Being passionate for the lost is not enough. As we learned last month, approach trumps content every time. We must carefully consider what approach to use when seeking to reach people around us in the world. There are three key approaches we will consider today that will inform us about how reaching people works best…and we will learn a very important truth about reaching people too…with the right approach, you don’t need to have a relationship with the person to share the gospel. Relationships are the best tools for sharing Jesus, but they are not the only good ones.
5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone. (Col 4:5-6, NET)
Approach #1 – Fill a Need
One of the greatest doors for people to find God is in crisis. Sometimes we meet someone in a crisis simply because we happen to be the one who stopped to help them with or witnessed the accident. Other times we are related to or friends with someone who ends up in a crisis. But we can also choose to show up at a place where people go through crisis: serving at a shelter, volunteering as a chaplain at the hospital, etc.
It is important that we FIRST meet the physical and emotional needs of people in a crisis with authentic love…but we need not stop there. Although some Christian charities have required people to accept Jesus as a requirement for getting assistance and have run people away from God…you should always seek to offer both help for needs and spiritual conversation. I ALWAYS ask to pray with anyone who I am helping with a need. I have NEVER been told that I could not do that. And it has often led to a conversation about faith.
People in crisis are often the most open to spiritual things and the most aware of their spiritual needs. Think of Jesus’ ministry: he spent the majority of His time teaching people whom He had first healed. Jesus said it this way:
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:23-24, HCSB)
The most difficult part about meeting both physical and spiritual needs at the same time, is communicating the gospel in a way that they can understand and remember in the midst of the mental fog that a crisis creates. I recommend you learn from approach #2 for these situations.
Approach #2 Share Your Story
Faith is a deeply personal matter—and most of us come to faith in Jesus because of BOTH a logical understanding of Jesus AND a personal encounter with God. People need to hear BOTH from us, but they most need to hear the personal encounter side of our story first. Why? Because every faith has a logical argument—but none have the personal encounter with God. People need to know that our faith is a faith of present and personal interaction with an active God. Often our story makes them curious enough to consider faith for themselves. AND people can’t argue with a personal story the way they argue about the logical details of Jesus life and salvation. Sharing our story leads to more conversation and less argument.
Here’s how to share your Story:
Approach #3 Look for Persons of Peace
Many people assume that in trying to reach people, they are going to have to start with someone who is closed to spiritual things, but that I simply not the case. Good faith-sharers look for people who are already open to spiritual conversations, then they prioritize their time with people so that they give the most effort to those who are the most open. Why? Because God said that there are a TON of hearts ready to know Jesus…what is lacking is people who are willing to search and find them.
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. (Matt 9:37, HCSB)
What we often don’t realize is that we are supposed to follow the efforts of the seed-planter—the Holy Spirit—He is not supposed to follow our efforts. God’s Spirit has the role of opening minds and convicting people…that’s not our primary job. Our job is to share the message of Jesus’ work. If we will try to follow Him, we will find that often He has done most of the work. He may simply need us to be the one to tip the scales of their hearts, or the one to pray with them.
The harvest is ready. There are people who will come to faith easily—we just have to find them and spend time with them. That takes prayer and a determination to walk around with our radar up, so that God can guide us into conversations when appropriate. It may also require intentionally reaching out to someone or spending time in places where you can form new relationships. The modern missions movement calls these people, persons of peace.
The other amazing thing about following the Holy Spirit is the way He leads you to people who not only come to faith, but who invite you to share faith with their circle of relationships. Throughout the Bible you see people like Rahab and Cornelius and the prison warden inviting God’s messengers to share the message of salvation with their whole family. Either because they introduce you to their friends and give you a platform on which to speak, or they share with their friends after they come to faith, each person is the potential gateway to saving dozens of people, not simply one. Don’t press a person to open up their relationships to you, but walk through the door of their relationships when you are invited to do so.
24 The following day (Paul) entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. (Acts 10:24, HCSB)
29 Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? ” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the message of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. 33 He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. 34 He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had believed God with his entire household. (Acts 16:29-34, HCSB)
Jim: a modern day person of peace who opened his community to the gospel
Closing Thought #1: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Do you remember the first time you gave a speech for class? You probably trembled, got a bit sick to your stomach, and did a terrible job in the presentation…but I bet the next time was a lot better! Why? Because practice goes a long way in helping us. We are ALL terrible until we’ve gotten some practice in.
The best thing you can do for yourself if you haven’t shared your faith much, is go practice on a bunch of people. Back in seminary, I used to walk the local park by my house with a bunch of cold water bottles, and I would give away water and ask people if I could have 5 minutes to practice a presentation for class. A few dozen presentations made a BIG difference in my life…and if you do it right, you won’t make anyone mad at you for being your practice subject. Nurses get away with this all the time, getting friend to let them stick them with needles…Yuck!
Closing Thought #2: Don’t Get Discouraged!
9 So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. (Gal 6:9, HCSB)
Can you be patient with people? Sometimes the process of people coming to faith takes decades!
Can you deal with Christians who come to faith but don’t grow? Watching Christians stay self-focused is very hard!
Can you handle rejection? No matter how well you spread the seed, you’ll experience four kinds of responses. Successful faith sharing is not getting the right response, it’s simply sharing the message.
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. 6 Other seed fell on the rock; when it sprang up, it withered, since it lacked moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 Still other seed fell on good ground; when it sprang up, it produced a crop: 100 times what was sown.” As He said this, He called out, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!”
9 Then His disciples asked Him, “What does this parable mean? ” 10 So He said, “The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you to know, but to the rest it is in parables, so that Looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, welcome the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and depart in a time of testing. 14 As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. 15 But the seed in the good ground — these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit. (Luke 8:5-15, HCSB)
How do we deal with the discouragements of reaching people???
We remember that God is the one who is ultimately responsible, not us. We get to play a role in people’s lives, but ultimately we are not the ones who succeeded or failed others. We must celebrate the successes, and trust God with the difficulties.
Are you willing to cross cultural barriers?
Often the person God leads you to become friends with and share faith with is VERY different from you, and you’ll have to be willing to do some life with them. Are you willing to eat some strange food, have some odd conversation, and maybe talk about faith backgrounds that you are not familiar with? I hope so. Sharing faith is often quite an educational and humbling affair!
Stacy (my wife’s) first faith sharing relationship in Clarksville was with a Muslim lady she met at Walmart. She attended her daughters coming of age party where she was given a Koran and also set up an opportunity where both her and I went to the Mosque in Clarksville to observe worship.
- Write out Your Story
- Share your faith 6 times this week (get some practice)