Newsletter Evangelism
A Revolutionary Approach To Church Growth
Newsletter Evangelism
 
Glenn E. Davis
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Articles on Evangelism

Views of Evangelism ©

by Flavil R. Yeakley 1

 

    "Evangelism may be viewed as the process of influencing others in such a way that the Christ who lives in us, and our message, is established in the lives of other people."
 
 
"Evangelism -- whether in sermons, classroom instruction, personal communication, or the mass media -- is intended to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of those who received the message. There is, however, a higher purpose in evangelism. From a Christian perspective, evangelism may be viewed as the process of influencing others in such a way that the Christ who lives in us, and our message, is established in the lives of other people.

It is obvious that the result of any evangelistic endeavor is strongly influenced by the receiver's perceptions. It is also obvious that the receiver's perceptions are strongly influenced by the sender's practices are strongly influenced by assumptions he has concerning the nature of evangelism.

THREE VIEWS OF EVANGELISM

The Information Transmission Model views evangelism as a one-way transmission of information from a sender to a receiver. This view assumes that people will give the correct response when given the correct information. If the receiver does not do what is expected, it is because the sender did not transmit the information in the correct manner.

There are many people and churches practicing evangelism according to the information transmission model. They feel that their task is simply to tell other people that God loves them. These people do a lot of talking, but very little listening. If they listen as all, it is only to discover what errors they need to correct. When non-Christians who are exposed to this kind of religious communication do not convert, the message senders typically blame themselves. They feel that they must have left something out or said something in the wrong way.

The Manipulative Monologue Model view evangelism as a process of manipulation. The message might be an emotional appeal or it might be leading a person through a set of carefully prepared questions. The techniques of high pressure salesmanship are based on this model of communication. Unfortunately, many books on preaching, and most books on person-to-person evangelism have been based on the high pressure salesmanship approach.

There are also many people and churches who practice religious communication according to the manipulative monologue model. They see the influence as being all one-way. They are not really interested in listening unless they can use the appearance of listening for manipulative purposes.

The Non-Manipulative Dialogue Model view of evangelism is based on the recognition that no two people ever see things in exactly the same way. Non-manipulative dialogue is an effort to look at things from the perspective of the other person.

The principle of non-manipulative dialogue does not rule out an effort to share those convictions with others in the hope of influencing them. Non-manipulative dialogue, in fact, demands conviction and an interest in the other person which would motivate an effort to share such conviction. But in this model, the persuader treats the other person as a person and not as an object to be manipulated.

To examine the relationship between actual church growth and various views of evangelism, a nationwide study was conducted in a number of randomly selected Churches of Christ congregations. In the first phase of the study 48 ministers and 513 church members who were involved in person-to-person evangelism were asked to indicate which of three statements they were presented with came the closest to expressing their own view of evangelism. Each statement represented one of the three views of evangelism discussed above. The churches, from which the ministers and members came, were grouped into categories of "high growth rate," "medium growth rate," and "low growth rate." They were then examined with regard to their underlying views of evangelism.

The second phase of the study considered 720 "receivers" of the evangelistic message, and were categorized as "converts" (those who had recently become active church members), "dropouts" (people who had become members but had dropped out soon after), "non-converts" (people who had been exposed to some identifiable attempt to persuade them to become members, but had decided not to do so).

These 720 subjects were interviewed and asked to indicate which of three statements came the closest to describing their perception of the interaction with the church member(s) they came in contact with:

1. "He did all the talking. He never asked me any questions. He did not seem to be interested in hearing my views."

2. "He did most of the talking. He seldom asked me any questions. When he did ask questions it seemed that he was trying to trap me and win the argument."

3. "He listened about as much as he talked. He asked questions and encouraged me to talk. He really seemed to be interested in hearing my views."

By using data from these various parts of the survey, it was possible to do several correlational studies concerning the relationship between the views of evangelism and results of evangelism in the local church.

THE MINISTER'S VIEW

(See Chart 1) In the obtained data, it was possible to distinguish among congregations in the high, medium, and low growth rate groups on the basis of the minister's view of evangelism. In the high net growth rate group, 100% of the congregations had ministers who accepted the non-manipulative dialogue model as their view of evangelism. In the medium net growth rate group, 94% of the congregations had ministers who accepted the manipulative monologue model. In the low net growth rate group, 87% of the congregations had ministers who accepted the information transmission model.

 


CHART 1
MINISTER'S VIEW OF EVANGELISM
Net Growth
Rate Groups of
Congregations

Information
Transmission

Manipulative
Monologue

Non-Manipulative
Dialog

Totals
High
Medium
Low

Totals
  0
  1
14

15
  0
15
  1

16
16
  0
  1

17
16
16
16

48

THE MEMBER'S VIEW

(See Chart 2) Seventy percent of the subjects ("receivers") came into the church through members who accepted the non-manipulative dialogue view of evangelism. When the church members accepted the information transmission view of evangelism, the subjects were least likely to become Christians and responsible members -- 87% of the "non-converts" were in this category. When the member exemplified the manipulative monologue model, the subjects were most likely to convert, but then drop-out -- 75% of the drop-outs were in this category.

 


CHART 2
MEMBER'S VIEW OF EVANGELISM
Categories
of
Subjects

Information
Transmission

Manipulative
Monologue

Non-Manipulative
Dialog

Totals
Converts
Drop-Outs
Non-Converts

Totals
  32
  25
180

240
  36
209
  58

303
169
    6
    2

177
240
240
240

720

THE RECEIVER'S PERCEPTION

(See Chart 3) In the survey data it was possible to distinguish among converts, dropouts, and non-converts on the basis of how the receiver perceived the "persuader," and the interaction: 71% of the converts saw the persuader in the role "friend" and used the dialogue description of the interaction; 85% of the drop-outs saw the persuader in the role of "salesman" and used the manipulation model description of the interaction: and 87% of the non-converts saw the persuader in the role of "teacher" and said that the persuader did all the talking.

 


CHART 3
SUBJECT PERCEIVES PERSUADER AS BEING LIKE A
:
Categories
of
Subjects

Teacher
Salesman
Friend
Totals
Converts
Drop-Outs
Non-Converts

Totals
    5
  36
208

249
  65
203
  22

290
170
    1
  10

181
240
240
240

720

Churches concerned with reaching out to non-Christians and reaching people in their ministry area, need to examine carefully their own view of evangelism in order to be sure that their approach is resulting in the ultimate goals of Christ and His Great Commission -- making disciples and responsible church members.


1 Flavil R. Yeakley is Professor of Bible, Director of Outcomes Assessment and Director of Center for Church Growth at Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas. This article was published in Church Growth: America 7 (January, 1981): 10 - 11.

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