We are wired to persuade others. In fact, life would be impossible if we didn’t spend most of our time getting others to see our point of view and cooperate with us.
Each of us has opinions, views and values that we believe will make life better for everyone if they only embraced them. For instance, we believe hitting other people is bad, so we spend a lot of time preaching this to young children. Research has shown us that second-hand smoke is bad for our health, so we lobby and campaign and persuade lawmakers to ban smoking in public spaces.
A persuasive world
Persuasion is one of the fundamental keys to changing in the world. Whether the topic is entertainment or health, leisure or education, we are always trying to influence other people’s choices and preferences.
We are ever trying to persuade our friends and colleagues to watch a movie or buy a product or read a book that we think is good for them. We are constantly voting up songs we enjoyed, reporting offensive tweets, and recommending routes that we think are less dangerous or have less traffic.
We do these things for different reasons. For instance, we recommend safe routes because we care for the safety of our friends, and we recommend good music because we are wired to invite people to share in our enjoyments. The same applies to recommending schools, banks, and smartphone brands.
We are all evangelists
In these and many similar ways, we are evangelists. We are always sharing good news to people that we care about. You may even call it an evolutionary adaptation trait if you like.
The English word “evangelism” comes from the Greek word euaggelion. Most literally translated in the noun form, euaggelion means: “gospel” or “good news.” In the verb form (euaggelizesthai), the meaning of the word changes slightly to “announce” or “bring good news.”
In Christianity, evangelism is the commitment to or act of publicly preaching of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Changing methods, unchanging message
The method may change over time and is largely dependent on cultural conventions. For instance, nowadays, unless you are a politician on a campaign trail, no one simply stands in the middle of the town and begins addressing people at the top of their voice. We have laws regulating how the public spaces are used and relevant permits to go with it.
Therefore, while the image of a preacher shouting in the marketplace for people to repent may have made cultural sense a century ago, it is not the case today. This is why I believe many Christians are enduring unnecessary self-inflicted persecution when they insist on holding on to outdated evangelism cultural practises that are out of line with the law and social sensibilities.
On the other hand, I also believe that singling out religion as the only topic that should not be discussed in a public space (even privately) is an unjust and oppressive practise. If people are free to evangelise about their favourite authors, football teams, therapists, political parties and ideology, approaches to child discipline, and marriage tips, during tea breaks at the office, why should evangelising about their faith be out of bounds?
Some gospels are more equal than others
Some have rightly argued that religion is a divisive topic and tends to cause unnecessary disruptions. However, this is a diagnosis of our human weaknesses, not a problem intrinsic to religion itself. Otherwise, how would you explain the many people who are able to soberly discuss religion without descending to blows?
You may regulate the amount of disruption allowed when discussing any topic, but we should never ban topics because we don’t trust human beings to be mature enough to handle that topic responsibly. That is not the mandate of public or private corporations — not when other “private” topics that have nothing to do with the mission of the organisation get a free pass. Some gospels are not more equal than others.
The fact remains, all human beings are evangelists. If you don’t believe me, just scroll through the online feeds of some of the most vocal atheists (or more accurately, anti-religionists) in town. They are constantly trying to persuade people to “see the light” of reason and escape the “hell” that is the irrational belief in an old bearded man in the sky who commands thunderstorms and answers prayers.
In the same way, my fellow religious people should also rethink their persecution complex. Belief in God is not a license to be disruptive in ways that you would not be if the topic was recipe, school or restaurant recommendations.
The offence of the gospel is not in the fact that we look, dress and act weird; the offence of the gospel is in the fact that we are willing to be all things to all people, even giving up our rights, if only we could bring just one person to the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Religious or not, evangelism is in our DNA
Kenyan Journalist, Communications Specialist, and a follower of Jesus Christ. I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil and Structural Engineering but decided to pursue a career in journalism.
Worked at Nation Media Group for four years, first as a General Reporter for the Daily Nation before becoming an Investigative and Special Projects writer.
Later transitioned into PR and worked as a Content Associate for two years at Hill+Knowlton Strategies (WPP). Currently a Communications Consultant specialising in Content Strategy and Development.