The idea that “evangelism is for everyone” can intimidate anyone. It can be nerve-wracking to share your faith. Sometimes we don’t know what to do or say.
The word “evangelism” can also conjure some disconcerting memories or images: people standing on street corners with signs, billboards on the side of the road, or someone knocking on your door and asking, “If you died today, do you believe you would go to heaven?”
In some countries where the Christian Reformed Church works, it is illegal to share the gospel. For Christians who are living in these places, the consequences of sharing their Christian faith are much more threatening than rejection.
But throughout the Christian Reformed Church, believers are taking the idea that “evangelism is for everyone” to heart. It doesn’t have anything to do with a presentation of the gospel or defending the Bible. It’s about paying attention to how God is moving in the world and testifying to God’s work.
Evangelism through Testimony
Do you have a favorite site for devotional reading or subscribe to a favorite Christian podcast that comes right to your email? Do you ever use the internet to quickly reference a Bible passage? Imagine if all of those tools for deepening your faith were no longer available—in fact, it's become illegal to access them.
“Christians in China have been living under this reality for several years now,” said Jerry An, ReFrame Ministries’ Chinese ministry leader. New laws passed in early 2022 have posed a particularly difficult challenge for An and his media ministry team.
“Nearly all of our web and social media pages were shut down right when these laws took effect,” An said. Content on radio and television shows was censored, and many websites were completely blocked. “In the blink of an eye, many of our devotional readers lost their tool for deepening their faith as well as the community of believers that used that same tool.”
While the internet is now heavily regulated by the new evangelism laws in China, it also provides other ways to reach people with the gospel message.
"Everyone in China has a smartphone,” An said, and while formal websites have been blocked or censored, phone apps and social media messaging apps are nearly impossible to monitor fully. “Everyone still has access to video tools, chat, and social media. So everyone can share their faith with their peers. Evangelism is for everyone."
One of An’s goals even before laws changed in China has been to help ease this intimidation factor. That’s why he’s encouraged people to share their own faith stories.
ReFrame has published a book, New Songs of Wanderers, which includes a collection of testimonies written by Chinese-speaking believers from universities and from online discipleship groups that ReFrame has formed. The testimonies feature people who have struggled in their faith, have asked deep questions, and want to encourage other Christians or seekers. The book has connected with Christians or seekers who might be struggling with the same questions the authors have struggled with or those who simply want to learn more about the Christian faith.
Bao (name changed for his safety) recently shared his gratitude with ReFrame’s Chinese ministry team after he read the book for the first time.
“Every time I read one life testimony, my worries and my fears fade away,” Bao said. “It was as if God was also speaking to me through these life testimonies. When there were lost people inside who were saved by God, the words ‘I too thank God’ came to my heart.”
Evangelism through Relationship
In the same way that testimonies can encourage believers in China, Resonate Global Mission is helping believers throughout Canada and the United States encourage others and share the love of Christ through relationships.
Ary Vreeken knew his neighbors in Calgary, Alta. He had some good connections, and if he didn’t know a neighbor’s name, usually he at least recognized them. He even knew some of his neighbors’ typical schedules—when they left for work, when they took their dog for a walk, when they got home from picking up their kids from school.
When he started being intentional about connecting with his neighbors, that’s when things started to change.
“There are opportunities every day that I began to see as what I call ‘God moments,’” Vreeken said. “They’re not orchestrated by myself. It’s just because I’ve learned to open my ears, my eyes. … This is what God calls each and every one of us to do.”
When Vreeken participated in Go Local, a Resonate ministry that coaches believers through a process of joining God at work in their neighborhood, he first considered that being intentional about building relationships with neighbors could make a difference.
“It started by going for walks and noticing who’s outside and who isn’t, who’s doing what, (and) making sure I greeted them and stopped and made small talk,” Vreeken said.
Over time, as Vreeken began to build relationships with his neighbors, the small talk wasn’t so small anymore. They began to talk about subjects that were more meaningful and sometimes heavy.
When one couple lost their son to suicide, they confided in Vreeken. He was able to visit them, bring over food, and sit with them in their grief. Not long after that conversation, the couple called him over while he was walking. Their grandson had died by suicide too.
“All you can do in those moments is really listen,” Vreeken said.“They had a lot of anger toward God.”
But Vreeken felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to minister to them.
“What if God is crying with you?” he asked. “What if God is sad with you?”
That opened up conversation.
Vreeken shares this story about his neighborhood in Witness: Equipped to Share the Good News. Witness is a self-guided course for individuals, churches, or small groups that helps readers reflect on what it means to be a witness for Christ in one’s neighborhood.
Amy Schenkel, a Resonate regional mission leader, developed Witness in response to a need she heard from churches and what she experienced in her relationships with her own neighbors.
“In conversations with local churches, I hear the desire of people to share the good news with their neighbors, but the ways they’ve been taught to do so feel too threatening,” Schenkel said. “In my own life, I realized I was developing relationships with my neighbors, but I wondered what the next step of verbalizing the gospel should look like with them.”
That’s why she worked with Vreeken and other believers to develop Witness. Witness is free to download on Resonate’s website or available to order from Faith Alive. The curriculum includes a personal journal, a small group discussion guide, and video testimonies from Vreeken and other believers.
“I long to hear stories of how people are using the participant guide to actually live out being a witness in their own neighborhoods,” Schenkel said. “I am praying that God uses this simple tool to change hearts and lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Go Local: www.ResonateGlobalMission.org/Go-Local