Q&A with Kevin Palau

Q&A with Kevin Palau


Kevin Palau is the son of international evangelist Luis Palau. He joined the Luis Palau Association (LPA) in 1985 and began directing day-today ministry operations in the late 1990s. Under his leadership, LPA has produced some of the largest Christian events ever staged, created a worldwide network of hundreds of partner evangelists and developed new models for citywide outreach that integrate major community service initiatives with open-air evangelistic gatherings. He lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife, Michelle, and their three children

Q: You have a unique window into global evangelism. What changes are you seeing in global culture with regard to sharing the gospel? 01

It varies widely based on context. In the US, Australia and most of Western Europe the challenge is inspiring Jesus followers to be bolder and more joyful in sharing faith. Many are discouraged and have become fearful to bear witness to what Christ has done in their lives, based on cultural pressures. (At the same time, there are encouraging signs: Many evangelists, including our team, are seeing larger crowds than ever gathering for evangelistic outreaches.) Alpha continues to bear fruit and the number of churches running it in the West continues to grow. Many cities are pursuing a “city gospel movement” approach, where Christians unite over the long haul, pursuing the good of their city in a holistic way that doesn’t shy away from gospel-sharing.

God is always about the business of giving some of his people the gift of evangelism and, whether the times are fruitful or not, many will prayerfully seek new ways to share the Good News. As well, the harder things become in the West, the clearer the distinction will become between nominal, “cultural” Christians and those who are “all in.”

In Latin America, Africa and many parts of Asia, it’s harvest time! Many come to Christ daily all around the global south, and believers tend to be bold and joyful in sharing the good news.

Around the world, I’m seeing more evangelism cooperation between charismatic / Pentecostals and evangelicals than ever. Many within the Christian community (especially younger leaders) hunger for a faith that regularly experiences the supernatural, and a greater sense of spiritual authority, and in my experience this leads to bolder witness.

Q: Millennials are less committed than older Christians to the idea that “the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus.” Do you find a growing need to “evangelize” Christians on the importance of evangelism? 02

This is the key issue. If we believe the best thing that could happen to someone is to come to know and follow Jesus, then we will share our faith. If we lose that belief, we simply won’t. And it seems like a growing number of Christians are unsure exactly how good the good news is.

The internet and social media make many believers feel cautious about saying what they believe and have experienced. There’s a “practical universalism” that feels it’s the height of arrogance to claim that Jesus is unique and that only in relationship with him can life be fully experienced. Christians can feel it.

We need to remind, encourage, equip, nudge and inspire Christians to care about evangelism. We do this by both celebrating and accelerating evangelism. Tell stories of those who come to Christ, and those who are attempting (sometimes with little or no visible success) to share their faith. If it’s important to the local church then it should be celebrated in our services—and we should offer specific opportunities for everyday Christians to be trained in it. (Alpha is a great resource for this, in my experience.)

We must remind Christians that the good news is genuinely good news—for everybody to experience and everybody to share. We need to use those gifted in evangelism to remind and encourage the rest of us that sharing faith is an important part of being a faithful follower of Jesus. We must not divorce it from other aspects of discipleship, nor relegate evangelism to a role for “professional Christians.”

Our hesitations are almost always related to fear: of failure, ridicule, being misunderstood. Fear of being lumped in with less-than-thoughtful or judgmental Christians who may confuse politics or social issues with the gospel.

Genuine spiritual renewal in the Holy Spirit is the best antidote to that fear. Where I’ve seen communities being renewed in their love for Jesus, I see a greater boldness and willingness to pray and share faith. We often get bogged down in concerns about methodology, which is seldom helpful. It’s almost always a matter of our heart and will.

In Acts 2 and Acts 4, when the Holy Spirit comes in visible ways on the early group of Jesus followers, one of the clearest evidences is their boldness. Do we believe it’s a privilege to share our faith? Are we confident that no matter how unprepared we feel, that if we are speaking well of Jesus we can trust God with the results?

Q: What practices should Christians foster to support evangelism? 03

Two come to mind: prayer and building community.

In prayer we seek to hear from God and align our heart and will to his. We can trust that since God is love, and since he sent his Son to be the savior of the world and to seek and save those who are lost, then the more time we spend with him in quiet prayer, interceding for those who we long to see come to know Christ, the more we will desire to share our faith.

Hospitality and building genuine community also further our witness. Anything that puts us into genuine relationships with those who don’t already know Jesus is a good thing. We shouldn’t feel it’s inauthentic to seek opportunities to “use” such relational connections to share Jesus. If we genuinely believe our message is good news, isn’t that exactly what we would do?

Serving others is a part of it. The Church always seems to need to relearn how to blend justice / service work with gospel proclamation. The pendulum swings from one emphasis to the other. Maintaining balance takes clear intention. The challenge here in the West is usually to inspire Jesus followers to be more willing to open their mouths in concert with living the good news. Right now, many Christians need to rediscover verbally sharing faith.

We don’t have to lessen service to strengthen proclamation. We can be wildly enthusiastic about both! How we love others is part of sharing faith. It opens eyes and softens hearts. But too often Christians misuse the quote attributed to Saint Francis: “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” Biblically, it is necessary to use words. We need them to convey the full truth, beauty and message of the Christian gospel. Evangelism happens in the broad context of life. How we love and serve our neighbors is a key part, but so is verbally bearing witness to Jesus and his life and work, and explicitly inviting others to join us.

A well-rounded understanding of the kingdom of God helps here. We have the immense privilege to join God in his work of renewing all things. This helps us see evangelism as more than saving individual souls. It’s also about giving people the joy of joining the greatest movement in history. Salvation is personal. But it’s also communal. It changes us and gives us hope, meaning and purpose. The gospel responds directly to the common challenges of our day. It’s salvation for each of us and all of us.

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