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Presence Evangelism


Table of Contents

  1. What is Presence Evangelism?
  2. Biblical Foundations for Presence Evangelism
  3. Postmodernism in the World
  4. Postmodernism in the Church
  5. Conclusion
  6. Bibliography

What is Presence Evangelism ? 

    Presence evangelism is not so much verbal persuasion, but action persuasion through deeds, good works, sincere love and friendship.  To put it another way, it is the Church being Christ’s arms reaching out into the community. Christ’s love is shared through the examples of serving, caring and helping the community's needs. 

    Presence evangelism is being there for someone—willing to share the love of Jesus in a non-threatening way, it is as Steve Sjogren calls it “a conspiracy of kindness.” When we share the good news of Jesus Christ in this way, we are reaching out to people in a way that touches them deep in the soul. It is like the old saying—“proclaim the Gospel and if you have to use words.

    Another way of looking at “presence evangelism” is “servant evangelism.” Jesus in His ministry here on earth utilized all three methods of evangelism. He begun His ministry by a proclamation—Matthew 4:17—“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Many times He confronted the people and the authorities with the truth—Matthew 9:1-8—He knew their evil thoughts and He confronted them with the truth.

    But mainly Jesus came to serve and not to be served—Matthew 20:28—“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (See also Matthew 12:17-20; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27) Jesus Christ laid aside His majesty in order to serve humanity. His death is the supreme example of His servanthood: the fulfilling of the will of God His Father.

    Jesus modeled for us how to be servants and to do servant evangelism, He gave us the example to follow—John 13:13-15—“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” Paul says that we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). And Peter in his first epistle tells to follow the example set for us by Jesus—2:21—“It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.


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Biblical Foundations for Presence Evangelism

     Over the last ten years there has been a shift in the ways of Church evangelism. This is due to a post modern cultural shift that has taken place in society and in the church and greater biblical focus on the gifts of evangelism, not just the evangelist. In the past, evangelism was greatly produced by the office of the professional evangelist in a revival campaign or done by laity who boldly proclaimed Biblical truth, passed out salvation tracts and/or knocked on doors of the community. This was very successful for in the past, people held a great respect for religion and absolute truth. As society has moved into post modern thinking, the idea of absolute truth has been set aside for relativism. Preaching a confrontational absolute gospel in today’s society has now lost its power and the Church has run into a crisis of where to turn and where to go in the area of evangelism. One type of evangelism that has become popular in recent years has been that of presence evangelism. Presence evangelism is simply the idea of someone’s presence as a witness of Christ’s love to draw others to Christ. It is simply “…being there for someone-willing to share the love of Jesus in a non threatening way…” (Art Mathis). This way of evangelism is not so much verbal persuasion but action’s persuasion through deeds, good works, sincere love and friendship or to put it another way, it is the Church being Christ’s arms reaching out into the community. Christ’s love is shared through serving, caring and helping people’s (society’s) needs. This mode of evangelism has come out into the forefront today but in reality has been practiced throughout Church history and is supported Biblically.


Theological Foundations of Presence Evangelism, Old Testament

 Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground”.

    In order to understand presence or servant evangelism, we need to look back at the book of Genesis to grasp the commandment to God to man about the responsibility of actions and serving. When God created the Garden of Eden, He placed Adam in it and looked after Adam’s needs. This was before the fall of man and God gave him a task. As God looked after his needs in the garden, Adam had responsibility to look after and take care of it (2:15). After God created Eve, He commanded them to “fill the earth and subdue it” (1:28). God gave them dominion over the earth to use their abilities to care for it and keep it healthy. They saw the good that God created and saw it needed to keep it that way for God’s glory.

     The fall of Man occurs quickly by Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 3:15 is the prophetic proto-evangelism scripture where God promises future salvation to man. Throughout the Old God’s patriarchs use the Presence Evangelism approach to show mans need for salvation. This evangelism is very much connected to the social needs of the people. The biblical story about social gospel is Noah. God used Noah to save his family and select animals from God’s judgment in the flood. Building the ark served as a social humanitarian project to save his own family from physical and spiritual destruction. Another figure is Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus 6. Because of sin and the fall of man, the world quickly became very evil and many people experienced many injustices and oppression from others. Psalms 85:10, “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other”. These are all characteristics of God the Father and these characteristics all come together in God’s holiness and righteousness. God weeps at injustice, pain and oppression and throughout biblical history answers people’s cries for justice and rescues them (Scott 210). God saw the cries and slavery of the Israelites and sent Moses to deliver them out of the land of bondage and to take them into the promise land. God cared obviously for their souls but also was very concerned about their physical, emotion and psychological needs thus He helped them into freedom.

    In the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament, much of the writings or prophecies given were against Israel and/or Judah because of their backslidden condition to God. While they practiced idolatry and sexual immorality, one issue that the prophets address continually is the issue of injustice and oppression of the poor and needy. Let’s looks at Jeremiah the prophet.

 Jeremiah 22:15-16, ““Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord.

 Jeremiah Chapter 1 throughout 25 deals with God’s Judgment against the nation (Nicholson 14).

    This prophecy was against King Jehoiakim who did evil in the sight of the Lord. The Lord speaks about his father Josiah’s reign and how the Lord blessed him because of his attitude to the social causes of the poor. God wanted Israel to be His covenant nation to display to the world. They were to be an example of a God fearing and God blessed nation. There witness so to say was their keeping the laws of God and in turn being blessed by Him. God’s best for Israel included social justice, helping those in need, helping the community etc. Israel/Judah continually back slide and the prophets were there consistently to warn them of their fall and to turn back to God, which entailed outwards acts of kindness to people.    

 Let’s look at Isaiah the prophet.

 Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

 Also the wisdom books say much about social witness.

 Proverbs 14:31-“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God”.

     We were all made in the image of God and we are to honor God who made us by showing kindness to those in need. This wisdom goes along with 1 John 4:7-12. God is love so in turn we love others, but if we do not show love to others, we do not know God. God’s heart has always been for the downcast, not the rich, materialistic person. If we ignore this admonishment, we ignore and move away from the heartbeat of God. While God loves every person no matter what his social status is, we clearly can see that God is very much concerned that we focus on those in need.


The Gospels and Presence Evangelism

     The Gospels present the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ mission was to seek and save those who were lost. Jesus in Nazareth read Isaiah 61 and confirmed that that Scripture was fulfilled in His coming. Isaiah 61 says,

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”  

 Jesus mentions 5 Characteristics of His mission,

  1. Preach good news to poor
  2. Proclaim freedom to prisoners
  3. Recovery for the blind
  4. Releasing the oppressed
  5. Proclamation of the year of the Lord (year of Jubilee)

Jesus did not just preach the good news of the Kingdom of God but demonstrated it through His practical works in ministry. Walden Scott agrees saying, “The ministry of Jesus clearly reveals that gospel proclamation and a ministry of compassion are inseparable” (214). Jesus is the incarnate, Son of God who came to earth as fully man and fully God. He was human like everyone else. He experienced as a human the injustices of His time. Jesus thus served His fellowman practically as a form of Presence Evangelism to show people that He was their true Shepherd and Messiah. Here are some Scriptures about Jesus attitude toward servant hood in relation to evangelism.


Philippians 2:7, but hade himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Matthew 20:26, Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 6:2…So when you give to the needy…

Matthew 10:8... Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple […]he will certainly not lose his reward.

So in what ways did Jesus do/imply Presence Evangelism?

  1. Jesus feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30)
  2. Jesus feeding of the four thousand (Mark 8:1)
  3. Blessing the children (Mark: 10:13)
  4. Rich Young Man-command to give to poor (Mark 10:17)
  5. Greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)
  6. Parable of the good Samaritan- helped the afflicted person (Luke 10:25)
  7. Luke 14:12. When having a dinner, invite those who are poor, crippled, lame, blind and you will be blessed.
  8. Jesus washing disciples feet (John 13:1) “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (V. 15).
  9. Sheep and Goats (Matt. 25:41-46). How we treat others is how we treat God and are judged by that.


Acts of the Apostles 

    There is not much evidence of Presence Evangelism in the early Church. Most of the evangelism done to start the ecclesia was either confrontational evangelism, power evangelism, or debate evangelism. There are though some instances where the church did help out in social needs in the society but this had no direct connection to the souls won in the early church. The good works were more of an expected ecclesiastical lifestyle, not an evangelistic model.


  1. Early Ecclesia (Acts 2:45, 4:32) gave to anyone that was in need.
  2. Serving the Grecian Jews in distribution of food (Acts 6).
  3. Tabitha, Acts 9:36, a disciple who did good and helped the poor.


    We need to be careful to not throw out Presence Evangelism because there is nothing directly related in Acts. Acts is a Historical snapshot of major events that occurred in the early church. There is much that was not written that took place and if one looks closely at ecclesia life, one can easily see where good works and social outreach was important to them. Because the book is centered around the Apostles and other key leaders, it is easy to see why local church expressions of social outreach are ignored. Also the church needed Apostolic presence and authority to start the church. We live in a post-Christian environment where people are looking for different reasons to believe in God, other than the traditional confrontational approaches of the past. Next we will look at the other New Testament letters.   



    Paul and other authors of New Testament Scripture have given us clear commands to live out our Christian walk through good works to be an extension of Christ’s hands of love. As Miles says, “If we love God with our whole being, we cannot help but share that consuming love with our lost neighbors”(28). Also, “We are to let our light shine that people may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Mt 5:16) (Gibbs 58). Each scripture here used in this section does not point as strictly evangelism but is most definitely proper Christian behavior that is supposed to be a witness to the world.

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

    The good works that God has prepared for us comes first from the grace that we received though salvation through the Son, Jesus Christ. Out of that grace, comes the need or want to please God by doing works that are good to you, God and good to mankind. These good works are both inward (reverence, fear of the Lord) and outward (fruit of the Spirit, mercy, compassion, social concern) and only occur in someone that has been born again (Exell 170).

    Ephesians 4:28, “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need”.

    This section of Ephesians if talking about the new lifestyle, new believers are to live. Their new way of life and behavior was to be now opposite of how they lived in the past. Instead of stealing, we were to give away. George Buttrick says that, “Like the love of God, it is prepared to give to those in need” (Buttrick 701). A new life in Christ should cause followers to be a generous people, demonstrating God’s love. 

James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.

    James the first chapter focuses on what true Christianity is, that is, listening and doing what the word of God teaches. It emphasizes behavior from attitudes to speech but the end of the chapter shows the Jewish believers and the church of Jesus Christ what acts we need to do that follow up what we believe, that is look for injustice, pain, loneliness of those afflicted and to attend to them as an extension of Christ’s love. This chapter written to the Jewish people, they would have this understanding looking at the Hebrew Scriptures about helping the outcasts. They knew such prophets such as Jeremiah and Amos spoke bluntly about social reform (Nystrom 101). Thus in God’s eyes their religious practice was not just in their ritual and their doctrine but also their ethical actions which all tied together (Davids 103). Joseph Excell says it is, “a necessary and principle part, and a signal testimony, of true religion”(215). People today are tired of powerless Christianity where we say we believe the Bible but we do not put into practice, all that it says. In the west this is especially true as much of the Church has moved into materialism and focus on middle class and wealthy citizens. Much  

Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them”.

“The idea seams to be this; God will not overlook your work, so as to make no use of it; it will not be forgotten, but will find its place in the fulfillment of the Divine purpose” (Exell 488)



    Presence Evangelism is an important Biblical model of evangelism. God always has us in relationships and community because in community, we have an image of God and his love. Jesus greatest commandment “Love you neighbor as yourself” links with the Great commission, “Go into all the world…”. The Church has to demonstrate Christ’s love as well declare the gospel to man. As we are concerned about the soul of a person, we should also be concerned about the ‘person’ as well. Delos Miles explains saying, “God created man, who is my neighbor a body-soul-in-community. Therefore if we love our neighbor as God made him, we must inevitably be concerned for his total welfare-the good of his soul, his body, and his community”. (Miles 29). It is needed to be said though that Presence Evangelism can not be the only model a person chooses to practice. Demonstration will open the lost hearts to hear, but they cannot receive the Gospel if it not preached to them (Romans 10:15).This type of evangelism mixed with other forms can create great results as one plows the ground for the harvest to come.       





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Postmodernism in the World

What is this postmodern stuff?

It is a world view!

It is a way at looking at the world!

A world view is a set of presuppositions or assumptions {which may be true, partially true or entirely false} which we hold {consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently} about the basic make up of our world.


Pre-MODERN Period

-God is the center of the universe

-There is a sense of God or the gods

-Life is explained and understood in supernatural terms.

-It is a pre-scientific period



1500 A.D. to 1960 approx.

-God is removed and science is foremost

-science and industry feeds the idea that life is

  explained in scientific terms.

-Elevation of self

-human centered world view

-We have the ability to solve problems through science and reason

-Faith is replace from God to humans

-This leads to the belief that all knowledge will lead

  to progress.

-the problem lies with the fact that we placed our

  faith in humans!

Believe in objectivity, facts, evidence, reason


Relationships in the world that deals with postmodernism

1.         Nicotine is Extremely addictive

2.         Almost every long term smoker First Lights up during adolescence

3.         Cigarettes keep Very Bad company

-Alcohol, Marijuana, Inhalants

1. The material involved are in expensive and readily available in any store.

2. Inhalers are generally very young. They may start as early as 6 years old.

3. Abuse of these products is increasing

4. The potential effects are disastrous.


1. Use is occasional, sporadic, often unplanned such as weekends, summer nights, or an unsupervised party.

2. Use is encouraged by peers, curiosity, thrill seeking, and the desire to look and feel grown up.

3. The type of drugs in this stage are cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and possibly inhalant abuse.

4. Alcohol and other drugs are used not just on the weekends but also on weekdays, not only with friends but alone.


5. Quantities of alcohol and drugs increase as tolerance develops and hangover become more common.


6. Blackouts may occur – periods of time in which drugs or alcohol prevent normal memories from forming; “What happened last night?” becomes a frequent question.


7. More time and attention are focused on when the next drug experience will occur.


8. Fellow drinkers and drug users become preferred companions.


9. Alcohol and drugs become primary focus of attention.


10. Becoming high is a daily event.


11. There is the use of harder, more dangerous drugs.


12. More money is spent each week on drugs; theft or dealing may become part of the drug seeking behavior.


13. Social isolation. No contact with non-drug using friends and heavier drug use in isolation.


14. Constant state of intoxication; being high is a routine, even at school or job.


15. Blackouts increase in frequency.


16. Physical appearance deteriorates – weight loss, infections, poor self-care.


17. Inject able drugs are possibly used.


18. Involvement in casual sexual relationships (at times in exchange for drugs).


19. User will likely be involved with theft, dealing and other criminal activity.


20. Guilt, self-hatred and thoughts of suicide increase.


21. Teen abandons any apparent interest in spiritual   matters.


The solutions









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Postmodernism in the Church

Postmodernism has affected the church today in many ways. The church in some ways is not up to date with the world’s view of things. Many non-Christians are not coming to church today because the church does not function the same way that the postmodern culture does. It is not what some would call up to date with things or they are not in tune with the latest style of media (The church needs to be aware of what is happening in the world today and be aware of what attract the unbelievers and use those methods to reach the lost).  The church needs to be in the world, but not of the world. In other words it needs to change its programs to attract people. The church shouldn’t be afraid of change. An example of this is in the music they use for worship songs. This does not mean go get the latest Avril Lavine CD.  However, we do have to be aware of what trends or styles attract the people in today’s world.  Don Posterski and Gary Nelson made a good point when they said; “If you lived in the parish it was expected that you would be a part of the parish church. Mainline clergy had a long history of serving like chaplains to the community. If a long prayer was needed to bring a touch of sacred to a public occasion, they would appear with their visible clergy collars and express appropriate prayers in an orderly fashion. Their Mainline history prepared them for maintaining the traditional, but it did not equip them to be mission driven in a secularized culture”(p.53). The people that lived in the parish were unaware of how to reach people that lived in a secular culture. There are not a lot of people that are in the world that will respond to the gospel when you approach them with a long lengthy prayer. You need to reach them where they are at, and be relevant at their level. Churches need to adapt to the culture that is surrounding them.  Also in the book, Herve Carrier describes the difference between how people came to faith in the past compared to the challenges churches face in today’s pluralistic society: “In the past, cultures and institutions became Christian not so much through a specific strategy as though the slow penetration of Christ’s teaching into lifestyles and social structures. Today, the capillary spread of gospel values into social fabric is blocked and prevailing ethos of the industrialized world. Announcing Jesus Christ to modern minds calls for a profound revision of traditional methods of evangelism”(p.216).

Milliard J. Erickson makes a good point when he said;

            That evangelicals have done well in developing a vision of Christian faith for the old “Star Trek society”. This, however, will no longer do, for our society is moving beyond that period and that orientation. A new paradigm for evangelicalism must be developed to fit this new and different situation. Western culture, all the way from pop culture to academia, is moving into post modernity. The younger generation, who take for granted the information age, MTV, and channel surfing, are even more committed to the postmodern vision of reality. This generation is not so impressed as their predecessors with linear thinking, rational argumentation, and final answers. This is a clarion call to evangelicals to understand what is happening and respond in the most appropriate way ( Erickson p.89). Therefore, we must connect with people n a way that is appropriate, a way in which they will respond to the gospel and not run away from it. Make you approach meaningful to the listener. Don’t approach them in a way that is going to bore them, but in a way that will get them excited and interested in what you are saying.

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    With any postmodern culture, presence evangelism is in much need today as any other form of evangelism.  Not only does the church need to preach into the community, we must also take action, in befriending the community as Christ has befriended us with love and grace.

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Bright, John. The Anchor Bible, Jeremiah. Doubleday & Company Inc. Garden City, 1965.

 Davids, Peter. The Epistle of James. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Grand Rapids, 1982.

 Edi. Buttrick, George A. The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. X Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1953.

 Exell, Joseph S. The Bible Illustrator. James, Hebrews, Ephesians. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1960.

 Gibbs, Eddie. Church Next. /Inter Varsity Press: Downers Grove, 2000.

 Holy Bible. New International Version. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996.

 Laetsch, Theo. Bible Commentary, Jeremiah. Concordia Pub. House: Saint Louis, 1952.

 Miles, Delos. Evangelism and Social Involvement. Broadman Press: Nashville, 1986.

 Nicholson, E.W. The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Jeremiah. Cambridge University Press: London, 1975.

 Nystrom, David P. The NIV Application Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1997.

 Scott, Walden. Serving Our Generation. World Evangelical Fellowship: Colorado Springs, 1988.

 Unger, Merrill. Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1953.

Don Posterski, Gary Nelson. Future Faith Churches, Reconnectiong with the power of the Gospel for the 21st Century. Wood Lake Books: Winfield, British Columbia, 1997.

Millard J. Erickson. Postmodernizing the Faith. Baker Books: Michigan, 1998.


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