Q: In regard to your “conversation” on Matthew 28, I agree that placing emphasis on just one scripture (Mattt 28:18-20) made for a very efficient church-building programme, yet also resulted in a community where many good-hearted people ended up being hurt and/or going astray.

However, one challenge we currently face is that only a minority of us have convictions about street evangelism. Few of us want to evangelise in the “old school” way—inviting strangers to church on the street—and are deliberating about how best to persuade more members to participate in this ministry. My personal experience has been that through evangelism God has formed my character; it has taught me many things about dealing with different people. It is also how I was reached out to. — S.O.

A: Surely many will be met through cold contact outreach—even though it’s something most Christians are not that good at. We are wired differently. Patient relationship-building is the way most will find effective. We who are bolder shouldn't look down on those who are less confident, or better at reaching out in less high-pressure ways.

Actually, when we planted the church in your city we experimented a lot. Originally it was not street preaching—nothing like that in the first 3 years, but we grew well. So... I would say street evangelism isn't old school. That came later. And as the stats guy for the first 5 years, I can confirm that cold contact evangelism was less effective than patient friendship-building. In fact, I’d say that most outsiders are more put off by street evangelism than they are attracted to Christ, and if the evangelizer is abrasive or doesn't pick up on social cues, can actually do harm

Sure, I have reached many people through cold contact outreach. But usually this works with only a few types of person—those less tied in relationally; the transient; the foreigner; the friendless. All these people need the message! And you yourself are proof that cold contact evangelism works. But don't imagine that this should be the norm. Nor is this how the church historically has grown.

As for character building: anything that pushes us has the potential to build fiber. For some the pushing can be overwhelming. "A bruised reed he did not break." Remember that Mark 1:17 isn't the whole story. There's John 1:39! The call to follow ("cold contact") wasn't as "cold" as Mark 1:17 might lead us to believe! See also Luke 4:38-5:11.

For more, check out my two audio talks on Evangelism in the Early Church. And keep preaching the word!