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Approaches to evangelism

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Throughout history, Christians have used many different approaches to spread Christianity via the practice of evangelism. Christianity began with only a few different evangelical approaches, but over the years, many different forms of evangelism have been employed by various groups to spread the faith. Many of these forms of evangelism have been controversial, and are often employed in only certain parts of the world by Christians in different geographical areas. In particular, most new approaches to evangelism today have arisen out of Europe or the United States, especially when new technologies are used for the effort of evangelism.

Open-air preaching


A representative painting of Jesus Christ delivering the open-air Sermon on the Mount

Open-air preaching is an approach to evangelism characterized by speaking in public places out in the open, generally to crowds of people at a time, using a message, sermon, or speech which spreads the gospel. It is one of the oldest approaches to evangelism.[1]

One of the earliest open-air preachers of Christianity, according to the gospels, was Jesus Christ, whose first specifically recorded sermon was the Sermon on the Mount,[1][2] which took place on a mountainside in the open air.[3] In the Gospel of Luke 6:17-49, it was recorded that Jesus also gave an open-air sermon known as the Sermon on the Plain.[2]

After Jesus's death, many of his Apostles and followers open-air preached the gospel in the Temple of Jerusalem or in other open spaces.[1][2]

During the dark ages and the Protestant Reformation, open-air preaching was often employed by Protestants throughout Europe[4] who could not always preach inside churches, which were mostly Catholic.[5] Open-air preaching in Europe continued during the rise of Puritanism and other Protestant movements,[2] It was often used in Pastoral environments as well as in cities, the former sometimes due to a desire to avoid the authorities,[6] and the latter because, for one reason, it could reach eccentric people living in cities who would not otherwise hear the gospel.[7]

In the time period of the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s many famous open-air preachers in the United States began to preach, such as Billy Sunday[8] and Billy Graham. Graham in particular used a combination of open-air preaching and the recent advent of televangelism to broadcast his sermons, which often took place in large venues such as stadiums, to large portions of the world and millions of Americans.[9]

John Wesley, founder of Methodism declared, "I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father's tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit." ... "To this day field preaching is a cross to me, but I know my commission and see no other way of preaching the gospel to every creature".

Wesley's contemporary, Anglican preacher George Whitefield stated: "I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields." ... "I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the churches." Including the “field” outside Park Street.

It was said that one of the regular practices of America evangelist Dwight L. Moody in the late 1860s "was to exhort the passersby in the evenings from the steps of the court house. Often these impromptu gathering drew as many hecklers as supporters."[10]

Open-air preachers throughout history have often noted that preaching to large crowds often causes preachers to be abused in certain ways, typically by having objects thrown at them such as rotting vegetables or unsanitary liquids of many varieties.[11]

Supporters of this approach note that both Jesus[1] and many of the Old Testament prophets often preached about God in public places.[2]

Charles Spurgeon, the famous open-air Baptist preacher of England, believed that open-air preaching was instrumental in getting people to hear the gospel who might otherwise never hear it,[2][12] and many open-air preachers today believe that it reaches many more people at once than other approaches to evanglism do.[13] Charles Spurgeon recommends several things for open-air preachers, such as never trying to speak into the wind, trying to speak away from the wind so one's voice will carry farther, (sometimes up to half a mile by Spurgeon's account) keeping sermons concise instead of overly verbose and complicated, use illustrations and anecdotes to keep the crowd interested, and to not speak at the very top of your voice so you don't wear yourself out too quickly.[2] Spurgeon also recommended to never use tents when preaching due to their muffling effects,[14] and to be careful of what is on the other side of walls you may be preaching in front of, since people behind the wall or living in spaces in buildings could harass preachers.[15]

Trickle-down evangelism

Trickle-down evangelism is an approach to evangelism primarily concerned with converting high ranking members of a society, so that their influence can serve to help spread Christianity throughout the society in question. It was practiced especially often during the Middle ages.

Trickle-down evangelism was practiced throughout China multiple times during the Middle Ages, with examples such as converted or sympathetic officials helping the Jesuits or other parts of the Catholic church spread,[16] or the expedition of Marco Polo resulting in the Mongol ruler of China Kublai Khan inviting the Pope to send "teachers of science and religion" to China.[17].

Trickle-down evangelism was also applied often in European areas during ancient times, such as in the northern Sweden area, as the Catholic Church tried to send missionaries into the area.[18]

Door to door preaching

Door to door preaching is an approach to evangelism where a Christian will go from household to household in a certain area to evangelize to residents, often in conjunction with passing out gospel tracts. Jesus often went into other people's homes during his own ministry, and according to The Encyclopedia of Protestantism, it is a very important approach to evangelism.[19] One of the first modern large scale uses of door to door preaching was when the Oriental Mission Society attempted to visit the homes of an entire nation, by visiting 10.3 million homes in Japan through the years of 1912 to 1917.[19] The Canadian organization Every Home for Christ International began door to door preaching in 1953 throughout many countries, and in 1996, total home visits by their members became 5 million.[19] Many local parishes and churches worldwide use this approach to evangelism.[19]

Groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses[20] and Mormons are famous in particular for spreading their beliefs by door to door evangelism at people's homes, often in pairs or small groups. Both group's main organizations use Door to Door preaching to a great extent, with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifying certain lengths of times in which members practice this approach to evangelism; men engage in "missionary work" for two years, and women perform it for 18 months.[21]

Evangelizing through a sermon

Many churches regularly have a gospel message preached in a sermon. Often, this will include an altar call where people are invited to come forward and "accept Christ". The use of altar calls is somewhat controversial, while it is practiced by many evangelical churches, some Calvinists object to it in the grounds it creates false conversions.[22]

An apparent weakness of this approach to evangelism is that there is no opportunity for the speaker to prove that their faith is authentic and that they practice what they preach.

Lifestyle evangelism

Lifestyle evangelism is an approach to evangelism characterized by someone demonstrating their faith by their actions in the hope that people around them will be impressed with how God affects that person's life, and become a Christian. According to The Encyclopedia of Protestantism printed in 2004, approximately 100 million people use this approach to evangelism.[19]

Supporters of this approach to evangelism often cite Matthew 5:16 as a proof verse.[23][24] Supporters also often point out that Jesus drew people to God by showing them kindness and performing good deeds, while detractors sometimes note that people may not realize one's good behavior is due to Christianity. Supporters of using primarily this method claim this is more effective than direct evangelism because of the perception that it is harder to live 'righteously' than preach a sermon. Detractors sometimes note that this approach to evangelism might not be convincing if others don't know that the evangelist's change in lifestyle is due to being a Christian

Friendship evangelism

Similar to lifestyle evangelism, friendship evangelism is an approach to evangelism characterized by Christians developing relationships with people in order to show them kindness and talk to them about God eventually. Supporters sometimes say that Jesus related to those who took an interest in him as friends, or that it is more effective than other methods of evangelism which are seen as less personal.[25] This approach can sometimes been known as "loving someone into the kingdom." Detractors note that it is sometimes a slow way to present the gospel to someone as it can take a long time to build a friendship.

Creative evangelism

This approach to evangelism is where the creative arts (such as music, visual art, drama, film) are used to present a gospel message.[26] Examples include Wendy Alec's novel 'The Fall of Lucifer', Christian rock band Delirious? and Sebastian Bach's musical composition "Matthäuspassion" (Saint Matthew Passion).[27] However, some ministries refer to this kind of evangelism as simply the practice of finding creative ways to evangelize.[28]

One of the most famous examples of creative evangelism is George Handel's oratio, "Messiah", written in 1741. It is the most performed major choral work in history, has been tied to the revival of the Church of England and to influencing famous evangelist John Wesley's theology concerning Eternal security, and in modern times, has around four million viewers per year.[29]

Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelical Christian association with branches in a multitude of countries, owns the distribution rights for a movie called "Jesus Film", a presentation of the life of Jesus Christ. This movie, which has been translated into 80 languages, has been viewed by about 850 million people.[30]

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Diocese of Hyderbad in Pakistan uses this approach to evangelism among tribal groups in areas of Pakistan which have a high population of Sindhis.[31]

Using Gospel tracts

A gospel tract in the Christian sense is a leaflet [32] with a gospel message. It is typically a short presentation of the Gospel lasting only a few pages, and is typically printed on small pieces of paper.[33] Estimated numbers of tracts distributed in the year 2000 amount to around 5 billion. It is often used in conjunction with street preaching or door to door preaching. As an approach to evangelism, many modern evangelists attest to the usefulness of gospel tracts to spread the Gospel.[34]


Televangelism is an approach to evangelism characterized by an evangelistic message presented through the medium of television,[35] often through a charismatic sermon. Large Christian television networks such as the Catholic broadcasting channel EWTN or the Protestant televangelism channel Trinity Broadcasting Network feature many televangelist preachers.[36]

Televangelism was started in the United States and Canada in the early 20th century, as a primarily evangelical Protestant approach to evangelism. It made Christian viewpoints much more visible in the world at the time than they were before.[37]

Radio evangelism

Radio evangelism is an approach to evangelism which began around 1921, and has reached more people per hour than any other kind of evangelism, according to The Encyclopedia of Protestantism.[19] It is the usage of radio broadcasts to evangelize to listeners, sometimes worldwide in one broadcast.

Maria Miranda, the most listened to radio evangelist from Latin America in 1990, was heard by over 100 million people per day through 537 radio stations in 22 countries during that time.[19] in Yemen, a country in which 97 percent of the country is listed as Muslim,[38] 10 percent of the population listens to Christian radio.[19] The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has had a radio station on KFUO called "The Lutheran Hour" since 1925, had 5 million listeners by 1931, and broadcast in over 31 languages with 40 million listeners in 1987.[19] The first missionary specific radio station, HCJB, went on the air in Ecuador on December 25, in 1931.[39]

Internet evangelism

Internet evangelism is a form of evangelism where the gospel is presented on the internet.[40] This may include a website defending the accuracy of the Bible, someone discussing their faith in a chat room, evangelical messages or advertisements on the home pages of Christian organizations,[19] or other methods of using the internet to spread Christianity.

In the United States, the Internet Evangelism Coalition, set up by the Billy Graham Center in 1999,[41] backs an Internet Evangelism Day on the last Sunday of April every year.

Phone evangelism, aka "phone fishing"

This approach to evangelism involves using phones to contact people in order to spread the gospel to them. This sometimes takes the form of random phone calls,[42] or is done after someone contacts the evangelist to recommend people to whom a person may want the evangelist to evangelize. Way of the Master radio hosts Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, and Todd Friel, who practice this form of evangelism on their radio show, refer to it as 'phone fishing'.

The huge growth in cell phones and other mobile devices is opening up the way for new and creative methods of mobile evangelism.

Personal evangelism

Sometimes referred to as "one to one" or "personal work", this approach to evangelism is when one Christian evangelizes to, typically, one non-Christian, or only a few non-Christians, in a private manner.[19] A 1982 Gallup Poll revealed that 51 percent of all Americans had tried to convince someone to become a Christian during their life.[19]

Creation evangelism

Not to be confused with creative evangelism, creation evangelism is the use of creationist scientific, philosophical and theological arguments to prove the literal interpretation of Genesis and thus the reliability of the Bible and the truth of the Christian gospel to people so that they may become convinced that Christianity is true.[43] This approach to evangelism is often used by missions organizations in parts of the world that have tribal cultures who have not been exposed to Christianity before.[44]

Prophetic evangelism

A method employed mainly by charismatic Christians. This is where (as its practitioners believe) God speaks through a Christian to a non-believer to say something that will prompt that person to seek God. On most occasions it is something that the speaker could not have known naturally; for example, someone who is having a secret affair may be told that God knows they are doing wrong and wants them to change their ways.

However, some critics of this approach note that other religions appear to use a similar method to spread their faith.

Treasure hunts

So called treasure hunts are a type of prophetic evangelism.[45] In a small groups Christians take time to pray and listen to revelation by the Holy Spirit about people God wants them to go to. There is a close correlation to personal evangelism. This type of evangelism may be referred to as a game of searching Gods treasures which are people. The revelation that the group of people may get is often in the context of places, clothing, hairstyle or situations.[46]

After receiving the revelations they go out and be on the lookout for the people they got the revelation on. In some occasions they are able to speak Gods love and the Gospel into somebody's life. In other occasions they pray for them for healing or anything else.

The main focus in this type of evangelism is to let people know that they are valuable for God and that God send them on a search for His treasure. Through this message the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached.

Using the EvangeCube

The EvangeCube is a puzzle like pictorial teaching aid of eight interlocking blocks used tell the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

  • Mankind's separation from God
  • The death of Jesus on the cross for mankind's sin
  • Jesus body sealed in a guarded tomb
  • Jesus' resurrection
  • The way to God open through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross
  • The choice to receive God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life

The seventh face illustrates five practices for the new believer to follow: love for God and others, prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship and sharing the gospel of Christ with others.

The idea of EvangeCube was born in 1998 after creators Nathan Sheets and Jim Wyatt returned from a short-term mission trip to Haiti and encountered a marketing promotion using a cube in their mail. The cube's illustrations were completed with the help of two artist: a comic-book illustrator and stained-glass designer.[47] The cube has been readily received by the Christians around the world with more than 3 million distributed since January of 2000. [48]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Spurgeon, Pg. 234
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "OPEN-AIR PREACHING, A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY AND REMARKS THEREON", Charles H. Spurgeon.
  3., New International Version, Matthew 5:1
  4. Spurgeon, Pg. 235
  5. Spurgeon, Pg. 236
  6. Spurgeon, Pg. 241
  7. Spurgeon, Pg. 257
  8. "Billy Sunday Salty evangelist",
  9. Lee, R. "The History Guy: The Reverend Billy Graham"
  11. Spurgeon, Pg. 250
  12. Spurgeon, Pg. 255
  13. "The Evidence Bible", Ray Comfort, Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2003, p. 1183
  14. Spurgeon, Pg. 258
  15. Spurgeon, Pg. 256
  16. "The Church in China", Written by Henri Cordier. Transcribed by M. Donahue. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil; "Wycliffing the Workplace … and Other Evangelism Lessons from the Missionary Trenches",, Randy Kilgore, October 1, 2004, Retrieved May 27, 2007
  17. "Trickle-Down Evangelism", Ralph R. Covell
  18. "Sweden: Faith Without the Fireworks", Mark Galli
  19. 19.00 19.01 19.02 19.03 19.04 19.05 19.06 19.07 19.08 19.09 19.10 19.11 Barret, Pg. 721
  20. "Door to Door Witness", Pete Thompson
  21. Davies, Pg. 1316
  22.,,PTID314526%7CCHID629094%7CCIID1804792,00.html "Altar Call Evangelism", Paul Alexander
  23. "The Evidence Bible", Ray Comfort, Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2003, p. 842
  24. "1,001 Practial Ways to Share God's Love", Richard Lee
  25. "The Christian Witness to the Muslim", John Gilchrist, pp. 37-58
  26. Saltmine Creative Arts, retrieved October 1, 2006
  27. Barret, Pg. 720
  28. "Creative evangelism", Mar 2007 Web Evangelism Guide
  29. Barret, Pg. 720-721
  30. Blumhofer, Pg. 730
  31. Presbyterian Church U.S.A., "Pakistan Programs and Projects < Evangelism < Hyderbad Diocese Tribal Evangelism", Retrieved May 27, 2007
  32. Chick Publications Cartoon Gospel Tracts, retrieved October 1, 2006
  33. Barret, Pg. 725
  34. "Why use tracts", Ray Comfort;
  35. God TV homepage, retrieved October 1, 2006
  36. "About us", Trinity Broadcasting Network
  37. Guenther, Pg. 710
  38. Embassy of the Republic of Yemen Ottawa, Canada, "About Yemen", Retrieved June 29, 2007
  39. Blumhofer, Pg. 732
  40. Internet Evangelism Day homepage, retrieved October 1, 2006
  41. "The Developing Ministry of Sharing Christ Online", Internet Evangelism Coalition, Billy Graham Center, Retrieved June 5, 2007
  42. "Mobile Phone Evangelism", ByFaith media, Retrieved March 24, 2007
  43. Creation Evangelism by Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, retrieved October 1, 2006
  44. "Creation Evangelism and the Great Commission, May 5, 2006, retrieved April 27, 2007
  45. Dedmon, Kevin (2007). The Ultimate Treasure Hunt. Destiny Image. ISBN 0768426022.
  46. King, Patricia. Treasure Hunts.
  47. Meyer, Paul. "Evangecube Makes Game Of Spreading Gospel"
  48. Wooding, Dan. "The J-Cube, a New Witnessing Tool"


  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Lectures to My Students", Zondervan publishing house, Printed October 1977 Eighth printing, ISBN 0-310-32910-8
  • "The Encyclopedia of Protestantism", Editor Hans J. Hillerbrand, Assistant Editor James H. Thrall, Volume 2 D-K, Routlege publishing, Published in 2004, ISBN 0-415-92472-3
    • "Evangelicalism", Bruce L. Guenther
    • "Evangelism, Overview", David B. Barret
    • "Evangelistic Organizations", Edith Blumhofer
  • "The Encyclopedia of Protestantism", Editor Hans J. Hillerbrand, Assistant Editor James H. Thrall, Volume 3 L-R, Routlege publishing, Published in 2004, ISBN 0-415-92472-3
    • "Mormonism", Douglas J. Davies

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