Question: "What is servant evangelism?"
Answer: Often the word evangelism brings to mind a dynamic person speaking to large crowds about Jesus and giving an invitation for salvation. Some evangelists do speak to large, public crowds, but the truth is there are many approaches to evangelism and many different strategies. Servant evangelism is sharing God’s love by simply serving others in practical ways without asking for or expecting anything in return.
The focus of servant evangelism is doing acts of kindness for anyone and everyone. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10). An example of servant evangelism could be something as simple as handing out free water bottles on a hot day or taking bags of food to needy families at Christmastime. The possibilities are endless, but the common denominator is that nothing is asked for in return. One of the motivations behind this type evangelism is that the Bible tells us that God’s kindness leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4).
There are many benefits of servant evangelism, both for those being served and for those serving. Servant evangelism reaches people where they are and exposes non-Christians to Christians showing God’s love in unmistakable and non-threatening ways. Not everyone is comfortable walking into a church building, but receiving a free service with no strings attached is harder to resist. In fact, it usually piques curiosity as to why someone would go out of his or her way to perform this act of kindness. Servant evangelism has the potential to soften people’s hearts, enabling them to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a good way to “water” seed previously sown (see 1 Corinthians 3:6).
Servant evangelism benefits those serving, as well. As Christians, we are called to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Serving others gives Christians the opportunity to tell about God’s love. When someone asks why they’re doing what they’re doing, those who are serving can point to Christ—it’s great training ground for other types of evangelism! Also, as Christians, we are to be full of the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Spirit flows out to others (see John 7:38–39). Engaging in servant evangelism puts Christians in situations where the Holy Spirit can minister through them. Jesus commanded His disciples and, consequently, Christians today to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19–20). Jesus didn’t say, “Wait inside your church buildings for the lost to come to you”; He said to “go.” Through servant evangelism the church can show people outside the church that God cares and give them a reason to want to come inside.
While servant evangelism is certainly a biblical practice, it is incomplete as a form of evangelism until the message of Jesus is spoken. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” To complete the process of evangelism—to bring someone to accepting Christ as Savior—we need to speak “the word about Christ.” Servant evangelism can be effective in opening that person’s heart to receive the message once he or she hears it.