Nearly half of millennial Christians say it’s wrong to evangelize — sharing their faith in order to convert others — according to new research from the Barna Group. That’s a massive jump from older Christians who see the conversion of others as an essential part of their faith.
Christianity Today, which called that result “disappointing,” explains more:
So what’s behind their beliefs that evangelism is “wrong”?
Barna president David Kinnaman points to the rising cultural expectation against judging personal choices. Practicing Christian millennials were twice as likely as Gen X and four times as likely as Boomers and Elders to agree with the statement, “If someone disagrees with you, it means they’re judging you.”
Younger folks are tempted to believe instead, “if we just live good enough lives, we can forgo the conversation entirely, and people around us will almost magically come to know Jesus through our good actions and selfless character,” she said. “This style of evangelism is becoming more and more prevalent in a culture constantly looking for the fast track and simple fix.”
I suppose this all depends on how one defines “evangelism.” For many people, it invokes images of Chick tracts, with cheesy cartoons threatening eternal damnation if you don’t recite the Sinner’s Prayer. For others, such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, it involves going door to door and talking to lots of strangers.
Kinnaman is suggesting that younger Christians believe they’re fulfilling the Great Commission by just being good people. If they’re living out the message of Jesus, people will eventually follow suit. It’s a much more passive approach.
It may also be more strategic: If Christians stopped treating their faith like a sales pitch, the results could very well turn out differently. If more Christians talked about Jesus the way I talk about my cats, “evangelism” as we know it wouldn’t have as bad a reputation. After all, it’s too easy to dismiss evangelists by just pointing out the hypocrisy and bigotry of prominent Christians. If the most well-known Christians practiced what they preached — in a way that lifted marginalized people instead of contributing to their suffering — the results could very well speak for themselves.
Evangelism in that sense only becomes “wrong” when Christians keep pushing the subject on people who have made it clear they don’t want to hear it.
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