1/ Friendship evangelism, 2/ Different styles of evangelism: street work 3/ Situational and circumstantial evangelism 4/ Essentials needed to establish the new believer.
The faithful witness: A catalyst for a miracle
Look around you. Have you considered how many opportunities to witness pass you by every day? They literally walk past you in the street. They’re sitting beside you in the bus shelter. They’re standing beside you in the queue at the supermarket.
I am speaking to those people who are free to make choices about their lives. You have a good life, and are not threatened by violence or harm. We are in a unique situation if we can choose our friends, make our own decisions, decide where we will go. Millions of people do not have these privileges. Yet, there are people who make the most of their present circumstances. Those that make a difference in their own lives and others seem to be willing to take a risk.
Certainly, there is an element of danger in risk-taking. For some they are willing to take a chance. That means relying on coincidence, on the unplanned, unknown outcome. Others decide on taking a risk and plan and consider their options. They might thing, it is better than the present circumstances they are in. They reason there just might be a possibility, by doing something different, things could change.
One thing’s sure. Where there is a need for a decision and if you waver between two opposing ideas, for as long as you waver between two minds, nothing will happen. Indecision id=s wavering between two points” .
“A double minded person is unstable in all their ways” .
As far as the Christian life is concerned indecisive behaviour reveals what could be either a lack of planning, fear, or as a result of fear, a lack of faith. In this stae of indecision very many opportunities are lost. Better to nurture the belief that you are in the centre of God’s will. Better to pray and believe you are being led by the Lord. Better to look at all the factors involved, write them down in two lists side by side, the for’s and the against’s, and make an informed decision, no matter how small, than to stand still.
In the bible, we can find examples where extraordinary things happen based on the smallest decision. One element is always there. The pivotal point upon which their decision hinges, is, they believe God is for them and not against them. They’re willing to risk it. We then discover what changed the events was not so much their decision, they could have made any number of decisions, but because of the course they chose to take, God intervened and turned the circumstances around. When we take this into account and look at the results of the decisions they made, we see there is an invisible world working on our behalf alongside our visible one.
Another way we can look at the working of God in the affairs of the world. When we consider the account given us in the four gospels we see that Jesus changed sides. He was not set in His ways. He was only on one side and to be on that side he may have had to swop sides to get there. Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed.
This shows that Jesus was moved by compassion. He showed empathy for those browbeaten by their task masters. Did He then step in and showed kindness and consideration for those that deserved it? No, not those that deserved it. Rather, he opposed and spoke out against bullies. He opposed and spoke out against injustice. He was aware of unequal balances and weights. Jesus was always on the side of good.
Jesus shows his compassion for the Samaritan woman at the well, possibly ill-treated and rejected by five husbands as a result of the unjust divorce laws of that day. The awful shame she had to bear because of injustice Jesus shows his intolerance for religious self -righteousness. He spoke the parable of the man beaten and left to die by the side of the road. It was not the self-righteous but The hated and despised Samaritan that helped the injured man. Jesus showed righteous anger at the self-righteous religious leaders of that day. The woman taken in adultery and the awful demeaning way in which the religious men handled the situation. Jesus hated unrighteousness and religiosity. What does all this have to do with evangelism?
The key to effective evangelism is empathy.
Different approaches, different styles of evangelism, for every situation.
Friendship Evangelism. The faithful witness: a catalyst for a miracle.
Remember the little maid who spoke to the wife of Naaman the Leper? (11 Kings 5:2-3). Her circumstances were very difficult. She had every right to be afraid for her own safety, and to keep quiet about her faith. However, she spoke up and the results were, Naaman was healed!
What a beautiful picture the little maid presents of a faithful believer with concern for the lost. All over the world, there are people like this brave young woman. They find themselves placed in situations where they can be used as God’s mouthpiece. They take advantage of being in situations and in places where the rich and famous gather, as well as in the market place.
Reader, where has God placed you? Look around you. How many opportunities to be a witness of God’s majesty rush by you every day? Is it that you may never have really considered that God has chosen to place you where you live and work? Your present circumstances are just the right colour for the new tapestry threads God wants to weave into your and your neighbour’s life. You must believe you are in the centre of God’s will, first for your own life, and secondly, for those around you
The little maid was very courageous, as she was not in the best of company. The Syrians were known for their vicious attacks on neighbouring nations. They would go out in marauding parties and took special delight in stealing the women and young girls, carrying them away with them after attacking a village. Sisera was like this (Jdg 6:4-30). Interestingly, a woman, Jael overcame him as noted above.
We see that this little maid, (probably just a child) knew the God of Israel. Her great faith and boldness is revealed through her words. The girl told her mistress that there was a prophet in Israel that could heal her husband of his leprosy.
This is the working of miracles in action. Her declaration set up a chain of events. Once the little maid spoke these words, she put on notice the wife of Naaman and once the message was conveyed to another everyone in the chain leading to this miracle had to play his or her part. Not only Naaman, but Naaman’s king, Israel’s Elisha the Prophet and even the Lord were on notice. The little maid had exercised her faith. She said in effect, Israel’s God can heal you. Today we point them to Jesus. Jesus can heal you.
Tract and Street Work
Street work is confronting people with the gospel.
Rather than friendship evangelism, tract work in the street requires a far, bolder approach. Done in a determined way, to simply pass out tracts hand to hand to busy passers-by is the exact opposite of friendship evangelism, which relies upon nurturing a genuine long-term relationship. You simply carry printed literature. It may be that you may not even be able to have the opportunity to engage in conversation. It may be confrontational.
Along the way you distribute the printed message wherever you go, even if it is only a tract left as you leave public premises, or wherever you happen to be. Talking to people, confronting and comforting them with the claims of Christ, wherever you go, brings results. However, you may not be the one who reaps, then again, you may. I’ve read people who sneer at this. They have never done it or are not evangelists. I do it regularly. People are touched that you care. Again, empathy is the key.
When I have the time I stop and speak to people standing around in the street, I simply strike up a conversation with them. Recently, I was walking toward a man leaning against a fence. I asked him if he’d been waiting long? From there we chatted about small things, and life in general. As I was leaving, I said, I’m a Christian, is there anything you’d like me to pray for? Yes, he said, and told me his mother was sick, and as well, he needed a job. I prayed there and then for him and suggested to him to begin to pray for himself on retiring each night. I assured him God answers prayer and I said I’d continue to pray which I do.
You might ask people as you hand them a tract: Hey, do you believe Jesus is alive? Do you know God loves you? Excuse me, got a minute? Have you ever given your life to Jesus? Hey, hello there, have you heard the Good News? Do you have the gift of eternal life?
They might get into conversation with you – or they may not. But generally I find they do. No one is ever rude. People readily accept my approach. I make it fun and they are responsive.
Carried out properly, street evangelism is productive particularly where there is a local street church. For two years I worked with such a church in Hindley Street, Adelaide. It was very fruitful because there was somewhere to invite street kids to come and hear the gospel message, to get off the street and have a meal before service Sunday night.
You can build a church right there in a shopfront on the street, or back of a building. You can take them to a coffee shop close by. You can invite them to meet up at another time to chat and but them a coffee. Save your tithes and invest directly into lives. Do the work of the Evangelist. Be in season out of season. I enjoy street work.
What do I mean by street work? Far too much has been made of the supposed difficulties of street evangelism. How many people think that street evangelism won’t work in their town, city or country? Very many! They are convinced it is a separate specialised work in which only the few ‘select’ bold ones can participate? Allow me to encourage you. You can be successful in all aspects of evangelism. All you need is humility to under-stand people and empathy. Is that too hard?
However, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it. How often do we see a group of Christians leaving the safety and secularism of their churches to go into the streets to ‘ambush’ poor unsuspecting locals? I remember I was invited to a large church in Sydney. I was there by invitation of the Pastor.
A group of us travelled there to start a work with the deaf there in the local church. It was situated in notorious King’s Cross. While there I was invited to share with the street evangelists before they went out that Saturday night in the local area to witness.
I challenged them that if they were going to do this kind of work that they needed to be willing to give their shoes if they met someone who had none. Street work, when you get right down to it, is where the one-night-intown revellers visit, but where the homeless live. Has it occurred to you Jesus said he was homeless. He had nowhere to lay his head. He was rejected by his family, his own people, and his friends on occassions.
Now if we do street work in a heartless fashion, here today and gone tomorrow, not really caring, but somehow, getting a good religious feeling by doing our duty of ‘preaching the gospel’ to the world, we will not only fail, but street people in particular become hardened to the gospel.
This kind of work done in this kind of spirit of non compassion is doomed to fail. On a religious high and having fulfilled their duty, the Christians have preached a false gospel: be warmed and be satisfied but don’t bother me. They then run for cover, not really feeling for the plight of the people they approach. If we are honest, many of us who have attempted this style of evangelism are guilty of working religiously, dare I say, self-righteously in this fashion at some stage.
Having said that, given the chance of engaging in discussion with someone in the street, you then quickly have to find the common ground, and start from there. I am always prepared to meet them back at the same place and have a coffee with them and a further chat. Street work, done effectively, is the same as any other friendship-style evangelism. We can progress gradually from natural to spiritual in our communication with people.
For example, consider any town, village, or city in your nation. There is always a local hangout, a street or a shop or a doorway where young people or kids gather. It may be a pub where they regularly play pool, or kids sit on a footpath. Often they are lonely and bored, just marking time.
Anyone willing to put in the time can go there regularly and make contact with these kinds of people, building bridges of friendship. If we were willing to work regularly in one small area, for instance, a local pub, outside a take-away, within the vicinity of a popular meeting place, say a coffee shop and the streets surrounding them, gradually getting to know the workers and owners and those who frequent their premises, we would have success. I know because I have done it.
By going there regularly and chatting, we will gradually build up contacts that God can begin to work with them through us. The main strategy is to form friendships. It is wise to let them know straight away you are a Christian, but then, perhaps take a low profile, displaying a genuine interest, finally sharing of yourself with them in their trials and yours. This is being a friend.
Make yourself available to meet those who you contact. Arrange a time and meet them for a coffee and bun. Include them in social gatherings that you are involved in. In other words, build a relationship, but naturally, not rushing or striving to make anything happen. By now, you have realised that to be effective in this area, as in all other areas of evangelism, a long-term commitment is needed. This cannot be a hit and miss affair.
There is a saying that is worthy of mention here, ‘feeding fish bite’. When people will socialise with you, they are ready for the gospel, but in God’s timing, not yours. There is often a culture shock suffered by ‘straight’ Christians when they first enter street work, but if we do not allow this to act as a deterrent, we will adjust to the culture.
I assure you the culture shock is just as great for the unbeliever and new convert when they first come to church and mix with the ‘straights’. The church leader who sits in a swivel chair all day behind a large polished desk, the church members who attend church on the weekend, comfortable in the small narrow world of church attendance and fellowship, are extremely limited in reaching out to the outside ‘real’ world around them.
Nevertheless, this is the world Jesus told us to go into, to preach and to teach the good news; ‘Go into all the world’. Were Jesus here now, you would find him there, mixing with the down and outs, the hard up, the out of work, the fallen out of favour, the women and men of the night, the strippers, the bouncers and bikies, pub-goers and bar workers, and drink waiters and those who wait tables, the street kids and druggies. The cons and the criminals.
Jesus would challenge the ‘straights’ in the church. A gospel of taboos has no place anywhere, but, especially in the streets. People have a need to feel accepted, how and where they are. You will then find they are also ready to accept you how and where you are. It is a two-way street
You will also find, the later the night the lonelier the people. It is usually best to do this work with a partner; someone you trust and who thinks the same way you do. Learn to work together allowing one another singularly the freedom to talk with people you meet. Don’t both together verbally gang up on people; rather one on one is best. Be ready to withdraw your presence should the occasion arise, allowing your partner to gain closer communication and friendship, waiting for him or her nearby.
Do not get hung-up on how many people you talk to. Remember, this is God’s work from start to finish. A night spent talking with just one person could profit more for God than a hundred tracts given out and not one personal contact made.
Do you find talking to the unsaved difficult? If people do not talk about God, are you left wondering what to talk about? I suggest that, if this is you, your world has become too narrow. Is it possible you are not involved in any works of kindness? James admonishes us that ‘faith without accompanying works is dead’. Although not of it, we are in this world, and we need to keep up with current fads and happenings to be effective. We also might acquaint ourselves with the jargon of the street and the drug culture, particularly, if we are working among youth, but its not important. Any age can work with youth. Travelling the world, teaching evangelism, I always inquired if there was someone who wanted to work with me as my partner in the street.
The worker’s approach
Street work requires great wisdom and understanding. When first approach or introduction is made, the person you talk to will query motives. It takes time to show, by your words and actions, that your motives are pure. Be on your guard in this respect. As we faithfully go, God will bring us in contact with ‘feeding fish’. A great sense of satisfaction can be derived from this type of work.
In street evangelism, you will often run into large groups of revellers or several kids all together, hanging around, wanting some action. When I run into them on the street I will walk up and say aloud, ‘you are all under arrest’. That gets their attention. Then I assure them I am not a police officer, but an evangelist and I am about to handcuff them to God’s love by telling them about God’s forgiveness. You see them visibly relax, and then get ready to give some quick smart answers. I have never had them ignore me yet. They all talk together wanting to get their questions or back talk in.
Arrange to meet them again, next week. They may or may not turn up. If they do, gather the cluster group around you through friendship, pray much behind the scenes and do not be in opposition to their leader. Try to win her or him. Wherever a group like this gathers, and you start talking to them as a group, as the fire heats up, the viper will often come out of the heat to strike.
Remember what happened to Paul, ‘And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand’ (Acts 28:3). The dissenter, the spokesperson for the crowd, is the one you have to win. However, remember, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but they are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Now, it is no good saying, ‘isn’t the weather awful’, and expecting the conversation to open into a more serious discussion. It is better to develop a few opening lines that can be used anywhere and at any time and remember that the opening lines need to be suited to the environment or the circumstances at hand.
Take Jesus and the woman at the well. His opening line was, ‘give me a drink’. It would have been of no profit him approaching her by saying, “Who do you think will win the elections this year?” No! The obvious was, ‘let’s talk about water’, since that was, for both of them, the business at hand. Then at the opportune moment Jesus turned the natural “give me a drink” to the spiritual application of the same. If you happen to pass a drive-in grog shop you might go to the counter and ask them “do you sell living water?” I have had some great conversations that way.
Is it sometimes embarrassing for people to be confronted with the gospel? Yes, it can put them on the spot. However, by introducing the subject through the things that are made, then take them to the understanding to see the invisible things, the heavenly realities, arrests their attention. It is the way Jesus did it.
In addition, should the hearer get embarrassed, well, I try to make them comfortable, by changing the subject, relaxing them. As shared previously, even if it is only a tract left behind, you have taken them one step further in coming into the realm of the knowledge of the love of God for them which, after all is said and done, is the kernel of the gospel. A tract was my first step in finally accepting Jesus. I was told ‘keep reading it’. I obeyed. Remarkable that.
So get busy, start sharing and you will pick up the trail of other wise ones who have been there before you.
Evangelism’s central themeGod’s love, displayed in Jesus, and only Jesus, is the central theme of the gospel of grace. Grace cannot be stressed enough. Your denominational zeal will not win people to Christ. Your persistence in correcting people’s attitudes towards God and the Church will turn them off. Those anti-feelings they may display toward God and the church are real to them. If they have suffered at the hands of the church why attempt to deny them their experience?’ When they finally give you the opportunity to do so, share Jesus, not your denominational stance or your pet doctrine.
Situational and circumstantial Evangelism
In the workplace, the witnesser will see the same people every day. Chances are they will spend more time with them in work place than with their family or partner. A strategy can be worked out in an attempt to win workmates to Jesus. In every group situation, you need to consider who the key person among them is. People move in cluster groups and if you win the leader of that cluster then you win the whole group. Usually the prominent person in the cluster is not necessarily the loudest person, or the most talkative, nor necessarily the one who actively opposes you.
In my experience, more often than not, it is the strong, silent, passively aggressive type who says little yet observes closely all that is going on so that they can stay in charge of the group. Very often, the one doing all the talking will look to this person as their authority figure, for his or her approval. As the leader, they may sense their control and leadership in the group is under threat, which it is, of course! Jesus wants control of hearts and minds. Often, these behind-the-scene folk make the bullets, and the loud mouths in the group fire them.
Strategy is needed in the work place or where you encounter people on a daily basis. Do not jump in too quickly. Wisdom tells us to go in prepared, but not to be hasty. You do not have to say much to the people you work alongside. You simply wait, in much prayer. The farmer waits for the precious fruit to ripen.
When the time is right, and the situation arises, let it be known you are a believer. In some cases, where I know the person is hungry for God, I will even hold back from talking. This makes them all the more inquisitive. I especially avoid grouping together with other believers due to cliques forming thus placing the inquirer on the outside. I’ve noticed Christians love forming cliques. They have not yet found their identity in Jesus.
Cliques are caught-up with their own social and often exclusive agendas. It is well nigh impossible for the new believer to break into this kind of group. My advice is don’t get caught up into cliques. Be on the lookout for the stranger and the loner, and join them. When attending church I prefer to sit alone and make myself available this way for ‘lost coins’ in the house.
If you are a willing witnesser, you will become aware of plans being aborted, of strangers attempting to embarrass you, or get you on the defensive, or people you are reaching out to getting distracted. Resist taking the bait. In fishing terms, you might say it is like playing out the line further. In biblical terms, the wittnesser must not strive but be patient, ready to teach.
Circumstantial Evangelism: Taking Every Opportunity
You might meet someone as I did recently. He had a friend who was in a coma due to a violent assault. You can assure that person that you will pray on their behalf. I often carry tissues and a small vial of oil; I explain that I will pray now for that person, I anoint the tissue with oil and pray for the person who has the need. I suggest to the person I’m speaking to that they put the tissue under the needy person’s mattress. It becomes a point of contact for their faith after you depart from them. Perhaps they are even willing for you to accompany them to the hospital, visit the victim, and pray for their recovery.
My sister Joy and I did this witnessing to a distraught parent. A wonderful healing ensued. A man named Jim came to her home to clean the swimming pool. We witnessed to him. He said his little girl was in hospital and could not digest food; the doctors had no answer. We asked if he would like us to visit and pray. The result was she began to keep down food, and was soon released from hospital. Do not miss an opportunity for God.
Circumstantial evangelism requires great faith and boldness because it is ‘on the spot’, the ‘working of miracles’ kind of ministry. It is getting far enough out on a limb to put your faith where your mouth is. It is putting your faith on the line. This is often the reason, the dividing line, why many do not look for opportunities to witness. They do not have the faith to believe God will act on their words. Yet, the Scripture promises that God will perform the counsel of His messenger.
Recently I was sin a shop having a closing down sale. I asked the woman if she had a job to go to. She said no. I asked do you mind if I spray for you to find one? She was ok with that. I prayed with my eye open no hint of religiosity- God’s ok with that – (smile). She thanked me profusely and was genuinely touched that I cared.
For then you shall have your delight in the Almighty, and shall lift up your face to God. You shall make your prayer to God, and God shall hear you, and you shall pay your vows. You shall also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto you: and the light shall shine upon thy ways. When people are cast down, then you shall say, There is a lifting up; and God shall save the humble person. The innocent shall be delivered by the pureness of your hands. Job 22:26-30
Isaiah 44:26 assures us ‘God shall confirm the word of the servant of God; and perform the counsel of the messengers of God’
God is willing to give us counsel and instruction in every situation. Ruling in the circumstances does not mean dominating those in your presence. It is understanding that you are in charge of every circumstance and turning it around to the glory of God. Remarkable miracles begin to happen in this type of evangelism.
Paul’s ministry on the Isle of Malta was purely circumstantial. He found himself on the Isle of Malta and through the circumstances he found himself in, he started a mini-revival just because he immediately took stock of the situation. ‘And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him’. The evangelist can go forth in the full assurance, The Lord working with them with signs and wonders following. (Acts 14:3. Acts 28:8)
Wisdom needed to establish the new convert
The Worker’s Wisdom and Understanding
On one occasion, when Jesus was teaching his disciples, he instructed them, ”Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves”.
Here is a lesson about snakes. The serpent has in the roof of its mouth what is known as Jacobson’s organ. This is capable of detecting minute quantities of various chemical substances when they are picked up externally on the delicate double tipped tongue. Once detected, it is then thrust into the organ for analysis. This organ is important, primarily, in trailing and recognition of prey. It is also used in the detection of enemies, in trailing other snakes of the same species and lastly, in courtship. Another remarkable thing about the serpent is that it leaves scent trails, which grow stronger as more of them increasingly follow it, seeking a place of hibernation for the winter months (Encyclopaedia Britannica 16, page 564).
This example concerning wisdom from the natural world around us shouts loud and clear. Whenever you talk to someone, pick up the trail left by others before you. In this way be as wise as the serpent. Does the person you are talking to know anything about God? Are they angry about the church or someone in it? Maybe they are angry with God? Has someone been witnessing before you arrived? Do they have a relative who is a Christian. How much Scripture knowledge do they have? Maybe a family member shared the gospel with them before you came along.
We do not have to reinvent the wheel. Pick up where the last worker left off. Pick up the trail on information you perceive or are plainly told. It may be on the last negative event that took place concerning their experience of Christianity. This is one way of considering what Jesus meant when he said we are to be ‘wise as serpents’.
Witnessing is serious fun. Yes, it can sometimes disturb the person we are reaching out to on behalf of Jesus. Nevertheless, disturb them we must, to wake them out of their sleep. Remember Paul on the isle of Patmos; turning up the heat brings serpents out in the open, be it the pit or the refuge they were hibernating in.
 Isaiah 45:11 Psa 73:24 Psa 106:13; 107:11; Prov 1:25 8:14 19:20; 19:21; Isa 11:2; 16:3; 28:19.
Remember … the Anointing is for the Goers …
Jesus said: “Go into all the world and lo I am with you.”