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Our History

The founder of The Evangelism Institute (TEI), Stuart Holt, was introduced to an evangelism training program at his church in the mid 1980s. Although he found this new training changed his outlook on reaching out to people who did not know about the hope of Jesus Christ, he also discovered that the taught approach was too direct and often times abrasive. The evangelism approach was a “telling” style of evangelism. Stuart was accustomed to “listening” methods of communication - a gentler mode of interaction taught to employees at his marketing firm.

Ultimately, Stuart knew research was needed. He wanted to discover how the current methods for evangelism measured up to what he felt was truly needed.

Unfortunately, at that juncture in his life, Stuart neither had the time nor the financial resources to address the issue; however, he began writing notes in a folder of thoughts on what he believed would be a better evangelism communication style. 

In 1998 Stuart sold his successful marketing company and decided to concentrate on developing a new communication style of evangelism that matched his internal feelings and thoughts.

Stuart knew he could not do this alone so, after several challenging attempts, he teamed up with Bill Shirey. Bill, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, had all the biblical background to ensure the solid foundations for a ministry and a heart for evangelism.

The first order of business was to research the evangelism landscape in America. There was no reason to “re-invent the wheel” if something more in line with Stuart’s initial concepts already existed. TEI hired other full time staff and spent more than a year researching and gathering information on evangelism in America. We discovered two large gaps.

The First Gap

To TEI’s surprise, for the most part, the majority of evangelism to individuals over 25 years of age was based on communication styles still grounded in the traditional style that had been standard for over 50 years. Stuart and Bill knew the truths of the Gospel had not changed, but the world we are trying to reach, particularly in the United States, had changed. Communication styles in America, in large part, had not changed to meet the modern world. It was no wonder TEI discovered that from 1990 to 2000 Christ’s church in the U.S. declined 10% while the population grew 13.2%. This is the first gap. According to George Barna (Barna Research), the estimated number of non-Christians in the U.S. would constitute the 4th largest nation in the world! There is a large and growing gap between Christians and non-Christians in the U.S.

The Second Gap

Why don’t ordinary Christians want to evangelize? They are afraid and lack the motivation. People fear confrontation, failure, lack of preparation, rejection, hostility, losing friends, offending others, doing it “wrong”, messing up someone’s salvation, and being viewed as hypocrites or extremists. These are just a few of the many fears our students have told us in our training and research.

The Second Gap exists between what the large majority of Christians who have opted out of the Great Commission will do and the evangelism training ministries, strategies, and programs that are available to them. If these Christians do not believe it is doable and user friendly for them, they will not do it. This gap is large and will continue to grow as long as most Christians think evangelism means confronting strangers, engaging in a Gospel monologue presentation, and trying to “close the deal” or gain an immediate conversion. Many Christians, having tried to evangelize unsuccessfully and failed, have concluded that evangelism is not for them; it must be for someone else.

We believe all evangelism is good evangelism. We have great respect for other evangelism training courses that are available today. Our program is different, though complementary, to other evangelism training programs.

However, for our focus, we come back to the two gaps and in particular the second gap: The gap between what is currently available in evangelism training, and the 95% of Christians who have opted out of the Great Commission. 

In 2002 TEI set out to provide churches with another choice – a new and contemporary evangelism training style. Since then, we have developed an evangelism training and communication course that helps ordinary Christians overcome their fears, motivates them to “opt” into God’s plan for expanding His Kingdom, is fun and exciting and not a duty, and most importantly is doable for Christians who are not gifted in evangelism. It gives them new communication skills to help them overcome their fears. The course is called Authentic Outreach.