Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dogs, Crazy People, and Germy Places: the Simplicity of Sharing the Gospel

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  1 Peter 3:15

I am often cautious to talk about ways I’ve shared the Gospel.  The main reason is because I have missed as many opportunities to share my faith as I have made.  I do not want to give an incomplete story of my life.  Another reason: when I read other’s stories about this subject for myself, I feel guilty about my inadequacies instead of praising God for the expansion of his glory.  I assume there are others who do likewise.  It is not my intention to impose some sort of false guilt on any of my friends.

Nevertheless, since I am around myself the most, I have more stories involving myself than anything else.  Secondly, knowing my failures shouldn’t make people feel better about themselves, it should make them feel better about a God who still uses a blundering, sometimes insecure, person to relay the most important message in life.  Thirdly, sharing the Gospel is not as hard as I once thought it was.  Fourth, I believe there are many people who'd like to share their faith, but don't really know where to start.  Here are three different scenarios that can hopefully motivate Christians to see that God’s mercy is great, His burdens are light, and evangelism is not a scary word.

The Park
A friend and I went to the park with our kids and my dog.  We were talking about an event coming up at church when my dog made friends with another woman’s dog.  The fellow dog-owner over-heard our conversation and began to briefly tell us her beliefs about religion.  She thought Muslims, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, and Christians all had good arguments.  She then looked straight at me and asked, “What do you believe?  How does someone get to Heaven?”

I had just a few minutes to respond by saying I think Jesus is the only way to Heaven. While I think the other religions are wrong, I in no way disrespect the people who follow those beliefs.  I had less than a minute to tell why Jesus is God and the Savior of the world.  The stranger left with her dog seemingly intrigued and still thinking about our brief conversation.

On Campus
I’ve been mentoring a student who is really working on sharing her faith.  She doesn’t understand why she rarely has spiritual conversations with non-believers.  So we started praying for them.  One day, we met at Starbucks and I prayed God would bring us an opportunity that day.  We had a great talk and then walked out the door to a fairly empty campus when I said “you know, I don’t know where anything is on this campus.  I need to give myself a tour.”  Out of nowhere, a male student walked up behind us and said, “Well, too bad you haven’t been here to listen to the crazy preacher on campus who tells us we’re all going to hell.”

I was trying to figure out how a need to be familiar with the campus and crazy preachers go together.  There was no connection.  Here was the moment I prayed for.  I asked the stranger what he thought about that, if street preaching was the best way to go about things, and what he thought about salvation, heaven, and hell.  For five minutes, this guy, the student and me dialogued about the reasons he won’t call himself a Christian and why he doesn’t like church but is open to Jesus.

Eating Food
My friend and I were eating fast-food together while my kids were in the play area.  My four year old comes off the slide and to our table and asks, “Are we all sinners?”  Strange question at that time, but I answered it, and my daughter ran back to the play area.  When it was time to leave, I gathered my kids’ shoes and found out that there was a four-year-old boy in the play area asking a lot of spiritual questions and my kids had been attempting to answer them.  The little boy asked me if I really thought we were all sinners.  I told him yes, there are sinners who follow Jesus and sinners who don’t.   The difference is that Jesus died to save us from our sin.   When a person trusts in Jesus, they don’t have to let their sin rule over them.  Jesus becomes your Boss.  He asked more questions, and I attempted to answer them the best I knew how in four-year-old language.

While I was leaving the restaurant, the little boy ran to the booth where two or three adults were sitting.  He told his mom, “Mom, we all sin.  We’re all sinners.”  The mom brushes him off and says, “no honey, we’re not all sinners.”  He adamantly responds, “Yes we are mom.  (points his finger) That lady told me we were, and I believe her.”  As I walked out the door, the little boy recounted almost word for word our conversation by the slide.

You may wonder why I didn’t stay to further converse.  Maybe I’m a chicken.  For sure, the four year old was doing a pretty good job and had the attention of those within ear shot of him.

Evangelism is not just for the preachers or the spiritually powerful or the bold.  In these cases, God used a dog, a street-corner offensive preacher, and two pre-schoolers with no prior saving knowledge of salvation to be links in the Gospel message.  God can certainly use you and me.  There are, however, four common threads that have given me the opportunity to speak into someone’s life.

  1. I pray for opportunities.
   Please don’t get the image of me kneeling beside my bed spending lots of uninterrupted time in prayer.  Prayer is my weak spot, and is the number one reason I spend much of my time being frustrated.  I do, however, regularly pray while fixing meals or driving in the car that God will bring the conversations to me, because I’m not that good at starting them myself.  Often, the kids will hear me pray an adapted version of the Lord’s prayer over them: “Father, glorify Your name in this family.  Your kingdom come, your will be done through ____(and I list my kids’ names,)  It’s a short prayer.  I’ve seen God answer it time and time again.  All of my kids have been a part of spreading the Gospel, even before they had received it themselves.

  1. I practice in private.
I use to feel incredibly guilty when I missed opportunities to speak truth.  My coach of a husband has helped me with this.  Now I use my missed opportunities to get better for the next time.  I mill the conversation in my head over and over, until I come up with good answers.  I visualize having a conversation with someone, and by the time the next opportunity rolls around, I am more prepared to present the Gospel.

  1. I’m in public with and in participation with other believers.
   I’ve never had the opportunity to share the Gospel with unbelievers while I was fighting with a believer. Though there are appropriate times to productively debate in private, God uses the unity of his own children to attract more children.  There is power when two or three of God’s people come together in His name.  Do we really believe this?  Or do we try to fly solo?

  1. I’m in the presence of non-believers.
This is self-explanatory.  We have to get out of our house and into the world.  There are times to eat at home, there are times to eat somewhere else.  There are times to play in the backyard, there are times to find public play areas.  There are times to sit alone and study, there is a time for Starbucks! 

And I don’t even like coffee.

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