Have you ever had a stranger just walk up and start talking about Jesus? Or, see a bored lady in a minivan watching as her kids shyly walked up to your door with a postcard from their church? It is two different approaches to evangelism or witnessing. I finished reading a great book on how to do it without being intrusive or out of your personality type. Then I saw it play out.
The other day at work, a guy I had helped train came to my workstation to visit. Since he had arrived, he has seen me read the Bible, write, and study. He knew whom I claimed to stand for. After shooting the breeze, he said, “God is good.”
So I nudged him to tell me why. He told me about how since he had gotten hurt things were falling into place for him. He sensed a higher power behind it and wanted to be good. Then he turned to walk away. From the center of my chest, I felt an impression to go further with that.
“Are you trying to work your way upstairs,” I asked.
“To God,” came the puzzled reply. “Yeah, of course.”
I explained that it didn’t work that way. While speaking, I was trying to remember an illustration that I saw in the book that would have taken less than thirty seconds to explain and would have been clearer than I could explain it. I still explained that it was faith based on what Jesus did on the cross that gets him there instead of works.
I told him how his story reminded me of how God got me back. Providence — everything working out easily where it should not have. I watched it at work as I was writing the first draft of Ronin’s Journey.
He then wanted me to explain salvation, and inside I cheered. He hadn’t committed as of this writing, but he has the information. Using a Bible term, the seed was sown. I think that was my first face-to-face witnessing ever. I was on a high for the rest of the day.
Now how does that apply to you? Let’s look at the insights from my friend, the dynamic, and me.
- I didn’t pressure him.
- He talked to me because we had a relationship.
- My life shows there is something more at work.
- I was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and power.
- I was working from my personal evangelical style so it was authentic.
What is an evangelical style? From my reading of both The Fifth Gospel and Becoming a Contagious Christian, I think it’s how the Holy Spirit works through our individual personalities (Acts 1:8). The styles listed in How to be a Contagious Christian are based on Biblical examples. They are: Peter’s confrontational approach, Paul’s intellectual approach, the Blind Man’s testimonial approach (John 9), Matthew’s interpersonal approach, the Samaritan woman’s invitational approach, and Dorcas’s service approach (Acts 9:36).
People have a mix of them based on personality, talents, and spiritual gifting. I work within the intellectual style (personality), with interpersonal service (gifting) using reason and, if necessary, the testimonial style because who doesn’t love a story? Other than Joe Friday, all he wanted was just the facts. That is how I am worked through.
- He was already spiritually curious.
- He trusted me.
- He knew he could be relaxed around me.
- I wasn’t the only one who had been talking to him.
You see, in our hearts God works on us all. The Holy Spirit is preparing the soil, so to speak. In one of my favorite parables, Jesus taught that the word of God was the seed. We are the sowers and reapers. We sow seeds in people’s lives through actions and words. That is why he came to me. He sees the Good News living out through me.
I’m not alone either. Another friend of mine on that shift is living out the Good News through actions and words, too. That is more seeds being sown and watered in the soil that the Holy Spirit is preparing.
- I didn’t speak Christianese (all groups have their own ‘language’)
- I used apologetics to clear two hurdles for him without overlooking them or having a pat answer.
- I gave him the good news of Jesus without having to quote a card.
- Then I got out of God’s way to let him do the inner work.
The two hurdles were his questions about the Bible and how to get to Heaven. He has a hard time understanding the King James Version. I suggested the New International Version. Then I had to explain that the NIV is a modern translation from the original languages and not a translation from the KJV.
For the curious, the illustration I tried to remember was this: religion says ‘Do this’, Christianity is Jesus did it for you if you accept it. Even simpler:
Religion = do.
Jesus = done.
Well this was my first time witnessing without writing. Do you have any stories to tell? Tips or questions?