In light of a question I received today let me make one more quick post for the sake of clarity before I get to the practical suggestions about a new/old kind of evangelism.
1. What “seeking evangelism” is not. While some have wrongly turned the idea of being prepared for the Kingdom into a system that oppresses people, and forces them into long periods of introspection, most of the puritans rejected the idea that a uniform experience should be promoted. While some must go through a more drawn-out process under the law before they are broken, others are prepared, seek and find the kingdom more easily, or more quickly. The point is, no one enters the kingdom apart from being prepared, and this generally is a longer process than most modern evangelism tends to allow for. To create a universal paradigm that we expect all people to go through in coming to Christ is the same mistake being made today, though in the opposite direction.
2. Is seeking evangelism biblical? Is preparationism, or “seeking evangelism," biblical? Do we see individuals being prepared for conversion? Can we find the process of being drawn to God prior to saving faith in Scripture? I believe the answer is yes.
Some have a shorter experience of preparation, while others’ are more protracted. Consider Abraham, whose initial encounter with God did not result in conversion. Instead he interacted with him and his will for some time before “he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Consider Jacob, whose conversion comes after a prolonged interaction with the God of his father.
That people must experience conviction and brokenness prior to entering the kingdom is easily established in Scripture (Mt. 5:3; John 16:7-11). Accordingly we see Jesus at times issuing a more general invitation for people to come and believe, but then his specific exhortation comes to those who are “distressed by reason of their sins, who see themselves as miserable and undone (Mt. 11:38; Isaiah 55:1; Rev. 22:17).”1 Jesus often describes his kingdom as a difficult thing to find and warns of the many hindrances that get in the way of salvation (Mt. 8:13; Lk. 13:24; 14:25-33; Jn. 5:44). And Jesus indicated that some are closer to entering the kingdom than others (Mk. 12:34). This is why Jesus’ evangelistic approaches varied so much; because each person was in a different place spiritually and needed to be encouraged further along in seeking (or in their need to begin seeking) salvation.
I hope that helps. Next up, some of the practical ways we can and should evangelize.
-------------------- 1 Solomon Stoddard, A Guide to Christ pg. xvii