Reverse Evangelism: Reaching Families by Serving First

Spilled Salt Shaker

Are you finalizing your plans for the fall festival, harvest party, trunk or treat, pumpkin carving, or other Halloween related outreach event at your church?  A key component of these type of events is always planning how we will connect with, minister to, evangelize with, and preach the gospel for all those in attendance, especially guests who are not part of our church community.  It’s your big chance to reel them in, right!??! I am going to be so bold as to suggest that maybe this year your plan of attack to win new followers of Jesus would be to have no plan at all.

You read that right.  What if you skipped handing out tracts, asking people to share their contact information, or attaching a Bible verse to each piece of candy?  What if instead you just provided a free, family friendly, welcoming event with no strings attached or ulterior motive?  You in fact would be ministering in much the same way Jesus did.  He healed the sick, fed the hungry, befriended outcasts, and gave endless forgiveness and love, not to mention his life and asked for NOTHING in return.  Imagine how Christianity could be transformed if we provided genuine hospitality.  What if people wanted to come to your church because they wanted to care for others the way you do, not because they were enticed or guilted into it?

I am not arguing that Jesus didn’t ask us to go into the world to share the good news and make disciples.  He certainly did, but his request didn’t come with an instruction manual and maybe, just maybe we don’t go about our evangelizing in the most helpful way sometimes.  Though I myself have a very strong Christian faith and even work for a church, I RUN the other way when someone knocks at my door with their faith based literature or wants my phone number so they can call and invite me to their church.  I actually find it quite rude.  I have a faith and it may be different from yours.  Please don’t try to persuade me about of my beliefs.  Instead, be my friend, show me how you love and care for the world around you, and put sincerity into discovering who I am and what I am about, and you might just get my attention.

Don’t think that the first time you forgo the intricate evangelism tactics that you will have droves of new members flocking through the church doors.  You won’t.  But maybe the fifth or sixth or twentieth time somebody feels your sincere welcome, they just might stick around.  Even if they don’t, you can consider yourself successful in that you are serving as Jesus served, expecting nothing in return.

Reverse evangelism has worked at my church in my community.  Will you give it a try in yours?


  1. Meghan says

    Our church is in the process of doing just what you mention here. This Christmas we will offer two evenings for people to participate in. First, we will have an evening of quiet mediation and worship for our church family. A week later we will host a community party at our local school with totally free food, games, party favors, crafts, and family photos. Guests will go home with a favor from “your friends at coquitlam presbyterian”. We have really debated what to hand out to people, but we pray that the community will feel loved and blessed by our gifts to them this year-no strings attached.

  2. says

    Thank you for this article. I couldn’t make it to the end without all kinds of ideas and possibilities coming to mind…

  3. Amy says

    I agree with you Nicole!
    Seems like nothing right? It is huge! People feel everyone has an agenda, a reason they are doing something nice. “What’s the catch?” We need to establish love and trust again….and serving with a loving heart with no strings attached shows His love. Once that love reaches their soul….GOD does HIS “thing”. Soon they will be in search of more of Him and then we will be there waiting in the wings to minister, teach, and help guide them to the Lord!

  4. Nicole VanderMeulen says

    Matt, I didn’t mean to say that preaching the gospel and sharing the good news isn’t important! I feel very much the opposite. I was trying to suggest that if we focus on generous actions first, people might come to want to hear (and thus be more receptive to listening to) the word on their own terms.

  5. Nicole VanderMeulen says

    Janette, It sounds like you have had great success with serving generously in the past. Would you ever consider passing out candy without the tract? What about just giving without providing persuasive information about your beliefs?

  6. Janette says

    Years ago, when my children were teens, we worked with our church and filled small bags with candy and a tract. Then we rented large coffee urns and make coffee and hot water for cocoa and tea, we prayed over everything and our home and proceeded to greet our guests as they walked up to do their thing. The first year, we had 3 devils (dad’s dressed up) and their children and our power went out! After resetting the breaker box we were greeted by the Security Forces and they loved the idea. They were patrolling the area on foot to ensure a safe night. We gave out over 150 bags. The next year we did the same thing. This year, after many years of not living in a place we could do that, we may do this again. We are in a new town, new neighborhood and we heard a lot of transplants come through for the candy. Maybe just maybe we will step out in faith and serve our neighbors as we love on His People. Thanks for the article!

  7. says

    I agree. I am suggesting that we can serve others with our words as well as our actions. I totally hear what you are saying. We have often forced the gospel on people and perceived it as words or a formula to which we seek to persuade others to get their mental assent. This is clearly not helpful. My concern though is that we not swing the pendulum too far away from verbally inviting people to follow Jesus (i.e., to say “Let’s just serve people and let our actions speak for themselves). I think we can serve people by our words and actions—both of which should be full of grace and love and point to Jesus. So, I think we are actually on the same page. I just heard you saying that the verbal part is completely unimportant.

  8. Nicole VanderMeulen says

    Thanks, Matt! I am hoping for some more dialogue too. I think you’re absolutely right that Jesus clearly calls us to follow him. I am suggesting we accomplish this by serving others rather than persuading them.

  9. Nicole VanderMeulen says

    Jeff and Cathy, Your open minds and willingness to venture into a new mentality is encouraging! Thank you!

  10. says

    Wow! Thanks!
    I’m printing and handing this out to ministry leaders this week! I took a “Perspectives” class and this is they way we were told to evangelize “the nations”. Well now “the nations” are right outside the door!
    Thanks again!

  11. says

    I appreciate very much the missional thinking and the fact that many common evangelism “methods” that churches have used for years are a turn off to people in today’s society. I, like you, do not appreciate people pushing an agenda (e.g., knocking on my door and trying to persuade me). However, there is definitely a tension here because Jesus did call people to something. In fact, he called them to follow him. Currently, I am reading Colossians and it is striking how high Paul lifts the supremacy and lordship of Jesus. The goal of our lives and ministries is to see Jesus exalted as King because where he reigns—where the kingdom of God breaks in—there is healing, hope, forgiveness, abundant life, joy, shalom! Sometimes I have become so turned off by tacky methods that I have also found it easier not to talk about Jesus. Anyway, sorry for the long rant. I merely hope to create some dialogue. :-)

  12. says

    Nicole, I love this idea! I’m going to pass this along to my team for some more discussion. Thanks for the idea.

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