Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reflections on Got Style: Gross v. Net evangelism effectiveness

I recieved a complimentary book from my denomination's publisher (Judson Press) on evangelism entitled Got Style: Personality Based Evangelism.

When I recieved the book, and read the introduction, I was not sure I would like reading the book too much. Part of the reason is that the book seemed like a rip-off of the Contagious Christian materials from Willow Creek Community Church and ministries. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised. Got Style comes from the same school of thought as Contagious Christian but it is not the same material, and it is a little more descriptive than Contagious Christian about how personalities mesh with evangelism styles.

I am now through chapter two, and have had some time to think through what Johnson calls the Assertive Style. The assertive style is the kind of style of sharing the good news of Jesus that is direct, forthright, and does not beat around the bush.

Johnson shares that the Assertive Style is often the kind of evangelism that "closes the deal" with people who are on the journey to accepting Christ. Thus, Johnson argues, the gifts of the assertive evangelist are essential in bringing people to Christ.

Johnson points out that the danger is that people who are overly aggressive in the assertive style of evangelism can often push people away from the gospel as much as they draw people to Christ. This is especially true if the assertive evangelism persons lack strong people skills. Like every style, Johnson says, assertive evangelists need to hone their evangelistic gifts for the greatest effectiveness.

In part of this chapter, Johnson adds in statistics about the effectiveness of various types of assertive evangelists. I find these statistics objectify people (which is a story for another day), and I find that they are inherently misleading. Every statistical study on evangelism that I have seen overestimates conversion rates. They do this by double counting converts (of the 100 people accepting Christ at camp this year, Susie counted for five of those conversions by coming forward at the altar call each day of the week), estimating large groups of people praying a sinner's prayer simultanously, and by offering extra food to men who come forward during the altar call at the gospel mission for example.

The other way that statistics can be skewed when studying evangelism is by grading the effectiveness of an evangelism technique on the "gross" numbers instead of the "net" statistics. Let me explain. A man I know is especially skilled at confrontational evangelism. Yet, in his evangelistic fervor his confidence in his intelligence and his belief in his ability to be correct about every issue, he often pushes people away from Christ uneccesarily. People like this tend to gain a lot of decisions for Christ, but the self-centered, insensitive way they share can make people run from Christ uneccessarily. Thus, to gage their effectiveness as evangelists, if you really want to track their "score" or their "stats" you need to also figure in how many people have been lost to Christ and the church due the way they share their faith. I think you will find, if you do this, that an assertive evangelist is a less effective evangelist than they advertise to their churches, friends, and family.

Just something I am thinking about. What do you think?

1 comment:

SWG said...

I agree with your assumption on the assertive evangelist and the inflated statistics. One thing I learned in statistics is you can prove anything with statistics. I think a more helpful but ultimately harder measure of effective evangelism is looking at where those who made decisions are it in their faith walk 1 year, 5 years and even 10 years down the road.