Servant Evangelism FAQ's

What is Servant Evangelism?

Why is First Christian doing Servant Evangelism?

Why is Servant Evangelism effective?

How do people respond when served?

What are the most typical questions people might ask?

Will people be frightened or offended?

What negative responses might you get?

How do you deal with rejection?

What are the immediate results of applying Servant Evangelism?

What are the long-term results of doing Servant Evangelism?

But aren't you really just using these service projects as a means for advertising your church to the community?

How do you communicate who you are to those you are serving?

I thought we were serving with "no strings attached"?  Isn't a card a hook in the serving project?





What is Servant Evangelism?     top

Servant Evangelism is a simple, straightforward approach to sharing God’s love in simple, practical ways. Many people today are jaded to the message of Christianity because of bad experiences with the church or Christians and misunderstandings about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Servant Evangelism is a way of breaking down those barriers by serving people in a way that both blesses and surprises them. It reaches out to them in simple ways we could envision Jesus doing if he were here.

Why is First Christian doing Servant Evangelism?     top

For the past year, God has been at work renewing the First Christian vision.  It is a natural part of our church development that He would do that. One of the exciting new ministries we feel led to begin is called Servant Evangelism. We are firmly convinced that God wants us to get our church focused on the community outside our church walls.  We must be an outreach-focused church.  After months of preparation and planning, we are kicking off this new Servant Evangelism movement.

Why is Servant Evangelism effective?     top

Servant Evangelism is effective because it is:

· quick
· high volume
· done in groups
· culture-current
· gives the Holy Spirit an open door to convict those we are leading to Christ 
· allows shy people to launch into effective Outreach 
· an approach families can do together
· easily picked up by new Christians 
· simple
· friendly non-pushy, non-aggressive
· appeals to every segment of our community 
· emotionally safe 
· giving-centered rather than asking-centered
· provides a safe place for ambitious people to expend their energy
· provides an open door for the miraculous—if God so moves
· big fun!

All people are touched by kindness done with no strings attached.

How do people respond when served?     top

Our outreach projects usually draw some sort of response, often in the form of inquiries about our church. One of the most often asked questions is "How long do your services last"? Others who are looking for a Bible-based fellowship ask, "Does your church believe in the Bible?"  Other responses vary. People in a good mood tend to react with surprise and gratefulness. Some people tend to be more skeptical and wonder what we're up to and what we want from them. They also tend to be in a hurry most of the time; so we need to gear our projects to their pace. We touch a few people while they're in an open frame of mind. These individuals sometimes will talk at length with us.

What are the most typical questions people might ask?     top

"Who are you people anyway!" 
"What are you selling?" 
"What's the name of your church?" 
"What time do you meet?" 
"How long do your services last?!" 
"Can I make a donation?" 
"What do you believe?" 
"Are you the kind of Christians that believe in prayer?!"

We find it interesting that we hear very few theological questions. Someone hardly ever asks exactly what we believe.

Will people be frightened or offended?     top

Responses vary greatly, but seldom do people get overtly upset with us. One Servant Outreacher in New York City had been reaching out with Servant Evangelism projects for about a year. He had washed literally thousands of windshields in arguably the world's least friendly city. To date he has received only one negative response, surprisingly from two women with a big Bible on the dashboard! They "shooed" him away before he could say a word.

When people are frightened, it is usually because they don't know how to respond to such an unusual offer. We have found the best way to put someone at ease is simply to smile. Smiles are incredibly disarming. Once Steve Sjogren, the pioneer of Servant Evangelism, was washing windshields in a mall parking lot when he saw three big, college-aged guys running toward him. Their look of suspicion turned to laughter when Steve turned around smiling. They said they thought he might have been breaking into their car, then thanked him enthusiastically and went their way.

Simply making good eye contact and looking confident are other ways to let people know that they have nothing to fear. When any kind of tension develops, it is very helpful to mention the word "free" as quickly as possible. Having been conditioned to requests for donations, people automatically expect us to ask for something in return for our service. Use the word "free" with a big smile; and almost all of the negative responses will be eliminated. When we go door to door, residents are sometimes afraid to open their doors. They may yell, "Who is it?" through the closed door. Try yelling back, "We're giving away great free stuff." That usually overcomes their resistance.

What negative responses might you get?     top

In any single project, we find some measure of rejection to our offer to serve. Whether we are giving away Cokes, groceries, or washing windshields.  A greater reality shift is occurring as people's views are changed by very idea that we are doing this to show God's love. That offer is so powerful that it really does unsettle people when they consider it.

How do you deal with rejection?     top

We realize before we even set foot outside of the church parking lot that a certain percentage of our seeds of kindness will be rejected. Some people will say no to almost anything offered to them. Those who do reject our offer are usually mad before we ever talk to them. Even these people are being worked on by the grace of God, but they probably aren't ripe for harvesting.

One summer day we were giving away soft drinks to motorists on their way home from work. One woman was furious at us for approaching her car. She yelled, "How dare you offer me a drink! I'm calling the police as soon as I get home because I know for certain this is illegal." Apparently she was having a rough day. We did nothing to irritate her. She didn't even know who we were, and yet she was mad at us.

In short, we don't take rejection personally. We aren't doing anything to elicit rejection. They don't even know us, so how can they be rejecting us? If they do refuse, they're actually rejecting the offer of kindness. Our job as bringers of God's kingdom is to find the people who are open and invite them into God's family. With those who aren't ready to respond, we just smile and keep going. The important point to remember is that we can't let a negative response scare us away from the next person, someone who may be more open.

It's impossible to know what's going on inside of those with whom we interact. The Holy Spirit might be working on these people, and we might be one more point along the way to them starting a relationship with Jesus Christ. Somehow, our presence as representatives of God irritates them; and they react in anger. The apostle Paul, for example, was most violent just before his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

What are the immediate results of applying Servant Evangelism?     top

Most important, non-Christians will begin to open their hearts to God's love. People are a lot like porcupines: they either run to us with their soft, vulnerable side or their prickly, skeptical side that says, "I don't want to hear anything about this Jesus you're talking about."

A free car wash in New York City prompted one "porcupine" to turn his soft side to us. The man worked for the sanitation department. When he drove into our car wash, he was angry and disgusted because we had caused a traffic slowdown on his route. This emotionally charged encounter changed instantly when we offered to wash his entire garbage truck for free. Before he could say no, we were eagerly serving him. This man stood in stunned silence just shaking his head. A couple of the girls explained that we just wanted to show him "God's love in a practical way." The driver of the garbage truck muttered, "When I get back to the garage, I just know the other guys aren't gonna believe this happened." A few minutes later, he asked for prayer for a number of issues in his life.

What are the long-term results of doing Servant Evangelism?     top

The church will become oriented toward action. The church is in continual need of redefining. It seems clear that the church in America is living in an age of great inwardness. In one week only five of a thousand books in a large Christian book distributors catalogue concerned outreach. About two dozen books addressed the challenge of raising teenagers; about one hundred dealt with codependency issues. And about fifty discussed the end times.

In light of this inward focus, we need to ask the question, "Why does the church exist?" We certainly exist to worship God and to grow in wholeness and Christ-likeness, but Jesus made it clear that we must also give of ourselves if we hope to keep growing. The Great Commission links God's special presence to the action of the church going into the world. "Therefore go and make disciples... " (Matthew 28:19-20). God is with us in an immediate sense as we carry His life into the world.

Human nature always points the emotional compass inward. To be the church, we must on occasion point that compass outward. Jesus promised that "rivers of living water" would flow out of the hearts of all who believe in Him. Try as we may, God will not bless attempts to make a stagnant and cloistered pond of that river of life. As we bring the kingdom of God into the community, we will change the world in which we live.

As an added benefit, the church will be redefined to the surrounding community. The church in general has taken a lot of blows over the last few years. The world has falsely pictured the entire church as beggars always on the verge of going out of business. We've also been pegged as hucksters always looking to get something for nothing. The third picture the watching world has of the church is that of a monastery whose residents have only one message, "Come in and join us." The world isn't looking to be part of a failing cause, and they want nothing to do with fast-talking, slick approaches.

As we begin to do humble acts of service in the community, we will restate our identity. Instead of separatists who are constantly judging the world, we must extend forgiveness, acceptance, and love from God. New definitions are slow to catch on, but hard work will get their attention. We become viable in the eyes of the world as we get beyond ourselves and serve our way into their hearts. In an age when the church has been judged by the world as being irrelevant and out of touch with people's very real needs and pains, we prove ourselves worthy of trust. 

But aren't you really just using these service projects as a means for advertising your church to the community?     top

I can honestly say that we aren't. Our outreach often leads to growth as a side benefit, but we would lose our integrity if growth was our reason for serving. Such an attitude would also rob the service of its power in people's lives. We aren't giving to get anything. Even if we did not grow, we will continue to serve just as consistently. We must serve for the sake of our own spiritual health. Growth, which seems predictable, must be viewed as serendipity.

As we go about loving with no strings attached, we expect God to attach a string of some sort to those actions. He seems to create a tie between the person we serve and Himself.

How do you communicate who you are to those you are serving?     top

With each project we have a card we leave with those served. On the backside of each card is our church name along with our service times and phone number.

I thought we were serving with "no strings attached"?  Isn't a card a hook in the serving project?     top

We don't want to pester people, but we do want to leave them with some sort of follow-up point if they choose to find us. Without a card those we touch would have no idea what we did or why we did it.  It is a small but necessary element of Servant Evangelism.