will. But that’s between her and God. In the meantime, I’m evangelizing every time I say, “Hey, come over for dinner.”
While 1 Peter 3 is talking overall about how to conduct ourselves under persecution, I think verse 15 is applicable to life overall: “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…”
Why do I love my neighbor? Why am I invested in BLM and the state of the world? Why am I still friends with my sister’s ex? Because Christ died for me. Because Christ is the King of the Universe and He commands me to live with love.
Because God is love, and I am the child of God.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and body, and…love your neighbor as yourself.”
Be friends. Speak truth. Cry with them, laugh with them, watch movies with them. And when you don’t have an answer, say that, and then study up on their questions. Be invested.
Christ lived 33 years answering questions and sharing life. I think it’s a pretty good evangelistic model.