Evangelism experiences 1

holy_spirit_sky.jpgAs noted in the overview, this is the first in a series of experiences I want to share about evangelism.  I may come back to some plain old lessons, but sometimes a story can convey a few lessons at a time.

Setting: CareNet Pregnancy Center, where I was doing weekly volunteering for a couple hours counseling guys who would come in with their wives/girlfriends.  I remember being completely exhausted.  I could barely keep my eyes open and couldn’t wait to get home.  To be honest, I was glad that no clients had come in.

A retired lady volunteering at the counter was chatting with some high school kids in the lobby.  A guy and a girl had come in with a friend who thought she might be pregnant.  The volunteer was a brilliant woman who had no problem starting a conversation about God with them, but she wasn’t experienced at answering the questions that came up.  When she started getting stumped she asked me to go out and visit with them.

The young man was all over the place with his religious beliefs and questions.  At one point he asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say homosexual behavior is a sin?”  He appeared to consider himself gay and given the way he asked the question it was obviously a stumbling block for him.  I could have glossed over it and said it was a debatable matter, but that wouldn’t have been true or loving.  I also could have spent an hour explaining all the verses and debates around this topic, but that would have been overkill and a diversion.

Instead I just confirmed that yes, despite how some try to twist it, the Bible does clearly say it is a sin.  Then I just shifted back to the basic Gospel – namely, that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and Jesus is that Savior (basic “Roman Road” stuff).  I emphasized that even if we had no sexual sins we could never get back to God on our own.

It was a balanced, back-and-forth conversation on a lot of topics and I pray that it planted a seed and that the young man kept searching.  He asked some good questions and seemed to feel like he was really heard and respected.

Lessons learned

1. Always replay conversations to see what you could do differently or better.  I almost always realize that I should have:

  • said something in a different way
  • not said something that I did say
  • said something that I didn’t say

This was one of those very rare experiences that went really well.  I’ve replayed it dozens of times in my head and can’t think of anything I’d do differently.

2. Whether people accept the message or not is between them and God.  Our job is to be obedient, which means preparing ourselves and sharing the truth in love.  This guy didn’t fall to his knees and repent, but I think it planted some seeds and pushed a reset button on some of his false views.

1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

3. In Philemon 6 Paul writes, I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  This is so true.  I was exhausted beforehand, but after sharing the Gospel with this young man I was so full of energy.  That isn’t the primary reason to share it, of course, but it is a fact that whenever I share the Gospel I am filled with joy afterwards. 

4. We have different roles (see 1 Corinthians 3).  I am lousy at starting spiritual conversations (not an excuse, just a fact) and I’m not a great “closer,” but I am very comfortable and truly enjoy them once they start.  I don’t know everything, but I’ve studied a lot and know enough to answer quite a few questions.  And I’ve learned to never fake it and to always treat people with respect and to take their objections seriously.  As I often say, seven of the most important words in evangelism are, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

But the most important person in this scenario was my friend who got the conversation started.  Despite her lack of evangelism training she was bold and caring in getting the conversation started and she was humble to pull someone else in at the right time.  (By the way, she continues to learn and grow and has studied evangelism techniques since then.  She and her husband are doing great things for the kingdom in their retirement years.)

5. Stay focused.  I could have easily zeroed in on the “gay thing” and not only polarized him further but missed the more important points.  The main thing was to tell him about Jesus and his need for Jesus.

6. Pray for them.  After sharing the Gospel I usually pray that God will send others into their lives to follow up, reinforce, correct any mistakes I made and to fill in the gaps.  I prayed for him again as I wrote this.

7. Listen!  I made it a point to listen to what he said and made sure he knew that I understood his views clearly.  I think this was the key success factor for the conversation going so well.

8. Find common ground.  He commented how things in the Bible seem hard to believe, so I conceded that and used it as a bridge to say that yes, the concept that God would step into his creation and sacrifice himself for us was one of the most outrageous things ever spoken of.  The question is whether the evidence supports whether that happened.  (I think I was paraphrasing C.S. Lewis there.)

9. Don’t forget that others are listening.  His friend listened intently the whole time and took it all in.  Was she a believer praying for him while we spoke?  Had she tried to share the same things and was glad that someone else had stepped in to help?  Was she a non-believer as well and considering this for the first time?  Regardless of her perspective, I was keenly aware that she was not missing a word of it.  Scatter the seeds of the Gospel broadly!

Please feel free to share your comments and experiences.

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14 thoughts on “Evangelism experiences 1”

  1. Hi Neil,
    Very good list. I really like number nine. That has always encouraged me to know that even when the sharing turns to a debate, and the non believer debating, others are usually listening intently. I realized this once when I was sharing with a friend of my brothers, and he brought up the point of those who have never heard the gospel. I said, “what makes you so sure they would respond to it, you haven’t.” My brother said, “hey, he’s got you on that one.” I think my brother has since responded to the call of the gospel, but we are being cautious.
    Blessings

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  2. I went to a Kids’ EE workshop a couple of weeks ago. One of the things the presenter said that struck me was that research showed that it took on average 40 times of hearing the Gospel message for someone to come to belief. Someone has to be willing to be one of the 39 who planted the seeds for the 40th to be blessed with harvest. We have to be willing to be one of the 39.

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  3. One of the things I’ve learned is that being willing to admit one doesn’t have the answers to certain questions is much more persuasive than trying to B.S. your way through. 😉 Never be afraid to offer to try and help them find the answer to their question and admit you just don’t know.

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  4. It’s always a plus to have someone somewhere praying while you are witnessing – even if they’re across town or in another state.

    Also, a personal testimony helps the person you are witnessing to realize that you were once right where they are now.

    Your post is apropos for me. We are having Vacation Bible School this week and I was priveleged to witness to and counsel with a young girl who accepted Jesus as her Saviour today. As always, it was a humbling experience, but a joyful one.

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  5. Very well put. I think sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves when it comes to sharing the gospel. Our job is to be obedient and trust the Lord to handle the rest.

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  6. This is wonderful advice, and I have found it very helpful on the many occasions on which I have changed people’s minds on homosexuality–to accept same sex relations that are otherwise law abiding and loving. I love you all and will continue to seek the same common ground that has enabled us to conquer anti-Semitism in Christianity. I am also available for question answering.

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    1. Corinne, you are mistaken. It is sad that you are deliberately teaching the opposite of what the Bible says.

      100% of verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the strongest possible terms.

      100% of verses addressing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.

      100% of verses addressing parenting commands involve one man and one woman.

      0% of verses speak of homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way.

      You are on the wrong side of a very important issue that is dividing the church. I hope you revisit the Bible and commit yourself to aligning yourself with God’s view on the subject.

      You may think that you’ll be less fulfilled if you change your views but I assure you that it is always best to be on the side of God.

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  7. Dearly and with love–I submit with humble love that the link you have to a site called gay christian movement watch does not do you either justice, love or righteousness. To your better angels, I think it is filled with hate and your opponents will with justice and to good effect make you look dangerous and aggressive and Sodomitical.

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    1. Hi Corinne,

      That’s interesting. I was just telling my daughter about how I’m looking forward to visiting the church of the pastor that runs that site. He is in Atlanta and I’ll probably be there this summer. I encourage you to read more about that site and visit it often. It teaches the truth in love.

      Yes, we have many opponents, but I don’t fear them. I don’t like the damage they do to people with their false, anti-God beliefs, but I don’t fear them.

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  8. Dear Neil,

    Please know that I understand and have respect and love for you, Neil, as a Christian brother. I know your desire for goodness, righteousness, and faith. On occasion, it has come to be that the office of the House of Israel is to be a light unto the nations. Might you abide with me, as with my wife, my family, and us all until there is a moment to communicate more fully to you on this matter? I, too, love Ha-Shem, and I would not advance this matter by recourse to any of the arguments listed under the category of “pro gay theology.” In Leviticus Rabbah, the sages decried against the use of halachah to destroy halachah, but please, with your goodness, i ask for a period of patience and forbearance. I will then speak more at large. Yours in solidarity, as in love.

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