I did not lead a
single person to salvation my first 23 years even though
my father was a pastor. I did not even witness to anyone! Why?
Because I did not know how. I knew I was supposed to, and I heard
frequent reminders from many ministry sources. But I did not know
to start, what to say, or how to end.
Then, in 1981, I
went through a program called Evangelism
Explosion. It taught me a simple, logical plan to
get a conversation started, 2 key questions to ask, 5 main points
of the Gospel with 2 scriptures to memorize on each point, 2 questions
to end with, and an offer to lead the person in a salvation prayer.
(An abbreviated form of this outline is enclosed for your study
Through this simple
plan, I immediately began getting people saved. I have been able
to strike up conversations with people in everyday life (waitresses,
paper boys, co-workers, people in the hospital, college students,
etc.) and lead them in a salvation prayer by the dozens!
I even was able to lead 2 Mormon missionaries to pray a salvation
prayer one time (with tears in their eyes) in my apartment when
they came to try to convert me!
The point of this?
People need teaching! We don't know everything spiritual just
by being saved for years. We don't get it by "osmosis."
We have to be taught. That is the whole point of the Great Commission
28:19-20 (NKJ), "Go
therefore and make disciples... teaching them to observe all things
that I have commanded you." The word
"disciple" means learner. We don't get saved to just
go to church and feel good. We get saved to learn how to make
a difference for Jesus on the earth!
Think about it
God could have designed our salvation to work in such a way that
the moment you got saved, you were translated to Heaven! Poof
gone. After all, eventually we will all be with God in
Heaven anyway, right? But He did not design salvation that way.
He left us here on the earth because other people need
salvation, teaching, and various ministry.
But when it comes
to witnessing, many people feel uncomfortable. Besides the previously
mentioned reason that people feel mentally unprepared, they have
often left off their spiritual preparation prayer! When
we pray for people that need salvation, we spiritually "plow
up the ground of their heart" that makes it very easy to
plant the "seed" of the Gospel when the timing is right.
Of course, if you will never see a person again, it might be best
to go ahead and witness. Perhaps someone else has been praying
to get them ready to receive the Gospel. But if it is a neighbor
or co-worker that will be around for some time, then start praying
for them to be saved. God can help you pray creatively for them,
and prayer makes a difference.
Then, start watching
for opportunities to build relationship with the person you are
praying for. God will open doors to communicate with them, do
things for them, and in general to get to know them. This builds
trust and opens the door to share about more and deeper topics
than just the weather! Then, you might be able to offer to pray
for needs in their lives, invite them to church, share your testimony,
or even lead them in a salvation prayer.
There are some tremendous
resources available to help you in this endeavor to reach others
with the Gospel. It falls under a category of ministry called
the Lighthouse Movement. This is a collection
of many ministries (70 denominations and 350 ministries) that
have all seen the need for every Christian to be a "Lighthouse"
for God in his or her neighborhood, workplace, or school. One
of the main sources for information, ideas, and references to
other resources is Mission America (phone 612-912-0001,
or on the Internet at www.missionamerica.org).
Or you can go directly to www.lighthousemovement.com
to get more specific information.
The general idea
in the words of Ed
Silvosa is, "Talk to God about your neighbors before
you talk to your neighbors about God." This takes the
pressure off us and puts it on God! It is His job to prepare
their hearts and give us opportunities to build relationships
that lead to spiritual issues.
And there is not
just one right way to do it. You can be led by the Spirit. But
the general idea is sometimes summarized as "Prayer,
Care, and Share." You write down the names of five
neighbors (or co-workers, fellow students, etc.) and then pray
for them a total of just 5 minutes a day for 5 weeks. After prayer
has been sown into the spiritual realm, start watching for opportunities
to show you care. By demonstrating over a period of time that
you care, they will be much more open to what you have to share.
Too many times, our impression of witnessing has been more like
trying to "bag game" rather than to show the love of
God. Confrontational evangelism can be appropriate in some circumstances,
but relationship evangelism should be the normal pattern and lifestyle
for most Christians. (For a book that contains ideas to demonstrate
your care for people, consider buying Conspiracy
by Steve Sjogren.)
another spiritual tool that can be an effective aid in the evangelism
process. Moses told the Israelites that God would give them, "Every
place on which the sole of your foot treads..."
and "No man shall be able to stand against you."
11:24-25). I know that prayer can go places you and I can't
go, but there is something beneficial and special about physically
going someplace and praying over it. You can walk around your
block and pray over your neighbors and the related spiritual atmosphere.
You can walk around your workplace or school and pray for it.
I have sometimes gone out at night, walked around the building
I worked in, and discreetly anointed with oil the corners of the
building and main doors praying for God to work there.
It sure doesn't cost you much, and you have a lot to gain!
Another great tool
for reaching people is the classic JESUS
video made in 1983 by Campus
Crusade for Christ. (This video has been translated into more
than 260 languages and seen by more than a billion people!) It
is just over an hour long and Bill Bright leads the viewer in
a salvation prayer at the end. The video can be loaned or given
to a neighbor, co-worker, relative, etc., to show them an accurate
"sight and sound" presentation of the Gospel. Charles
Finney once said, "The theaters are full because
the world lies well, but the church is empty because we tell the
Truth poorly." These videos are available through
Last, a printed Gospel
tract can be a good conversation starter about spiritual issues.
I have distributed literally tens of thousands of them over the
last 20 years. American
Tract Society is the best source I have found for inexpensive,
high-quality, full-color tracts in a variety formats and topics
by authors like Billy Graham and James Kennedy. Why not call them
at 800-548-7228 and request their free full-color catalog?
America (and the
world) desperately needs Christianity, and we must be more creative
in reaching people. As George
Barna said, "In spite of the intense interest of
Americans in spirituality, the lack of numerical growth in congregations
suggests the need for new and creative approaches to penetrating
communities with practical Christianity. Changing times requires
skillful adaptation by the church not theologically, but
Working for Jesus,