Confrontational Evangelism: Advantages and Pitfalls

by Mar 14, 2023Evangelism Training, Personal Evangelism

Confrontational evangelism is the form of sharing the gospel that most often comes to mind when someone hears the word evangelism. They picture themselves interrupting someone’s conversation at a coffee shop to hand them a tract. They imagine themselves on a street corner telling people walking by about the good news of Jesus Christ. They see themselves knocking on doors and immediately asking something like “Do you know about Jesus?” It’s a very abrupt form of evangelism, and like all forms of evangelism, it has aspects that are to be commended and some pitfalls that need to be avoided.

Before we jump too far into this, I want to be clear that is neither a promotion or demotion of confrontational evangelism. This is simply an objective view into the process so that we may procure some helpful takeaways for those who feel called to this form of evangelism. I also want to be clear that this, along with conversational evangelism, invitational evangelism, and others are all valid evangelistic approaches as long as the gospel is clearly shared in the culmination of the method.

 Two Advantages of Confrontational Evangelism

I had a seminary professor who loved, and I mean loved, confrontational evangelism. He was “that guy” you hear stories about in stores, malls, and other public venues. At a shoe store, he would walk up to someone examining a running shoe and say, “that’s a nice running shoe, but have you been running from Jesus?” and the conversation was off and running (pun intended).

And this is one of the greatest advantages of conversational evangelism. No time is wasted. There is a quick introduction, a question or comment to enter into a spiritual conversation, and an entrance into the gospel.

This same professor shared story after story of leading people to Christ because that’s all he was interested in. He would catch them off guard, get right to the point, and if they didn’t walk away or throw a tract back at him, he would lead right into the gospel.

And that is a second advantage. Confrontational evangelism will generally lead to more opportunities to share the gospel. Because the focus is on bringing the message one-on-one to as many as possible, it generally results in interactions with more people than the other methods of sharing the gospel.

Two Pitfalls to Avoid in Confrontational Evangelism

As with all forms of evangelism, there are some points of caution. These have nothing to do with the method in itself, but an unhealthy use or view of the method if care is not taken.

A man came up to me one day and asked where I work. I explained that I work for an evangelism ministry, and he immediately began telling me how he shares the gospel within the first five minutes of talking to anyone. And, he added, anyone who doesn’t do that isn’t following the Great Commission.

This is the first pitfall of confrontational evangelism. It can shove a message that is meant to be shared. When we approach someone to start a conversation, there are sometimes clear indications that this person has heard the gospel several times, but just has some questions or needs to walk through some uncertainties. If we’re just focused on the “gospel in five minutes or less” approach, this person just described will quickly realize that you have a script, will politely allow you to run through it, and will then walk away, yet another person who was not interested in hearing their cares, questions, or concerns.

When I lead evangelism trainings, a caution I discuss is viewing evangelism as a numbers game. A person may leave the training and then one year later claim, “I shared the gospel with 500 people this year!” While many people will stand in awe of such a large number, I would ask a question: “How did you set 500 people on a healthy path toward discipleship?”

And this is a second pitfall to avoid with confrontational evangelism. If not managed carefully, it can fully tilt toward making declarations instead of making disciples. I want to be clear here again that this is not an inherent issue, it is just something that can happen. I have participated in confrontational evangelism many times with ministries that come back through and ensure that those who have trusted in Christ are on a path of discipleship. However, I have also been part of groups that just don’t see that as important. It’s pretty difficult to measure that against Matthew 28:19, which puts the emphasis on making disciples, and for that reason, it’s a caution to watch out for.

Is confrontational evangelism a valid method and approach?

Of course it is. Many people have been won to the Lord by having their lives abruptly disrupted by the gospel. However, like all other forms of evangelism, it is not free from some pitfalls to avoid. I’ve only covered two here, and while more could be said, there is plenty to think about here as we seek to go about sharing the gospel of truth with the world.