What a week I have had! The past 7 days started by helping Laura run a marathon; I was her “mule” (carried stuff for her, brought her new juice bottles, etc.) and encourager and had a great time while being totally wiped out. I got a really angry email from a student about what a horrible professor I was, then had lunch with that student and patched everything up. (thanks, Lord, for reconciliation!) I officiated at not one but two funerals in three days. I was involved in helping a couple work through a really significant marital crisis. I am trying to help a young man gain direction in life and keep his relationship with his dad and step-mom manageable. These are the things that make for a draining week!
That all pales in comparison to the meeting I had on Friday afternoon, though. I have been meeting with a man who I have known since just before the first of the year, evangelizing and witnessing to him. He is older than me and has seen a lot in his life; he has significant amount of health challenges, to the point that at one time he didn’t want to live any more. I have been really praying that the Lord would get hold of him before the health problems did. He had all the information that he needed about God and Jesus; he simply needed to find the desire for Christ.
Well on Friday we met like we have been, but this meeting was different. He sat down across from me and told me that the previous Friday night he had waited for the sun to go down, shut off all the lights, and had a very deep and honest conversation with himself and then with God. And at the end of that conversation he told the Lord that he believed in Christ and wanted Him to have control over his life.
What a day for him! I was so joyful and excited for my friend. The pain in his body hasn’t gone away, but now it has meaning. The challenges of life are still there, but now they are redeemed and redeemable. He finally found that place where he could be honest with himself and with God, and in that place he found everlasting life. It wasn’t in response to an altar call in church (I rarely if ever give those), or an inability to counter some great apologetic defense I gave for the resurrection of Jesus. It was him, his Bible, and time alone with God.
I am always so humbled when God allows me to be an instrument in His hand that He uses to bring someone to Himself. It’s a joy and a pleasure to be part of His work. I thought about it a lot this week, and am more convinced than ever that at least for men the evangelism strategy that I have been using can be very effective in our current time and culture. It’s not a strategy that is cutting-edge or particularly innovative, but it has worked for me and by sharing it I pray that it might help you too.
First off, evangelism is a lifestyle. I befriend the unchurched men in my life and make it a point to share some interest with them. When I meet a guy through someone at my church or through school or a friend of a friend I try to get to know them and their interests. Whether that is running, shooting, hunting, football, MMA or something else I try to take a real interest in them. I also try to help them out without being too churchy or preachy, meeting them at their point in life. If they need help moving I help them if I can. I watch the fights with them and enjoy our time without making every outing a chance to witness with words. I have found that this builds trust and authentic caring, not only in them but in me. They are not a witnessing target but a human being of worth and dignity.
Once we have a relationship I am open about God in my life. I don’t preach, but invite them to share some about God and their thoughts on Him. And then once they are a little interested in the things of God, I ask them some questions. Where is God in their life? Have they ever truly met Jesus for who He really is in the pages of Scripture, or just heard about Him in the media? Have they ever taken the challenge to see what He really says?
If they are open to that discussion, I ask them if they will take a challenge. Then I give them a Bible if they don’t have one and bookmark the gospel of John. I ask them to begin to read it, and then offer to meet with them every couple of weeks to answer their questions about what they read. Why John? Simple: John is the only book in the Bible that specifically tells us that its purpose is evangelism:
30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)
John tells us that the purpose of his book is to lead people to faith in Christ. So rather than trying to convert someone by my logic or charm or whatever, I have focused on allowing the word of God to do what it says it will do. John Correia is limited in many respects, fallen and sinful and imperfect. On the other hand, the gospel of John is God’s inspired and inerrant Word! So I figure that God works better through John the Apostle than John the pastor and weirdo.
So my grand evangelism strategy is to ask men who are my friends, who show an interest in God, to read the gospel of John and talk with me about it. I answer their questions and reinforce the main points in the story as often as I can, allowing God to speak to them through His word rather than having them take my word for it. See, there are a million people telling them what God says. (and usually asking for money for the privilege of listening) I want them to read it for themselves, to hear it from the lips of God rather than through me!
Does it always work out perfectly? No, not by any means. I can think of at least one man who didn’t respond to what John wrote. Then again, I am not overly bothered by that fact, because it wasn’t my fault that he didn’t! I wasn’t the key to his belief or lack thereof; the issue was between him and God, not him and me. I can also now think of at least four men in the last couple of years who have responded to that approach. So I am glad for it.
Perhaps it can help you in your interactions with those who are not Christians as well. I have personally found that I really appreciate that it takes pressure off of me, because I don’t have to be perfect in my logic or witness. I just have to be faithful, pray for my friend as they are reading, and open to answer their questions. I need to be honest, available, and walking with Christ. Everything else is between them and God, and that is a good place for me emotionally. And when I get to see God get hold of someone and know that He has converted them to Christ and not to John Correia’s charisma, I know that He has hold of them in a way I never could. That means the world!
So use God’s method of conversion rather than a man-made, microwave, “sitcom-style” evangelism strategy. Yes it takes longer and is more work, but the results are worth it.
To my friend who accepted Christ this past week: I know you read ABF. I am so excited for what God is going to do with you now that you are His! Watch out, because now that you know Christ life will never be the same. I am looking forward to our friendship growing.