“Stand clear of the closing doors please!” Ding-dong. The automatic doors closed behind me and the jam-packed New York subway lurched forward. It was on this typical Saturday evening in downtown Manhattan that I felt God nudging me to give a tract to the guy standing beside me.
“I don’t know…maybe I’m supposed to save this tract for someone else.”
“Maybe he’s getting off at the next stop anyway, so why bother trying?”
“I might make a bad impression that will turn him off from Christ.”
“Maybe Satan is just trying to make me feel guilty.”
The guy continued standing beside me in the crowded subway car as stops came and went. My stop eventually came and I stepped off that car, tract still in my pocket. I had ignored God’s nudging and had some repenting to do.
If you’re like me, sharing the Gospel doesn’t come easy. We know Christians are supposed to share the Gospel and we feel guilty when opportunities come and go right before our eyes. Petty excuses calm our conscience; busyness of life dims our eyes to the opportunities around us; and even when we step out and say something, we feel clumsy and ill-equipped.
Since you’re reading an article about evangelism, I will assume you already embrace the Christian’s responsibility to share the Gospel. I will also assume you want to become more effective at sharing Christ with those around you and are pursuing growth. If that’s you, keep reading!
Going to the people
A verse we’re all familiar with is Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” 1 His command requires action and does not “just happen.” It involves going.
That does not necessarily mean all Christians need to move halfway around the world to be faithful to Christ’s last command. However, it does mean the Gospel is shared by going to people who need to hear it.
As Anabaptists, one of our greatest challenges in evangelism is going to the people. Why do I say this? Because going means more than driving into the nearby city and distributing tracts. It means more than an occasional youth outreach trip to New York City or Chicago or Detroit. Going means living among lost people.
Jesus is our prime example. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” 2 He came to broken humanity and lived with, ate with, walked with and died with the people He came to reach.
Over 80% of the population in the US and Canada live in cities and towns. If that’s where the people are, that’s where we must go.
I realize God does not call everyone to the cities. However, I pose the question: What if we would choose where we live, not based on where we can make the most money or where we’re most comfortable, but where we could be a greatest witness for Christ?
In order to share the Gospel, we must go to the people.
Building relationships with people
The task is not completed by merely going to the people. We must actively build relationships with the unreached. This means stepping out of our comfort zone and befriending people who are different from us – in culture, background, interests and lifestyle. Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners. And it was true! He ate at Zacchaeus’ house. He talked with the Samaritan woman. He invited Matthew the tax collector into His “inner group.”
Timothy Keller, church planter in New York City, is convinced that evangelism is most effective in the context of relationship. He writes, “As our modern society becomes more privatized, as neighborhoods disappear and people ‘cocoon,’ the likelihood that people will listen to a stranger diminishes.” 3 The Gospel flows most naturally along relational lines.
In order to share the Gospel, we must build relationships.
Sharing our story with people
Going to the people and building relationships is not enough. We must actively share the Gospel. And what is the Gospel? It is the Good News of Christ!
One of the most effective ways to share the Gospel is by proclaiming what Christ has done in your own life. Paul the Apostle provides a helpful model in Acts 22.
Before: Be open and honest about your past. This does not mean you have to share every nitty-gritty detail. But you must help people see that you are “in the same boat.” We are all sinners saved by grace and in need of His mercy!
How: Tell people about your conversion story. Most likely, your conversion isn’t as dramatic as Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus. But you do have a story to tell and most people love hearing stories!
After: Be honest and transparent about what God has been doing in your life. Share nuggets of truth from your recent devotions and how God has been stretching and growing you. Again, this helps your friends see that you’re human and on their level. It may open doors for them to share struggles they’ve been facing.
Sharing the Gospel includes sharing our story.
A word from the persecuted church
I want to leave you with a challenge from Stoyan (not his real name). Stoyan grew up behind the Iron Curtain. He saw his parents and close relatives suffer tremendously for their faith. He personally endured harassment and persecution but would not give in to the pressures to recant. Finally, the Iron Curtain fell and the Communist government lost control over his country.
Author Nik Ripken decided to interview persecuted Christians around the world and interviewed Stoyan. In his book, The Insanity of God, Ripken shares the challenge that Stoyan left with him near the end of his interview.
“I thank God and I take great joy in knowing that I was suffering in prison in my country, so that you, Nik, could be free to share Jesus in Kentucky….Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution!” 4
Nik writes, “Those words from Stoyan haunted me as I flew back to the States. Had I given up in freedom what he and others had refused to surrender under the worst forms of persecution? Had I?” 4
Maybe you’re like Nik and me. We are convicted when we reflect on the immense persecution that Christians endure for the Gospel. We recognize our cowardice and unwillingness to suffer or endure discomfort to make Christ’s name known. And we want to change!
If that is you, there’s hope! Sharing the Gospel is not rocket science. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It starts with stepping out of your comfort zone, going where the people are, building relationships, sharing what Christ has done in your life, and inviting them into a relationship with Christ.
May we remember Stoyan’s challenge: “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never give up in persecution!” 4
|Ian Miller lives in Harrisburg, PA with his wife Marci, where they are involved in a Spanish church plant. Ian volunteers for a non-profit organization while working on his BA in English through College Plus. He is passionate about urban, cross-cultural church planting, and verbal, personal evangelism.|
- Matthew 28:19, Newv King James Version.
- John 1:14
- Keller, Tim. “Evangelism through “Networking”.” RedMountainChurch (n.d.): n. pag.Redeemer Church. RedMountainChurch, July 1992. Web. 14 June 2017.
- Ripken, Nik. The Insanity of God. 195-196.: Lifeway Christian Resources, 2016. Print.