I work for a non-profit that seeks to serve children around the world. Much of the product that we distribute globally is accompanied by a personal note from the sender, which gives it a personal touch. Last year children raised money to send mosquito nets to children in Mali to help fight malaria, but because of political unrest in the country the nets were rerouted to other countries in Africa. The notes had to be divided, as some of the notes from children actually referenced Mali, while many did not. We sent the neutral cards along with the nets and kept the Mali cards for the time when we can again enter the country.
Sorting the cards took hundreds of volunteer hours. But I enjoyed getting to read what children in the United States had to say to the children in Mali whom they were trying to help.
One child, an evangelist at heart, wrote this note:
My mind jumped immediately to Elijah standing atop Mt. Carmel, squaring off with 450 prophets to a foreign god and challenging them to compare gods. He taunted them, he mocked them, and when God consumed his offering and the entire altar with fire from Heaven, proving Himself before the people, Elijah killed them.
This, perhaps, is not the best method of evangelism. Or maybe it is? What would your response be if someone said to you, “Your god is no good and won’t help you at all”? If you made this statement, do you have the boldness to back up your claim with proof? Is your faith dynamic enough to call God to action to prove Himself?
In our tolerance and political correctness sensitivity, we have lost the boldness to make claims that our God is great and the only hope for eternal salvation. I believe that sensitivity is extremely important in communicating the truth of the Gospel. Our goal is not cognitive assertion but for people to truly encounter Jesus in saving faith. And if we win an argument via apologetics, we might convince someone academically of Jesus’ existence and work unto our salvation, but anything that you or I talk someone into someone else can talk them out of. They have to meet Jesus.
So is there a right way or a wrong way to introduce someone to Jesus?
Do the crazy preacher men on university campuses and busy street corners see any conversions? Do people who timidly invest years in relationship hoping to convert by actions without words ever see the lost come to know Jesus?
I heard it said once, by an evangelist who was being berated by an academic who was analyzing his methods,
“I like the way I am doing it better than the way you are not doing it.”
Here’s the deal people. We are all different, and that by God’s sovereign design. Someone out there has the disposition to listen to the loud, angry preacher man on the street corner. Someone out there is so timid that he needs to see Christ’s love lived out for twenty years before realizing that he is missing something. But more importantly, God has given you an ability to communicate His love and His Gospel truth in a way that is utilizes your gifts, abilities and personality.
There is once caveat: it must contain words. You cannot preach the Gospel unless you communicate verbally.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
– Rom 10.17
So the person who needs to see the love of Christ in action must hear the truth of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. If he only sees us as different, he will only think that we are good people or that we have a good moral structure in place, or that perhaps Christianity really does keep people in check. It would be optimal if this person could hear the Gospel and then see it lived out. He might ask, down the road, what makes one different, but to contemplate the Gospel while watching it in action builds credibility.
So how has God gifted you? I have heard many preachers say that it is easy for them to get up and share the Gospel to a large congregation of people but terrifying to talk one-on-one with a lost person. But I have also heard many people say the exact opposite. Some people are quick to turn the conversation Spiritual within minutes of meeting a new person, and some people prefer to invite their friends to church and feel them out slowly. Some people enjoy debates and academic conversation and some are relational and speak purely out of personal experience and aim to not offend.
Jesus can speak through all of these personalities.
What is your disposition?
Are you letting Him speak through you?
Do not let your disposition become your excuse. If you are not bold, pray for boldness like the disciples did. If you are unsure of what to say, get in the Scripture and memorize it. If you are afraid of being rejected, claim the promise that they are not rejecting you but they are rejecting Jesus. If you are abrasive, pray for sensitivity and slowness of tongue. And once you do start sharing – be willing to listen to advice and learn from those who have been sharing for a long time. Grow in maturity and wisdom. And remember that ever hearer has a different disposition – just as every speaker does!
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
– Col 4.5-6
And let’s also remember to rejoice whenever the Gospel does go out, even if it were not in the method we would choose. Because God is sovereign and His word will not return void.
“Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…”
– Phil 1.15-18