‘Playground evangelist’ never stopped building relationships—or sharing God’s love
Pastor & writer
On the playground is where Drew Tarwater learned most of his ways.
The Missouri native said he trusted Jesus as Lord at a very young age, thanks to his grandmother’s investment in him. Almost immediately, he pursued Christ’s mission inside and outside of school.
“I was that playground evangelist inviting all my buddies to church,” he said.
Tarwater now pastors Forefront Church in Denver. But he’s never stopped using what he learned decades ago on the playground.
“I’m showing Jesus through the way I live and share the words with kindness because I’ve built that relationship,” he said of evangelism that begins by befriending people.
College football and car repairs create gospel encounters
Tarwater and his wife, Courtney, recently saw a couple unloading a moving truck on the Tarwaters’ street. A few weeks later, the new neighbors invited the Tarwaters to their housewarming party.
Then, the Tarwaters invited the couple over to watch the college football national championship game. That’s when the neighbors shared their spiritual values and religious experiences.
“That all came out just sitting around watching football,” Tarwater said. “There’s got to be this authentic living. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in."
Eddie Torres, who also worships at Forefront Church, brings Christ into relationships by sharing his experiences. He once worked with a man struggling with alcoholism and a super negative perspective on life who didn’t know Christ.
As the two worked together, Torres shared what God was doing in his life or had done in years past.
“I like to speak about what God’s doing in my life,” he said. “I can’t help but tell people about Christ.”
That led to a consistent conversation between Torres and the man as he went through hard times. Along the way, the man started to wonder about Christ and consider faith. After about a year, the man called Torres with a surprising testimony: ‘Bro, I believe,” the man told Torres on the phone that day.
That revelation convinced Torres how powerful it is to share his testimony and let Christ work in their hearts on his timeline.
“You just tell your story and let God give the growth,” he said. “That’s what I started leaning on.”
Community building is a vital part in the mission of evangelism
Forefront Church isn’t a congregation that only practices one method of evangelism. The church visits homes or puts up fliers at times. But Tarwater says churches grow stronger in Christ’s mission when believers take another step.
He said disciples miss out on one of the main ways God uses them when they don’t go beyond initial contact and invest time in people.
“I want everything we do to have community as a filter,” he said.
Denver is filled with transient people who love the weather and have lots of fun. Torres knows he could be one of those disconnected people. But evangelism through relationships has been a path into deeper intimacy with people and more effective disciple-making.
“When you become vulnerable around others first, it makes them more receptive,” he said.
An essential tool Forefront uses is the Three Circles approach to evangelism. Three Circles illustrates the truth of God and human life and the power of the gospel through drawing three circles. That makes sharing the gospel simple for people with those in their network, he said.
At the same time, he keeps encouraging Forefront to be a stronger church by building deep relationships with friends, neighbors and coworkers. Those not-yet Christians then realize Jesus followers are genuine, compassionate, full-hearted people who love others.
“When you get to know people, you recognize where your starting point is,” he said. “God uses that to show you where to start.”
The evangelist is still on the playground
For most people, Denver is a grownup’s playground. People move here to enjoy the sunshine, great outdoor recreation and professional sports teams.
They study at one of the area’s many universities or work in jobs created by a strong economy. That’s why Tarwater is still the playground evangelist who shares good news through friendships.
“My view is let’s do everything we can to get people connected to the church,” Tarwater said. “But I know nothing will get me to try a restaurant better than a buddy going, ‘Drew, have you tried this place?’ I think the same thing is true about church.”
Drew Tarwater is the pastor of Forefront Church in Denver and the Director of Church Strengthening for Converge Rocky Mountain. In March, he’ll share more about relational evangelism at the Together To Transform conference hosted by Converge Rocky Mountain in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Ben Greene, Pastor & writer
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.