I'm really enjoying our Bible Study group right now. We’re doing a compelling series on evangelism.
Typically when you think of evangelism, I bet you conjure uncomfortable images of in-your-face preaching or someone coming up to you and saying, “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” and then you having to answer honestly without feeling attacked or coerced into doing what they wanted, which is to say that you want to be saved.
But we’re not into that.
One of our friends is working on a book on evangelism in the post-modern world and she is using our group to kind of test drive her ideas. She really focuses on how evangelism looked in the New Testament and what that means for us today. It’s all about genuinely caring for others and seeing them come to place where they WANT to live for Jesus, and them not feel obligated to do it.
I love this!
I have always felt uncomfortable with the traditional evangelism methods that I’ve been taught. In college our InterVarsity chapter did a series on contact evangelism, with us going out one night to share the gospel with strangers. Now, this can be cool. It can be cool if you just have spiritual conversations with people who want to talk to you. It can be cool if you don’t expect them to convert right in front of your eyes but to just get them thinking about things. But that’s not how I felt our chapter was being taught. I felt that they were expecting converts.
So I went out with a friend of JB’s from UofM who had way more skills at talking with strangers than I. We ended up talking to this student outside his dorm and having a nice conversation, but then I felt like we started pressuring him to make a choice. “So if you don’t have any problems with the Gospel or Jesus, then why aren’t you saved? Why don’t you do it right now?” I really didn’t like the way the conversation turned, but all the cool Christians seemed to say that this was the way to do things. And since I had never led someone to Christ, I tried to give this method a shot, even though my gut said that it wouldn’t work.
The guy didn’t have any good arguments for not being saved. At least none that he could articulate. I was still earning my journalism chops and I think I was so distracted by what everyone was expecting of me that I didn’t take the time to really look at this guy. He DID have issues with coming to Christ. If he didn’t, he would have shown way more interest in speaking with us and learning about Jesus.
In the end, we had him pray the prayer. I felt that it was hogwash, but prayed earnestly that I was wrong or that God would turn that situation around and truly bring that guy to know him. We went back to our group and shared the news and everyone celebrated.
When the student never returned my calls or emails to hang out or go to Bible Study, I was not surprised. I was ashamed.
Do you think this man really wants to know Jesus now? Do you think he feels comfortable asking a Christian about their faith without worrying about being pressured? No. I feel like I plucked one of the unripe grapes from God’s vine that day. It had every chance in the world until I came by and snatched it up because I wanted it to be ready.
Maybe my other peers felt the same way but also didn’t feel brave enough to take a stand. I regularly did voice my qualms about that type of evangelism and someone or other would promptly argue with me. I am an open-minded person, so I was willing to try their medhod, but looking back, I wish I had sticked to my stubborn guns.
So that’s why I’m enjoying our current Bible Study. It’s not about numbers or convincing everyone you meet. I believe that God knows who’s going to follow Him and who isn’t. And while He’d like everyone to follow him, He gave us free will. He has put me on this earth to live for him and He has given me the freedom to love everyone in my life and connect with them on a deeper level. I have the freedom to talk about spiritual things with them if I want because I genuinely care for them and want to know what they think, and I don’t have to expect “results.”
It’s God’s business if a person turns to him, and if he wants to use me for that purpose, that’s His call, not mine.