Evangelism through Research
- Randy Newman Campus Crusade and the C.S. Lewis Institute
- 2015 8 Sep
I’m researching evangelism–what others have said about it, how people practice it, what results we’re finding, what new challenges we’re facing, etc. My research centers on interviews I’ve conducted with forty college students who have become Christians within the last two years.
Amusing story #1: Long before I started the interviewing process, I tried to collect contact information from new Christians whenever I spoke to a student audience. On one retreat, I passed around a sign up sheet and asked students to give me their contact information if they’ve become a Christian within the last year. I told them that I probably wouldn’t be able to begin the interviews for another six months.
Several students signed up but one in particular shocked his friend sitting next to him. “Did you become a Christian this weekend?” he whispered to him (knowing that, as of their last conversation, no salvation decision had been made). “No” came the reply. “Well, did you become a Christian this past week? Because when we talked last Monday, you weren’t a Christian.” “No” was the repeated reply. “Well, are you a Christian?” Again, “No.” “Well, then, why did you sign up?” “The guy said it would be six months before he’d get in touch. Six months from now, I will be a Christian. I’m just not one yet.”
Amusing story #2: When I actually did begin my interviewing, I traveled to several campuses and met with students who had been introduced to me, via email, by one of the local campus ministers. At Penn State, I lined up 7 interviews in a row! At the end of a long day, my seventh interviewee began by telling me, “I should be honest with you. I’m not a Christian. At least, not yet! I’m close. But I heard that you were Jewish, and I’m Jewish too and I thought it would be interesting to hear how you became a Christian.”
I might have felt an initial frustration (“Well… this isn’t going to help me get a doctorate!”), but then I started sharing my story and engaging in a delightful conversation about how Judaism and Christianity fit together, what a difference it’s made in my life, and provided answers to her many questions.
I am delighted to tell you that both of those students have become believers. Who would have ever imagined that research could be a vehicle for evangelism? But if God could proclaim his prophecy through a donkey (see Numbers 22), he can proclaim his gospel through a doctoral researcher.