Evangelism: Ordinary Attempts
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Corinthians 3:5–7
First A Few Stories:
1. I once talked to a woman who told me that she had suffered massive persecution because of their evangelism over the years; fired from work, friends lost, names called — even once coming to blows with someone. In response to my surprise at all of that, she told me, “Well, Jesus said that if the world hated him they would hate us as well.” While that is true, I think a lot of the times the world hates us is because we are jerks — we go in forcefully with our agenda, don’t listen, aren’t polite or even nice. People get mad, reject us and Jesus and we celebrate the suffering for God. There is real persecution, even here in America, but maybe sometimes it is not for the reasons we think.
2. Contrast that to Pastor John, an elderly man I met in India. He had recently been beaten nearly to death because he was holding church services and inviting people to come. When he healed enough to return to his village, he did, and picked up where we left off. He asking some of us from the west if we might be able to send a medical mission so that his village could get medical treatment — he loved them very much, and knew that his love for them might cost him his life, but it did Jesus, so if that was what was to be, that was what was to be.
3. Several years ago I was leading a discussion with high school kids on evangelism. One girl shared here story: after hearing that she needed to share the her faith with others, she went up to the neighbor boy who was like six or something and asked him “do you love Jesus?” He said, no, and she responded, “Then your going to hell.” And so I asked her, “what was his reaction?” “Was he intrigued?” “Did he ask you any questions or anything?” “No,” she said, “he just cried and ran away.” Evangelism that makes people cry and run away – probably not real successful.
I think there is a better way. A way that recognizes he reality that God is the one who grows things, but that we have the responsibility to plant and to water we cannot just wait, we need to do something. What if we just went out and loved people, and in that loving God brought opportunities for people to ask about our faith, to ask about the hope that is within us. (Thanks to Jim Henderson and Randy Siever for teaching me this “doable way” of evangelism).
Here are the 4 steps of Doable Evangelism: (try each for a week, don’t rush them)
Notice somebody. That’s right, no need to talk to them or meet them or tell them anything. Just notice; who are they? why did you notice them? what is their life like? Try this for a week.
Notice somebody and then pray for them – secretly, not out loud — that might freak them out and make them think you are a stalker. No, just in your heart and in your head, pray to God on behalf of the person you notice.
Ask somebody how they are doing. Not in a simple greeting thing, but in a way where you look them in the eye, ask them how they are doing, and then wait; wait until they have a chance to tell you how they are really doing.
Have a conversation with someone and listen to them. Maybe it’s a conversation that flows from asking how they are doing and then listening and being interested in their answer. Maybe they tell you something hard and you tell them you will pray for them. Maybe the next time you see them you ask them about their circumstance and tell them that you have been praying for them. In my experience people not only will not say no to your offer to pray for them. In fact, regardless of their faith background, people most often are blessed when you tell the that you are going to pray for them — and even more blessed when you tell them you have done so.
Remember, as followers of Jesus, we are apprenticed to him, his disciples – growing in intimacy with him so that we can know him in such a way that we can sense his leading and do things that demonstrate him to a world full of people whom he created in his image, who he loves, and who he wants to be in relationship with.
That’s the reality behind ordinary attempts – noticing people God notices, praying to God for people who he created, asking someone how they are doing – and listening as they tell us, letting them know that someone is interested in them – in a busy world, it’s like offering them a cold cup of water – a little bit of the kingdom of God coming near them. Be prepared when they ask you about faith — that is not our ulterior motive, but it will happen (God causes to grow what we plant and water). When questions come, continue in your interest in people and your curiosity about their stories and their questions. Share what you know about how God has been God to you and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know if they ask a question — volunteer to find out and go on this journey together.
Try it for a month – print this out, put it up somewhere and be intentional about it. Then share your experiences – this is actually one of the keys to this, sharing. Share on the blog comments and share in email.
Peace, hope and love