5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting In Our Post-Christian World

Almost every Christian leader I talk to has a passion for reaching people who don’t know Christ.

But as we’ve seen before, our culture is changing so rapidly before our eyes that many of the methods we’ve used to tell people about Christ become less effective with every passing month.

If you keep using methods that worked decades ago to talk to people outside the Christian faith about Jesus, you might see some fruit. But I’m quite certain you’ll lose the vast majority of people you’re trying to influence, and I’m positive you’ll lose the vast majority of people under age 35.

In the post-Christian, post-modern age in which we live, the methods of evangelism have to change in order to keep the mission alive.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the post-Christian mind looks like, this study from the Barna Group outlines 15 criteria that delineate the trend.

So what’s changing in evangelism? More than you might think.

In a post-Christian age, the methods of evangelism have to change to keep the mission alive. Click To Tweet

While there are many things that are shifting in how we should approach evangelism in a post-Christian, post-modern world, these 5 stand out to me as shifts I’m seeing not just in the ministry I lead, but across many churches:

1. Embracing the question is as important as giving an answer

For me, evangelism used to be mostly about helping people find answers. In fact, I’ve been very anxious to get people to answers. I still am.

But, often, in the process of getting people to an answer, I would fail to really embrace or honor their question. Increasingly, that’s a massive mistake.

Almost no one likes going into a store and asking a question only to have a customer service person blow past your question or make you feel stupid. In fact, your most positive experiences have likely been those in which someone listens to your question, takes it seriously, appreciates it, and then tries to respond to it thoughtfully and helpfully.

Too often, Christian apologists rush past the question to get to an answer.

Church leaders who embrace people’s questions will be far more effective in the future than leaders who don’t.

Listen to the difference:

“So when I die, will I be in reincarnated?”

Answer: Christians don’t believe in reincarnation. So no, not at all. You’ll be resurrected in Christ. 


Answer: That’s a great question. Thanks for asking it. Actually, the Christian experience focuses on resurrection. Would you like to hear how that’s more hopeful than reincarnation? 

Which answer would you rather hear?

For post-modernists, embracing the question is as important as giving an answer. Click To Tweet

2. Steering the conversation is better than pushing for a conclusion

One of my favorite environments at our church is Starting Point. It’s an eight-week small group experience for people who are new to Christianity, new to faith, or returning to church after an absence.

Our best Starting Point leaders are not the people with all the answers or the leaders who are always trying to ‘close the deal.’

If you have 12 people in a conversation, you’re likely to have 12 different worldviews, many of which might seem “Christian,” but in truth aren’t.

Our best Starting Point leaders are people who can steer a conversation.

They don’t freak out at people’s questions, no matter how strange they might be.

They listen without judgment.

They affirm a person’s intentions.

Our best leaders listen, don’t judge, thank people for their input, and then gently steer the conversation back toward truth.

Listening, empathizing, and then directing the conversation back toward truth will often get you much further with younger generations than slamming on the brakes and telling them they’re wrong.

Steering a conversation back toward truth is far more effective than slamming on the brakes. Click To Tweet

3. Being open is more effective than being certain

Don’t get me wrong, Christians can be certain. Ultimately, Christians must be certain because our faith is certain. Our faith stands on a sure and certain ground.

But, when talking to post-moderns, coming across as certain is far less effective than coming across as open.

I mean, people will be able to tell that you have a depth of conviction if they spend more than a few minutes talking to you.

But leading with that conviction all the time can be counter-productive.

The person who is always certain thinks they’re being convincing when the opposite is often true. You’re less convincing because being perpetually certain makes you appear anti-intellectual, closed and a bit arrogant (see below).

If you’re open to people and their views, they’ll be more open to you. Engage with their ideas and questions on their own terms. Approach the conversation with the intent of understanding where they’re coming from.

And, who knows, you might end up learning something new.

A person who is always certain thinks they're being convincing. The opposite is true. Click To Tweet

4. Arrogance, smugness, and superiority are dead

For too long, Christian apologetics has carried with a tone of arrogance, smugness, and superiority.

If you want to repel anyone under 40, lead with that.

Arrogance is so ingrained in many Christian cultures that Christians don’t even see it or hear it anymore.

Humility is attractive. Humility is what made Jesus so much more attractive to people than the Pharisees who lacked it.

Arrogance is only ever attractive to the arrogant.

Arrogance also a sin. So repent. Get over your smugness and superiority.

Humbly love your God, love your community, and love the people who don’t know him. God does.

Arrogance is only attractive to the arrogant. Click To Tweet

5. The timeline is longer

I’m so Type-A, I’d love to conclude everything in about 35 seconds.

Increasingly, evangelism doesn’t work that way.

Ever notice that people who come to faith when pressured often leave it after a few years? And that, conversely, the people who come to faith on their own timeline tend to be flourishing years down the road?

Jesus said he would draw all people to himself, and he will. But he didn’t promise to do it in three minutes, or during a 90-minute service or even an eight-week class.

You need people and leaders who will take the time to go on a journey with people.

It kind of took the disciples three years to figure out who Jesus was, didn’t it? Why do you think your church’s approach to evangelism will be any different?

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t lose our sense of urgency in the mission. I feel that urgency every day. Sometimes I think I feel it more every day. But we need to give people space and we need to give the Holy Spirit space to do His work.

Give people time and space to come to faith. Apparently, God does this too.

It took the disciples 3 years to figure out who Jesus was. Why would your church's approach to evangelism be any different? Click To Tweet

How About Your Context?

I’m not saying high-pressure evangelism never works or that God has stopped using it entirely.

I’m just saying I’m seeing it becoming increasingly less effective and that another methodology that shares the same end appears to be even more effective.

What are you seeing about how evangelism is changing in your community?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting In Our Post-Christian World


  1. Brail Watson on December 22, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Thanks so much for this article Mr. Carey! This is great affirmation to what my local body and community have been seeing and what O believe Christ has been leading me to personally. I have always felt called to those who don’t know the Lord or have a fundamental misunderstanding of who he is. Essentially, I feel called to reach the unchurched and church hurt. Those who may have had exposure to the Gospel message but for one reason or another have left or been pushed away from God’s church. Over the last few years God has been making it clear to me that my presence as a hip-hop and R&B artist is needed in the secular industry to reach people for Christ. I’ve been mentoring artists in that sphere and as they grow in music and business savý I’m constantly sharing how the gospel has impacted my life and how the love of Jesus has made all of the difference in my success. I’ve seen people turn their life over to Christ simply because I took the time to love on and share with them, and then explained (when asked) that Christ was the reason for my generosity.

    The principles offered above affirm what my church has experienced and embraced! In January I will come on full-time at my church as not only the Worship Pastors and Student ministry leader, but also a resident secular artist who uses that platform to reach the unchurched through secular music with a sacred message!

  2. Bob on May 20, 2020 at 8:38 am

    This same phenomenon struck the business world about 10 years ago. In the past, a customer would set back, say “hey, you are the pro, tell me what I need.” Today, you have to enter with respect and be willing to dialogue with the customer. The customer will have already researched your company, and have 10 options. You better be ready to talk value. Likewise in faith, while God leads through the holy spirit that doesn’t release us from the responsibility to be sensitive, thoughtful, intuitive, empathetic, patient, caring. Your article is dead on. The Church has worked too long off the idea of obedience, rather than genuine love. I wish all the best as you struggle to understand this new world.

  3. bob breneman on April 25, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    I think your analysis is good. There was a time when you could ask someone if they are saved. They knew exactly what you meant. Now, language has changed, and a push approach will not work. We have to respect people and their answers. Dialogue is the key ingredient. The faith is true, so you don’t have to worry about the message. Personally, I haven’t seen much in the way of evangelism in recent years. It is as if we are in our forts isolated from the outside. Good article you have written.

  4. Christopher Harold on February 14, 2019 at 7:14 am

    I appreciate you sharing this but I disagree with most of your content. It seems you allow society to tell you how to reach them instead of God.

    One thing that will never change is God’s word…if you preach the Law, sin, judgment and Hell and then present the Good News of Christ it will do it work.

    That has been the case for 2,000 years from Christ, the Apostles and others like Spurgeon, etc.

    Once you allow society and culture to dictate God’s truth, that’s “seeker friendly” evangelism and creates false converts. The church is full of fake Christians today because of modern day evangelism.

    So sad that many believe your new ways are more effective than God’s ways.

    Preach Christ crucified and nothing else. The Gospel will do its work on the hearts of men 1,000,000 times better than any manmade presentation.

    Every generation felt the same way that we need to do something different…and they try and fail because they don’t use what the Bible teaches.

    One thing that will never change is ppl are ppl…they have a conscience, they inheritly know right from wrong because God’s law is written on the hearts of every one. Use it as an ally so ppl can see sin is indeed exceedingly single and to see how holy, righteous and just God is and why they need a Savior.

    • Dan Kitteringham on August 19, 2019 at 11:42 pm

      Christopher Harold, I totally agree with your reply, but near the end you said “sin is indeed exceedingly single”. Can you clarify what word you meant to use instead of “single”. I am thinking you meant “sinful”. Thank you, and God bless your ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ.

      The prophets of the Old Testament all preached repentance before holiness. John the Baptist started his ministry with “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”, and so did Jesus start His ministry with “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.

      Jesus, Who knew no sin, was first baptized with water, to fulfil all righteousness, by John the Baptist before starting His ministry, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The New Testament repeats the command of baptism with water to show repentance, but, to be baptized by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ is where holiness comes in. A repentant believer is baptized with water to show a contrite, repentant heart, but a converted soul is baptized by the Holy Spirit through faith, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. The main point of these biblical passages of baptism in all their descriptions, is repentance, and holiness thereafter in the Lord.

      All this hogwash of a God shaped hole in the heart, preaching that Jesus will make ALL things better (in this life), just believe, accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved (without first repentance), is New Age mumbo jumbo mixed with water baptism today is just “a symbol” that the first Salvation Army General William Booth warned about that a time would come when these heretic, wicked gospel teachings would come: “The chief danger of the 20th century will be…forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and Heaven without Hell.” Booth died in 1912, about the time that these things started taking shape in some early 20th century churches.

      Preach the Law. Preach Sin. Preach HELLFIRE. Preach REPENTANCE. Preach SALVATION IN CHRIST. If today’s souls reject that biblical way of laying out God’s message for us, then they are the arrogant ones.

      • Dan Kitteringham on August 20, 2019 at 12:06 am

        As a follow up note, I do want to make one thing clear, that yes, we are suppose to be sensitive to the feelings and emotions of the person we are sharing the gospel with, within reason of getting the gospel to them even if they are arrogant. They may not be open to receive the truth of their sins as laid out in the bible because sins will send the person to Hell and death is wages of sin. But, if we can get them to humble themselves after realizing that the law has been broken and their sin will be what throws them in Hell at God’s judgement, then in that humbleness we can read the verses that actually point to their sins. For example, a lot of Christians will straight up condemn a person for their sins. But, getting them to admit that it is something that broke God’s commandments, that they are guilty of that and deserve Hell, and that repentance and trusting in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross are key to salvation, then they are willing to hear more about what the bible says about their sin, and Christ’s work for them. Let the Holy Spirit prick their souls, and work through their repentance with them. Bring the soul to Christ where they are, fully willing to repent and trust Christ. Repentance does not save us. God’s Grace saves us through faith. Grace without repentance leads goats to Hell. False converts are made because they were initially unaware of the law and sin and Hell, or were just plain unbelievers in the first place. The conversion of the soul unto salvation is narrow, but simple. Tell them that an earthly judge is required to send lawbreakers to jail, or that judge would be a corrupt judge.

      • Nathan on August 24, 2020 at 4:55 pm

        Just curious on your thoughts about what Jesus preached. The Kingdom of God was the major theme of His preaching. He seemingly preached grace over law, love over sin, and restoration over damnation. He chose the promise of the kingdom to those who chose to enter OVER the threat of hell to those who didn’t. I wonder if it’s more effective, like Jesus, to teach proper application of faith & grace, while discipling others to do the same?

        • Dan Kitteringham on August 26, 2020 at 7:37 pm

          Hi Nathan. We should preach the law (Ten Commandments as given by Moses and as given in the sermon on the mount and the Law of Love and the Spirit as given in the New Testament), sorrow for our sins, repentance, and simply trusting in Jesus Christ to save us from eternal death in hell.

          Saved by Faith, not works, remember that.

          Here are some ministries to help with a good way to bring the sinner’s mind to attention of the Law (God’s mirror of our conscience), repentance, and trusting in Christ:

          Living Waters (www.livingwaters.com and YouTube)
          Off the Kirb Ministries (YouTube)
          Ravi Zacharias Ministries (www.rzim.org and on YouTube)

          God Bless You.

        • Dan Kitteringham on August 26, 2020 at 8:18 pm

          Hi Nathan. There are many, many parts of the Bible that quote Jesus Christ directly and many things that He preached about. The main focus of His ministry was that the human race is deceitful and wicked, Jesus came to save us through His death and resurrection, and that He is victorious and we can share in that victory, or die eternally in the Lake of Fire. So, when you see a street preacher preaching these same things, remember, John the Baptist, the last prophet of the Old Testament, and the first prophet and street preacher, preached the same things first, then as John the Baptist’s ministry and life came to a close, Jesus Christ started street preaching the same things. The difference between Jesus Christ and other street preachers is that Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless Life, and is Fully Man and Fully God, and the common street preacher is prone to sin, and could succumb to heresy. So, when you see a street preacher preaching, question their source and foundation of Biblical beliefs. When we question the way that Jesus Christ preached, we are saying that we are in doubt of His message.

          Jesus preached against those who hold onto sin who would go to hell, and preached that those who would let go of their sin for His sake would be forgiven. He also preached grace for those who love the Father in Heaven. He also preached the fear of God for every person who follows Him. Most assuredly, He preached that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in John 14:6. He brought attention to the fact that we must be born again to see God’s Kingdom. Jesus throughout His ministry emphasized that He came to die for our sins, would be raised back to Life, and that He would be lifted up to Glory with the Father in Heaven, and would soon return to finish the fight against the devil and all wickedness, and bring His Kingdom to reign throughout this universe and Heaven forever. Jesus Christ spoke to John in the Book of Revelation concerning things to come, salvation, Christ’s return, the salvation of the saints, and the judgement and condemnation of the wicked.

          Revelation 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

          Luke 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
          Luke 3:3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins
          Luke 1:77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sin

          Matthew 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
          Matthew 5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Raca means to call someone worthless and figuratively spit on them).
          Matthew 5:29-30 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
          Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

          Matthew 10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

          John 3:1-16Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
          3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
          4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
          5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
          9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
          10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
          16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

          So Jesus taught that we must repent to be forgiven, and that baptism (of the Spirit) will follow because we put our trust in Him, instead of ourselves and the world. Saved by Faith, not works, remember that always.

    • Olusanu on August 23, 2019 at 5:36 am

      Dear Christopher Harold, I really appreciate your view but I think a lot of people commenting are missing the idea/message in this article. God recently gave me an assignment into strategic evangelism, while meditating the Holy Spirit brought a scripture to mind “he that wins a soul is wise”; it’s been a burden on my heart that why is it becoming difficult to win souls these days compare to time past? The answer came very simple to me…times are changing. But does that means God’s word has to change too? No! His Word remain the same forever.
      The writer of this article is rather talking about evangelistic communication skill in these changing times.
      The message in your article is the exact message but I will communicate it differently, yet same message with same content word for word. He that wins a soul is wise.
      The writer didn’t come up with a new way that contradict God’s ways rather he is trying to teach communication skills.
      And to say society is dictating what to preach is wrong in this article rather, due to societal changes evangelism has to be strategic.
      For instance to have a one-to-one evangelism in time past is easier without you being seen as an intruder but now walking up to anyone in the name of evangelism appears to be intrusion of privacy.
      Lately for me to create room for evangelism, I will first consider the reality of life that may interest my target and try to make room for conversation and after that I will trip in God’s salvation message which is actually my objective. And I will have all the attention.
      Will this make me preach half truth to the listener? No! And when I’m being asked a question, I won’t sound so sanctimonious as if I wasn’t once a sinner rather I will let them know that I also was once a sinner and was on my way to hell until I met Christ.
      You don’t start a baby meal with meat but milk. After doing this my part I handle the remaining on my knees.
      I believed this is what this article is trying to communicate. Not to preach an half truth of God’s word or deviate from God’s lay down precept.

    • Rick Buffington on September 3, 2019 at 2:33 pm

      YOU…Mr. Christopher Harold are absolutely correct!
      I so thankful for God’s protective grace upon you and that you are not buying into these cultural trends and the many so called false brands of Christianity! It is black or white, truth or the lie. Nothing new under the sun…

      The real problem is man loves his sins and will not believe. People must repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and if they will not, then they will come up terribly short at the Great White Throne Judgement…and then thrown into the eternal lake of fire! I stand with you whole heartily on this brother!

      Moreover we can not save anyone, yet alone ourselves…it is the Holy Sprint that draws and grants repentance. Yes, we then would cry out to the lamb of God – our resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to wipe away the record of sins.

      I am staying with the Bible and preaching, sharing and compelling people to settle out of court God’s way. This is the right and loving thing to do! I refuse to give up any ground whatsoever, and fervently pray likewise for all genuine saint (Christian)!

      Thank you once again brother Harold for your very wise words and unwavering commitment to TRUTH!

    • Catie on April 11, 2020 at 11:21 pm

      I respect what you are saying, and the need to confront sin, whether our own, first, and then to help others to confront their own However, God has always met people where they were, from the woman at the well, asking key questions, to the Hebrews of the O.T., thousands, bowing to the ground when they saw God cared for them. This article is about being “real.” Gone are the days of techniques, plastic smiles, and pop Christianity, bumper stickers. The revolution of change is happening both in the church and out. Christianese, the subcultural language of narrow minded prideful Christians who have forgotten Who bought their acceptance with God, is being dilluted and eradicated with the authentic language of real people seeking authentic answers to questions they are grappling with and need answers to. Yes, we need to listen, reflect back, and then give truth of Scripture, but…. “People dont care what we know until they know that we care.”

    • Michael on May 28, 2020 at 7:37 am

      Amen Christopher! We are seeing 2nd Timothy 4:3 being lived out in this “post Christian” generation. Extremely sad.

      “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

    • Om Shalom on May 29, 2021 at 11:26 am

      Hi Christopher, thank you for refereshing . Yes, we’re on the same page. The good news of salvation should be preached as it is but with HUMILITY. We just need to narrate the messge from the Holy Bible and God will do the work “change”. Regardless what technic is used, if the person(listerner) is not listed in the saved list, he/she will not believe. God’s ways are timelessly the best.

  5. Brother Chuck on January 23, 2019 at 11:13 am

    I really liked this article! So true!

    I have heard people refer to the Christian church as though it were on a death spiral. While I don’t necessarily agree with that assessment, many churches have chosen become irrelevant and to die instead of loving people and serving their communities.

    Many or all of the old styles of evangelism never actually worked at all. Many leaders only deluded themselves into thinking they were ever doing any good in their efforts to evangelize. If they had worked our churches would be packed every week and God would be moving people in such a powerful way we would not have a fraction of the problems we have in our society today.

    If people come a few times and leave because you do not follow up with them, or you just go around being arrogant jerks to everyone you meet, you push people away from ever even coming in the future.

    In many cases, the church is offering answers to questions no one is asking, or that nobody cares about and the important questions people are too lazy or spiritually immature to answer, because that might take months or years of your life to help someone find those answers. Are you willing to put in the time and the work? Many are not.

    Claiming to “know” something no one can ever know alerts people that you are a “crazy person”. You believe in your faith and you can explain “why you believe” and share your testimony. 1 Corinthians 8, “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.” Ecclesiastes 8, “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.”

    “Everything should be done lovingly and respectfully, or not at all.”
    ~Brother Chuck~

  6. Alex on December 29, 2018 at 7:55 am

    I realize I’m late on this post, but hey, I’ve been good and taking time off. 🙂 A couple quick questions/thoughts that maybe would be good for some future posts.I think this process-oriented understanding is absolutely spot-on and crucial for us to do good outreach today.

    1. I have found that my process-orientation makes me hesitant to call people to make a commitment or hopeless that a call to commitment will ever garner any response–the over-correction from the previous over-correction, perhaps! How do we maintain a patient process orientation while not giving up on the real need to invite people to make a decision?

    2. About 7 years ago now I read WIllow Creek’s REVEAL book/study. One interesting data point that they reported was that non-believers who were around for longer than a year actually were significantly less likely to make a decision for Christ because real seeking takes serious energy and after a year or so of hanging around they likely had just settled into church or Jesus as a nice add-on to their lives rather than seriously considering re-organizing their lives around him.

    Do you think that’s still true or do you think that’s outdated information at this point? Obviously this has significant implications for us as we think about a process-oriented approach to evangelism, especially in a culture where many people don’t attend church weekly (something you’ve engaged often here and I’ve appreciated!).

    If it’s A. taking longer for people to make a commitment but B. the window gets much narrower at about a year (not entirely closed, obviously but still) and C. they’re coming two-three times in six weeks, that means we’ve got a much bigger challenge when it comes to evangelism.

  7. William Christian on December 27, 2018 at 8:47 am

    While your points are worth considering, the title is very debateable. Is the existence of 2 billion believers something negligible? How can you refer to this as a Post Christian era while ignoring the presence of 2 billion people? Time to toss that defeatist terminology.

  8. Chuck on December 24, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Point 4 is deathly important. Can’t tell you how ofte. I observe that. Post modern sorts are not already steeped in assumptions about the identity and nature of God that make the jump to embracing Christ a given assumption.

  9. Paula on December 24, 2018 at 1:54 am

    Hi Carey,
    This is stuff I need to constantly remind myself about. It’s so easy to go for the fast and probably rude response rather than practicing patience and realizing that’s the kind approach. Oh, and fyi the link to the Barna Group study doesn’t work anymore.

  10. Les Fish on December 23, 2018 at 8:45 am

    What are the 15 points you mentioned by Barna about the post Christian mind?

  11. Tim Snell on December 11, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Yep, you pretty much nailed it! Thanks for reminding those of us who are Boomers that engagement takes some ways of thinking and interacting that we need to work at!

  12. Tommie Bell on March 23, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    I could not agree with you more, this is a different time and we must adjust, without compromising the message. We must be ready to walk with the individual till they are ready to make their commitment to Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins.

  13. John Kolb on March 7, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I have read your article seaking insight into working methods in today’s culture. I found after posting on our church sign the following message some new members came to our service that Sunday. Message as follows, “Jesus-God LOVES YOU. Find him here Sunday 9AM.” I believe people responded to this message as they found it was something for them. People want to be served welcomed and loved. That is what will bring them to your church and faith. When you see a new face in church, tell them how glad you are to see them. This will bring them back and maybe there friends and family.

  14. Socrates M. Herrera on January 9, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Thank God for your simple approach in sharing the gospel. I think your method will help me and my discipleship group to be more effective in reaching our desperate generation. God bless!

  15. Timmy on December 18, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I’m often aware of door to door evangelism isn’t the best method. I fondly, that friendship evangelism and meeting human needs is my best way, because it demonstrate love!!!! When we see Jesus on the cross, I see a demonstration of genuine love!!!

  16. NapyBlue on March 28, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Barna link is now broken.

  17. Drake De Long-Farmer on October 29, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Great article Carey. Our team is actually writing a book on some similar topics. I think we will be citing this article a few times. Some good stuff here. 😉

  18. Taylor Broussard on July 31, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I have to testify, depending on how you define “high-pressure evangelism” wich is a bit ambiguous, i completely agree with Careys statement. It still works. Helfire and brimstone even. That is if blanced with the truth of love and grace can still feel incredibly pressuring but can be incredibly effective. Ive seen the most impactful changes in peoples lives and my own because of this. Street preaching, tracts,confronting an unbelieving friend in sin.. if these are considered “high pressure”
    But this is changing as our culture becomes more secular.
    I can only guess but i feel that in our mass media culture, the strong message of repentance has gotten around enough bo be considered common, without these people seeing true examples of beleivers living out that self denying repentance. How can you follow an example no body demonstrates, churches are becoming more self centered verses self denying now a’ days. Everybodys heard about Jesus, they just need to see him.

  19. Darryl Willis on March 16, 2016 at 8:28 am

    I will add one disagreement with you. You say: “I’m not saying high-pressure evangelism never works or that God has stopped using it entirely.” I do say “high-pressure evangelism never works…” I suppose I really can’t say it NEVER works because how do you prove a negative? But in 35 years of ministry I’ve never seen someone really own faith as a result of high pressure evangelism. Usually they completely drop out, or later in life they come back and say (usually after a miserable and legalistic life): “I had no idea what following Jesus really meant.”

    • Abie Sidiyefgy on November 10, 2016 at 10:31 am

      I hear this Darryl! I haven’t been in ministry 35 years – I’ve barely been alive that long – but in 10 years of church-planting in Africa, and most recently in the Arab World, I’ve lately begun to think a lot about regeneration and what it means. I think large chunks of the evangelical Western Church have reduced conversion to an assent to doctrine. On the positive side, I’m hearing more and more leaders call this out lately – like for example in the messages ‘Examine Yourself’ by Paul Washer, ‘The Holy Spirit’s Power and our Effort, pt 2’, by Francis Chan, or ‘Spiritual Formation as Part of Salvation’ by Dallas Willard (all available on Youtube).

      I’ve been reading through a great book called ‘Pentecost – Today?’ by Iain H Murray, which aims to give a Biblical basis for revival, and chapter 2 of this book has been immensely helpful in understanding how we may have gotten here.

      I also found Don Carson’s message ‘What is the Gospel? part 1’ (also available on Youtube) which deals specifically with regeneration to be so helpful in going back to the Word in defining what we should aim for in evangelism/discipleship.

      Anyways, all that to say, I appreciate your comment, and if you happen to have any more insight into this or good resources to check out I’d be really interested!



      • Darryl Willis on December 12, 2016 at 9:51 pm

        Highly recommend Krieder’s The Patient Ferment of the Early Church. It is history (first 300-400 years of Christianity) and it synthesizes many other studies (including Stark’s)–but it actually relates to this. The church grew and yet they closed their assemblies to outsiders and you won’t find one treatise on evangelism in the first two-three hundred years following the fist century! What is that all about? This is a great page turner and I think addresses some of the discussion here.

      • Joel Dieterichs on December 24, 2018 at 6:47 am

        What’s fascinating to me, in watching all of you discuss this, is that we’ve wrestled with the same issue for at least 175 years in the global Lutheran Communion. Not trying to say we’re perfect, but experience can lend insight; when they teach us the history of said debate, it’s classics such as -Quest for Holiness- by Adolph Koeberle (1940s) and -Speaking the Gospel Today- by Robert Kolb (1980s).

        Yes, the Lord has attached our sanctification to our justification, but ironically to grow in sanctification we need to keep hearing the primary, core Gospel (to put it in my own words) and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar. Seems the more we focus on getting Holy, the more our old natures buck the system and go the other way.

        Blessings from Colorado, USA. Peace, joy, and grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • Ronald Way on December 22, 2021 at 11:04 am

      Meeting people where they are is actually not a new way of spreading the Good News. The Good Shepherd always has a great interest in people and the Spirit of God still changes hearts when guys like me drop the ten foot pole and reach out to Love.

  20. Darryl Willis on March 16, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Good article. Your example on #1 I’d give a different answer: “That’s a great question. When you say ‘reincarnation’ what exactly do you mean?” Often we don’t understand a particular individual’s use of a term. (The “orthodox Hindu” understanding of reincarnation is really different from Western views!) This allows for more input from the questioner and gives them a chance to share more with you.

    After that I generally make it personal. Rather than saying “Christianity” I often say as a follow up–“My perspective is a little different…does that make sense?”

  21. Nathan on March 10, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Great article and so true. Other peoples perspectives are incredibly interesting so why shouldn’t we take them on board and discuss them in an open way.

  22. Andy Minard on November 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this article. Great points all around. So hungry to be effective.

  23. Judah on November 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Carey, Great article! That link to the Barna Group stats at the top isn’t working. I’d love to see them. Could you update this link, as I’d love to share this article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 16, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Barna redid their website and I can’t immediately locate the new link. Sorry. I’ll keep trying.

  24. Joshua on June 9, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Listening is key! One young man was milling about on a university campus, obviously listening into an evangelistic conversation some students and I were having with a couple of other half enibriated gentlemen. When I noticed him, I stepped aside from the group and asked if he knew the Good News. After ignoring me once, I asked again, to which he replied that he almost killed himself over it. “Why would you do that,” I asked,”it’s Good news.” Angrily he turned and looked right at me shaking a rather pointed index finger in my face, “IF YOU WILL SIT DOWN AND LISTEN TO MY STORY, I’LL LISTEN TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY!” he shouted. “Certainly,” I replied with a smile. You should have seen the shock in his face. “Really??! This is the first time that a street preacher has ever wanted to hear what I have to say.” We sat down on a bench and he poured out his heart to me. In turn he was calm, pleasant and genuinely interested in hearing the Gospel.

  25. G-Man on June 8, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I think addressing social injustices in our culture is an effective way we could influence our world towards God. When people see how our faith is inspiring us to serve those who are vulnerable and victimized, we have already shown God’s compassion even before we attempt to talk to people about God. I think we have separated the preaching of Gospel from Social Justice works, and we need to close that gap.

  26. Rob Coscia on June 7, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we used it to love people into the kingdom?

  27. christoph on June 6, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    You saved BEST for LAST. Timeline is longer. We evangelical Christians are so success-driven that we want to close the deal right away instead trust the work of the Holy Spirit

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 7, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      So true. I’ve been in the same community for two decades. God has a different time line than I do…that’s for sure. Amazing what you see when you stick around.

  28. Cory on April 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    In the first point, you ask which answer I’d prefer. Frankly, I’d prefer the first one. Just give me the truth and the facts. The second response sounded too condescending and patronizing to me. If someone answered me like that, I’d feel like they were talking down to me.

    The thing I like in the general tone of the article is three keys that resonated with me: listening, openness (which I think leads to good listening), and humility.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 4, 2015 at 5:21 am

      Fair enough. I know in Canada answer #1 sends people out the door.

      • CJL on March 27, 2017 at 11:51 am

        There are peole who would like #1 but they are more likely to be looking for trivia facts than seeking…… There are exceptions, of course. If people are looking for #1, #2 will answer it.

  29. benhemp on April 26, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    I think these 5 points are good, but they don’t strike me at all as new to this generation. I think these were always true. And I’m 61, so I think I have some perspective.

  30. Dan O' Donnell on April 24, 2015 at 9:29 am

    I agree totally with you. I have been a pastor for 45 years now and still pastoring it. This was an excellent article. I read a blo blog by Thom Ranier entitled “Pastoring Is Not Like It Was 30 years Ago.” That is true. I am a more mature in age seasoned pastor who chosen to change with the times. I realize the things you have said are “right on target.” Now, the question is, “How do we make contact with the people who are not Christians and let them know that they are not just projects?” We are interested in being friends for friends sake, nothing else.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 24, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Dan…love your leadership and heart. 45 years? Wow. You get a medal. Way to go!

  31. Jan Ferguson on April 24, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Such a good discussion. So many Christians seem to be in a quandary about how to share their faith these days. It seems every church has a couple of folks who are tract-handing, door-to-door-preaching, turn or burners who genuinely love the lost. I wonder if people don’t share their faith because they think this is the only way. I’ve been on my journey for as long as I can remember and it seems like the church has really hit a wall when it comes to telling people about Jesus. thanks for another great post! You posts always give me a lot to think about and quite a bit to act on as well.

    Jan Ferguson

  32. Carey Nieuwhof on April 23, 2015 at 6:36 am

    John…thanks for this! I agree…longer timelines are the norm for sure. John if you’re at Orange Conference drop by and we can chat there!

    • John Crilly on April 23, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Would love to but celebrating an anniversary – have a fun time!
      Maybe we can connect after? jcrilly@qplace.com

  33. Ben Schettler on April 22, 2015 at 11:44 am

    As to point number 3, Could it be said that being open is the most effective certainty? It could be confusing to contrast certainty with openness. One can be certain and open. It’s not an either or. By saying that being open is more effective than being certain you force people to decide which one they have to be. You can be certain. They key is being open in your certainty. I feel that Point number three demonstrates a misunderstanding of certainty. However I am open to an explanation of how I might be wrong on that. 🙂

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      I think that’s a great point Ben. That’s what I meant but you said it better than I did.

  34. Orlandus Green on April 22, 2015 at 3:15 am

    I believe that the application of biblical principles when it comes to evangelism in our modern time is still as effective as it was in Acts. However, the misapplication of those same principles will render our efforts ineffective. One of the main elements left out of modern evangelism? The Holy Spirit. Let’s just take a look at what the scriptures say.

    II Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

    10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

    If we remember who empowers us to evangelize the unsaved, we would first submit to Him, watch the strong holds come down, and share the gospel with willing recipients who are willing as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The “Truth” is still what makes people free.

  35. Andy Scott on April 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    GREAT POST!!!!!

  36. Bill Wagner on April 21, 2015 at 10:30 am

    One of the things I found interesting in the most recent Barna findings is an astonishing 1/3 of the atheists who argue and beat down Christians are basically hermits! They lock themselves in their homes and do not engage in much communication with anyone! So if developing “relationships” is the most important aspect of the church, we have an even more difficult task as these folks are very reluctant to talk to us at any level! Patience and being non-confrontational is the key to reaching these people. We can argue with those who should know better, but we are wasting our breath arguing against those who do not. Winning permission to share your walk with the pre-believers is the only way to present the gospel. Is this tactic by Christians wide spread and working? A quick scan of our Facebook pages will reveal that collectively, we are representing exactly the opposite of what we should be.

  37. Lawrence W. Wilson on April 21, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Carey, I would argue that the concept of conversion–not merely the pathway to it–is also changing. People, in my observation, see themselves less as “saved from sin and hell” and more as “joining a new life and new community.” Big difference there.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 21, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      That’s a really astute observations Lawrence. Thank you! So true. That likely has long term implications too.

    • MJC on May 1, 2015 at 7:56 am

      I think that might be right, but we need to stay true to the gospel – we are not offering life enhancement but salvation. Life enhancement you can take or leave much like a stylistic choice of goggles when you swim. But if you are drowning a pair of goggles is no help at all – at that point only a lifeboat will do. If we lean out of the boat and offer a perspective we have not offered salvation at all. If our churches become clubs then we have missed the point.

  38. On the Web | Second Chance Pastor on April 20, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    […] 5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting In Our Post-Christian World […]

  39. Sean Chandler on April 20, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I think I’m just young enough that most popular evangelism tactics of the last 25 years have always rubbed me a bit wrong. If the Gospel is true, asking someone to accept the Bible is true changes EVERYTHING for someone. Packaging that in a cute one size fits all model which can be presented in 3 minutes seems dubious at best.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 21, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      I remember tracts too Sean. So true! What’s effective in one era isn’t always effective in the next.

  40. Dillon Schupp on April 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Wow, great read. This is in so many ways counter to what is typically taught in terms of apologetics.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      I agree Dillon. The opposite way may be more effective!

    • Sean Chandler on April 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      This seems to be good reason to continue to hold our values with a closed hand and our strategies with an open hand. Instead of getting stuck on old models we need to keep adjusting for our to reach people where they are at.

  41. mlukaszewski on April 20, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Great post Carey. I particularly resonated with the section about taking time.

    We’re starting to see a shift in how churches approach inviting. Away from “look at me” or “here’s our new series” and more toward adding value, having conversations, and building trust over time.

    I know it’s a secular term, but it’s really what “content marketing” tries to do. Offer incredible value and be there when people are ready to take action.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 20, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Michael…that’s a great analogy and an important insight. It is less about series and more about relationships and conversations, which the series can hopefully add value to. There’s a lot of insight in your comment. Worth another post I’d say!

      • mlukaszewski on April 20, 2015 at 11:04 am

        Thanks Carey…I’d be happy to guest post that one for you. 🙂

  42. christoph on April 20, 2015 at 10:44 am

    100% with you. Once after I preached at a church, a young lady came up to me asking me about evangelistic strategies. My short answer was : LISTEN.

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