God has made us ALL to be witnesses – not just the people people, or the extroverts or the youth or the whatever, but all of us. If you are a born again Holy Spirit filled believer in Jesus Christ then the bible says that you are filled with power to be a witness.
Sometimes we need a reminder as to what that means and to how that can look in our real life, and a reminder about how passionate God is about this. God is passionate about the lost and the prodigals.
Now we can know that in theory. We can know the nice bible verses and have a mental agreement that yes, God loves Lost… people.
But how do we embrace and engage the wonder of evangelism and make it real in our lives.
What does it look like for your life? For your context?
Who do we invite?
How are we invite someone?
Why are we inviting them?
EMBRACE THE WHY
Let’s start with the WHY. The why is really the most pivotal question and most pivotal answer. When we connect with the WHY we then connect with our hearts and behave out of that place of motivation.
Why pushes us past obstacles, it leaps over excuses and stretches us out of our comfort zones.
It inspires vision, be it for a great marriage, an awesome family, a successful career, an eternal legacy.
I came across this ad with Richie McCaw in it that illustrates the difference a WHY can make.
Richie’s WHY, right from day one at school was to be an All Black. To play rugby. It got him up early in the morning to train, regardless of the weather. It pushed him past levels of pain and what could be considered normal. It gave him a sense of purpose.
We are living for something greater than sport and a team of men in black.
Our purpose is permanent and eternal. To see people come into the kingdom of God, to come home forever and to live in eternity with God.
The WHY for us is to know God and make Him known. To go into the world and make disciples. To rescue people from the flames of an eternity without God. To demonstrate the reality and grace of God.
It is why we make intentional decisions to live in way radically different from the world around us. It is why we step out of our comfort zones in conversations and talk about spiritual things. It pushes us past the possible pain of embarrassment and persecution to ask the brave questions and to say something.
When we are intentional about our WHY we behave out of that space with intentionality.
It changes the way we interact with people. It changes the way we see people. We look for those spaces in a conversation where we can flip it around to something spiritual.
People are more ready than we think. They need hope more than we think. They need salvation more than we think. And in every moment I believe God is there to give us the right words – we just have to say YES and step out and let Him step in. The Holy Spirit within us gives us power to be His witness, to tell His story, to engage in the wonder of evangelism.
How do we embrace and engage the wonder of evangelism? Connect with the WHY, the purpose of it. Ask God to expand your heart so you get it.
2 Kings 7:3-11 gives an interesting account of 4 lepers at the entrance of a city under siege.
They said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city”– the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.’
At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.
Then they said to each other, ‘What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.’
So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there – not a sound of anyone – only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.’ The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.
What you may notice here is 2 things.
- The lepers experienced the feast
- They then went and told those in famine about the feast
The lepers were in a town under siege and suffering the effects of a long campaign. There was no food. It was a no win situation. So they made a bold radical choice. To leave the city and throw themselves on the mercy of their enemies in hope that they had some food and a good bill of rights for prisoners.
When they arrived in the tent city they discovered it abandoned. God had turned up and defeated their enemies. And then they found the food. And the gold. And the clothing. And the everything. And then they ate the food. And then they remembered… their friends. Their family. Starving children. Hopelessness. Back in the city there were others who needed food too.
They said: This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.
This is a day of good news. Our enemies are defeated and gone and we have food!
The same thing works with us right here right now.
We experience the feast – experience salvation – experience grace – experience His goodness and greatness and then we go and tell others about our experience. We experience God bringing us into a family, into new understanding of purpose and love and eternity. We experience being able to be connected intimately to the Creator of the Universe, the One who breathed out the stars and spoke and there was light.
The greatest love story in the world isn’t Titanic, or Princess Bride, even Romeo or Juliet, it’s the love that God has for His creation, demonstrated with the greatest act of love, Jesus’ death on the cross, exchanging His innocence and perfection for our guilt and shame. While we were still in rebellion, running away from God, ignoring Him, living our own way, Jesus died to win us.
Grace means the undeserved favour of God. It communicates that no matter how good or bad you have been or will be you’ll never be good enough. Jesus lived and died in your place and your salvation is not about your own acts of goodness but about God’s incredible mercy and forgiveness. (Jud Wilhite)
What you experience as real and good in your life you will broadcast to others.
This is the day of good news!
This is our WHY.
God uses rescued people to rescue people.
The other week I was driving somewhere with some friends and we were sharing our own story of why evangelism was so important. They had both grown up in church, felt like they had always known God was real and that God loved them. They had made decisions as kids and loved God with everything. But they felt a disconnect with knowing why it was so important to be intentional with evangelism.
I however have a different story and can still FEEL what it was like to be lost and blind and can remember the moment when all of a sudden I realized that I was found and that I can see. I feel it, deep within. I can remember how ready I was to hear that Jesus died for me, for my punishment, to make the way for heaven. I can remember the wonder of hearing that for the first time and the realization that I was rescued and redeemed, by God, by love.
Day by day I let that love keep me fresh. Draw near to God, fall in love with Him, and allow God to stir your heart with love for others. Let HIS love for them fill your heart. That love will compel you to walk across the room and begin a conversation with someone about Jesus.
What do you need to do to connect with that WHY?
WHO TO ENGAGE
So who do we invite?
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…
This is like a circle of influence….
Jerusalem is those who are near you. Friends. Family. Workmates. Neighbours.
Judea are those in that next layer. Perhaps kids who are in your class who you don’t hang with. The other parents at the rugby side line on a Saturday morning. The barista at your favourite café.
We’re stretching out with Samaria now. People on the train. People shopping. The check out chick. People you randomally come across in your day to days.
Then lets stretch it out further. The ends of the earth.
Now stop. If all the people in the world fall into one of these categories, one of these circles, then who are we to witness to? All the people. In all the places. Everywhere. There is no person breathing right now who does not fall into one of those circles. Jerusalem. Judea. Samria. Ends of the earth.
In Luke 14 we read about a wedding feast that the king was hosting. The first part of the parable talks about people who made excuses not to come – and hey look, when engaging in evangelism there are going to be people who are not interested or who are indifferent. Their reaction is not our responsibility. We plant the seed and God cultivates the heart and produces the growth. But read with me from verse 21:
“Go as fast as you can to every street and alley in town! Bring in everyone who is poor or crippled or blind or lame.”
22 When the servant returned, he said, “Master, I’ve done what you told me, and there is still plenty of room for more people.”
23 His master then told him, “Go out along the back roads and fence rows and make people come in, so that my house will be full.
Who did the king instruct his servant to invite. The poor. The crippled. The bind. The lame. Those who are on the fringes. Those who don’t fit in. Those who don’t belong. Those who are isolated and hiding away.
Who are we to invite. Everyone and anyone.
In Mark 2 we read about 4 friends who brought their crippled friend to Jesus. They had such a connection with the WHY – that Jesus would heal their friend – that they didn’t allow anything to stand in the way, even a packed house and person’s roof! They ripped the roof right off and lowered their friend down to Jesus. Jesus went right to the heart of the matter and changed that mans world. He forgave him. He changed his eternity. He restored him back to God. Made him innocent and righteous. That is the heart of the matter. Then to prove that He had the authority to forgive Jesus healed him.
Now, that man had no other way to get to Jesus. He was paralysed. He needed his friends to carry him to Jesus.
There are people in your life who need you to carry them to Jesus. They are paralysed by their past and their present and their shame and their pain and they need to encounter the grace and love of God. They are messy and screwed up.
Who are the paralysed people in your life? They may not be confined to a wheel chair unable to walk or move, but there may be other areas that they stuck and paralysed in. Loneliness. Fear. Rejection. Depression. Sin.
The paralysed man didn’t need to get his act together to come to God. He needed to be carried to the foot of his saviour.
The lame and the blind and the broken don’t need to get it together or clean up their mess to be worthy of an invitation.
People don’t need to get it together to come to Jesus. To come to church.
Jesus wont turn anyone away. There is no one in the too hard basket for God.
God knew we were going to be messy. God knows that we were going to screw up. That’s what the cross is all about. People are going to fail, and stumble, and feel dirty and awkward. The whole point of the cross of Christ is that there be this mighty picture of His love and pursuit of you despite of who we are. The cross is necessary and it is also the picture we have of how far God is willing to go because He loves each one of us, each one of the people out there in our world.
God loves sinners. And we do too.
The cool thing is that God is already at work all around us, we can ask Him to show us where He wants us to participate in His activity of love and grace. You could call it “praying behind people’s backs.” This could be the first step to identify who to connect with, to embrace and engaged in what God is up to, so that you can recognize where God is at work and join Him. This secret prayer approach provides an opportunity for all Christians—whether talkative or quiet, outgoing or shy, silly or serious—to experience God more and to participate in His work. To understand what God is doing in others’ lives and what our role might be, we can ask Him. Here are three key questions to start with:
God, where are you already at work?
God, what does this person need right now?
God, how can I invite this person to experience Jesus in a fresh way?
So the WHY is because God loves EVERYONE and everyone are the WHO. So lets now look at the HOW.
So how do we do this?
How do we invite people? How do we transition the conversation?
Firstly, remember the WHY. Why do you want to have a conversation about God? Connect with that WHY so you’ll push past the awkwardness and internal pressure to say nothing and stay quiet….
Secondly, remember the WHO. Position yourself with people. Be intentional about conversations with friends, neighbours, workmates, your barista, checkout chick, the random stranger on the bus and be intentional about having conversations with them – even every day ordinary non spiritual conversations.
Then go from there.
Think about one of the best conversations you had with a friend in the past week or two.
Just take a minute and vividly remember that conversation.
Now: What made that conversation so great? Enter into the feelings, recollect the environment, re-imagine the relational dynamics.
Evangelism is essentially a conversation – a relational connection using words – that includes spiritual things.
Sometimes a conversation will fall into your lap. Like the woman at the well. Or Nicademous.
Last year while on my life coaching course we were talking about binge drinking teenagers and I mentioned that that had been some of my teen years, that I used to be that person. One of the women turned and asked “what made the change in your life?” Perfect question.
Another time Annika and I were having coffee with another mum from school. We were sitting there talking about our kids and school and then boom – the mum asked if we thought Jesus was married to Mary Magadale and had kids after escaping to Spain. Yes seriously. Not so much the perfect question but one that was definitely a fun springboard to share the gospel.
Sometimes we have to create conversation.
On Sunday – as per our usual family routine – I went to the supermarket to buy buns and ham for lunch. I begun the conversation – how is your day going? Great said the checkout chick. Then as social protocol almost dictates, how is your day going she asks in return.
Now in that moment I have two choices.
I can say, great thanks. Isnt the weather beautiful.
Or I can say, great thanks. I’ve just been at church, and that’s a great way to start the week.
Sometimes that is where the conversation ends but I had a really neat conversation with this girl about worship and meaningful encouragement from God. Virtually any entry point can be used to launch a spiritual conversation – but it takes being intentional and engaged.
Sometimes the conversations springboards from being intentional with your ears vs your mouth. Listening is a powerful aspect of evangelism. It is that moment in class or in the staff room when someone is telling you about a really tough situation they’re facing, or how they don’t really have a sense of purpose, or whatever… and there is that space to tell your story, about how you found hope and support from God and from church and that there is more to life than just breathing. Or there is that space to be empathetic and to just listen and encourage. People are wanting genuine authentic conversations and sometimes are starved for encouragement, hope and friendship.
My guess is, most of your non Christian friends are not waking up wondering, “You know, I wonder what the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is. I should pick up some books on ancient history today.”
Rather, most people are wondering how they’re going to get a good review at work, pay the mortgage, find a husband or wife (or just a date for the weekend), keep a husband or wife, and deal with unresolved conflict.
If you jump into their world with a discussion of the finer points of the teleological argument for God’s existence, it can sound like you don’t care about them. Put yourself in their shoes:
“Man, this is a rotten day. My boss chewed me about because I messed up the stupid monthly reports, my wife is sick, and the kids are off the walls.
“Oh that is stink. So, I was just reading a really great book, and I’d like to talk with you about how we know the universe had a beginning, which proves that God created it.”
Sure, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but I think you get the jist of it. Have a conversation in context. Show your friend you care about what they care about. Ask some questions. Be authentic. Remember in a friendship as well that it doesn’t have to be a one time conversation. Your life will be telling a story as Annika told us last week.
Be engaged and embrace the art of listening. Now that should be good news to all the introverts in the house. I have to confess that sometimes people will expect an extrovert to be the natural evangelist. But sometimes as an extrovert I will talk talk talk talk talk and miss the moment and miss the heart cry of someone looking for more. Introverts can sometimes be more present in the moment, listening for what is being said and unsaid and be engaged in meaningful conversation that really matters.
Whoever you are and however God has wired you remember that Acts 1:8 was not written to extroverts only, with an exception clause for the introverted amoung us and that the Holy Spirit empowers YOU in that conversation.
Find what works for you. Find your style. Just do it.
In every conversation you have a choice. Will you be a witness or just have a chat? Will you embrace and engage in evangelism or just talk?
See that empty seat beside you.
Imagine that filled.
Imagine there is a person sitting there.
Did you bring them?
Did you invite them?
We all know people we can invite.
Or that we can pray for an invitation.
Who are you going to carry?
Who are you going to invite?
This is a day of good news. You are invited. Everyone is invited.
As servants of the king it is our calling, our job to go out to the back roads and the fences, to carry the lame in, to lead the blind in, to show the way for those that are lost.