Why Christ Our “First Love” Transforms Our Witness

Love for Christ is evangelism's compelling force.

When I was in the early stages of my doctoral studies in evangelism, I attended the local art exhibit of a friend. Many people from the community were there, including a gentleman I knew from a secular community organization of which we are both a part.

As each of us introduced our spouses, he mentioned to his wife that I was a United Methodist minister currently working on my doctorate, but he was not sure of the area of study. I explained that I was studying the theology of evangelism. At the mention of the word “evangelism,” the couple—almost in perfect unison—recoiled from me with shocked expressions.

Realizing the obvious negativity of their reaction, they quickly recovered their composure and the man sought to relieve the awkwardness of the moment by saying that he was surprised I was studying evangelism as he perceived me to be a very open-minded and compassionate person.

The conversation that followed was one which I can only hope improved this man’s understanding of evangelism and emphasized that its practice does not preclude being open-minded or compassionate.

Extending oneself in a genuine and authentic way that respects the perspective of the other is not always easy. Despite an environment of spiritual openness on the part of nonreligious people, the reputation of Christians as a whole is currently far from ideal.

In contrast to a decades ago, when Christians were viewed, by and large, in a positive light, Christians now are more known for what they oppose rather than what they support. In his 2007 book Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters, David Kinnaman provides a challenging and somewhat disconcerting assessment of the perceptions ...

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