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Evangelism – How Andrew Did It Benny Tabalujan
How did the earliest followers of Jesus undertake evangelism? Today, in a world awash with digital media and global communications, it seems anachronistic to discuss how first century Christians shared the good news of Jesus Christ. Can the earliest Christians teach us anything about evangelism?
I suggest they can.
In this article I focus on Andrew – one of the less famous apostles of Jesus. A sibling of the more well-known Simon Peter, initially Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35-40). After John pointed to Jesus as being the Lamb of God, Andrew began to follow Jesus. Andrew then found his own brother, Peter, and brought him along to follow the Lord (John 1:40-42). Since then, Andrew is often deemed to be the first among the apostles to follow Jesus.1
Just as Andrew did with Peter, the New Testament records two more occasions when Andrew brought others to Christ. Once in Galilee, he brought a boy with five loaves and two fish and introduced the lad to Jesus (John 6:8-9). We know the rest of that story. At another time in Jerusalem, following Philip’s inquiry, Andrew brought several inquiring Greeks to see Jesus (John 12:20-23).
If nothing else, these three snapshots of Andrew depict him as a superb practitioner of evangelism – the art of bringing people to Jesus. Of course, others in Scripture have their own ways of sharing the Gospel. Nonetheless, these glimpses of Andrew in action are there for our consideration. Below, I draw three lessons from Andrew’s example.
First, Andrew was personal in his interactions with others: he sought out Peter; he connected with the lad who had loaves and fishes; and, together with Philip, he responded to the Greek believers. In each case, Andrew had active personal contact. He spoke, he went, he connected with people. This underscores a perennial truth: evangelism thrives on personal engagement. Of course, print material, social media, and advertising can help. But personal, active engagement remains key.
In my case, I was taken along in the early 1970s to Sunday school in a small church in Singapore. The person who took me there was an elderly Christian lady, Polly, who was giving me private tuition to improve my schoolwork. Polly connected with me in a personal way that other tutors didn’t. She invited me to Sunday school. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Over the years, I’ve heard similar stories of how personal contact led from one thing to another and, eventually, to a person’s baptism into Christ.
Second, Andrew was universal in his approach. He approached his own sibling. He didn’t discriminate against the young. And, although he was an Israelite, he was open to interacting with Greeks. The universal openness of Andrew to share the good news of Jesus with everyone in his circle of influence is refreshing.
Some time ago, I heard someone say that evangelising our own family doesn’t count – and that we ought to focus on teaching the Gospel to strangers. Really? Andrew sought out his own sibling first. If so, why shouldn’t we reach out to our family, kinfolk, our neighbours, and those known to us? At the same time, let’s not overlook those further afield, as well as the younger generation and people from other ethnicities. The Gospel is indeed for all.
Third, Andrew appeared mindful that evangelism is seasonal. Don’t misunderstand me. Christians are to be ready to speak in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). By seasonal I mean that humans experience seasons when we’re more attuned towards God, more sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit, and more open to learning about Jesus. Peter, the young lad, and the Greek believers interacted with Andrew at seasons when they were ripe to be introduced to Jesus. At other times, they might have been less interested or wholly uninterested.
We need to remind ourselves that people have times when they’re not as open to the Gospel. That’s why it’s not a good idea to force-feed the Gospel to someone who isn’t seeking God. Rather, be ready for times of massive change, chaos, loss, and uncertainty. Such times often herald a season when many are seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Refugees displaced by war. Individuals seeking new directions in life. People in these situations are among those most open to the Gospel. That’s when we must especially be ready with a word from God, a kind invitation, or a gracious act of service.
Being personal in our engagements, universal in our attitude, and aware of the seasonal nature of humans seeking God – these points seem to highlight the ways in which Andrew practised evangelism in the first century. If we’re Christians who are keen to restore the faith, practices, and ethos of the earliest Christians, why don’t we consider evangelising as Andrew did?
1 William Barclay, The Master’s Men (SCM Press, 1959) 38.
Benny Tabalujan is an elder serving the Belmore Road Church of Christ in suburban Melbourne. He is also editor of InterSections magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org