The day of one-size-fits-all evangelism is over - if it ever existed in the first place. In the past many people's evangelism strategy was to invite their friend or neighbour to a 'crusade' to hear a big name evangelist preach so they would convert to Christianity. Although many have come to faith this way - and still do, most evangelicals are now open to the various journeys to the cross that people take.
I am grateful for the rise of the hugely popular and influential Alpha course, I spoke at an Alpha supper just last week. Alpha continues to be a blessing, but let's not imagine that everyone will follow this route to faith.
That's why I'm encouraged by the creativity Christians are showing in seeking out relevant access points for people to connect with in our diverse and fractured culture. But as well as experimenting with different evangelistic models - what excites me is the way Christians are listening to and serving the communities they live in. Meeting people at their point of need and acknowledging people as whole beings, not just viewing them as potential pew fodder, means sharing our faith takes place within the context of relationship. This month Mark Greene writes about 'Romance Academy' (page 62), a sexual abstinence programme organised by two Christian youthworkers in West London, which was the subject of a recent BBC2 documentary series. Under-age sex is a massive problem in our society, so seeing how Christians are addressing this felt need with a servant heart and kingdom principles of right living was uplifting - as was witnessing the positive effects in the lives of the young people, their families and the wider community. Is this evangelism? Yes - but not as many churches currently know it.
The 1990s were supposed to be the Decade of Evangelism - but the UK church continues to shrink. The message of 'one-size doesn't fit all' needs to be taken to heart. Gospel truth doesn't change but the way we share it does. Hence the Christians who hire a tent at New Age and Green Fairs and offer prayer and healing to spiritual seekers, with remarkable results, which we will be reporting on next month. The release of the new Narnia film provides another opportunity to share our faith in a culturally relevant way - check out the cover article on page 24, which gives you 10 ideas to use this Christmas. Book clubs are another interesting opportunity to meet other people, listen, exchange views and build friendships - phenomena that we will be running a major series on next year. Christianity magazine will continue to report on creative evangelism - whether it be: words of knowledge for a stranger on the train, cleaning graffiti from an inner-city estate, offering spiritual awareness classes at a health club, or 101 other ideas.
Leaving our cosy comfort zones to meet people at their point of need can be risky. It also requires a sensitivity to and reliance on the Holy Spirit. Mark Stibbe's very helpful book 'Prophetic Evangelism' (Authentic) which we ran an extract from last year, provides vital pointers here. We don't all have the gift of the evangelist - thank God for J John and others who clearly have - but Christ commands all of us, you included, to share the gospel and make disciples.