I am teaching an evangelism class this semester at Women at the Well. What is evangelism anyway? Evangelism can be described as spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness. There is a big difference between talking about God in front of people, and being intentional about sharing the gospel. Who do you feel most comfortable witnessing to about God? Do you feel more comfortable with a complete stranger, your family, or a neighbor? If I were a betting girl, I would say a complete stranger. Have you ever wondered why this is the case?
Often times we want to witness to complete strangers because we know that we will more than likely never see them again. There is no relationship between you and person M. So now let's move to your inner circle. Do you know statistics overwhelming support we would rather run the risk of our family going to hell, than to actually witness to them? Take a moment and re-read that sentence. Allow this information to sink down to your core. Why would we not be willing to witness to those we love the most? The fact is we have a relationship with the people in our family. When we are sharing with person M, they know nothing about us. When we are sharing our faith with friends and family, they witness our actions on a daily basis. They know all the times we have failed, or times we have not lived, as we should. Our fear is that our family and friends will think our life is inadequate to be telling anyone about Jesus.
Evangelism is most effective when you establish a relationship with a person. Please don’t take this out of context, but I believe Jesus gives us a direct call to share the gospel with those closest to us before we go to another country and do so. I am not at all belittling the need for foreign mission of course there is a need. However in Acts the Bible says, “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." The instruction is to start with your closest circle of contact and work your way out. The people that have a relationship with you deserve to hear the gospel from you. Lets look at how Jesus used relationships to share his message.
· Did Jesus just call the disciples, and without ever laying eyes on him, they left their jobs and followed him. Absolutely not, he had built a relationship with them. He had used their boats to preach a message. He had them cast out their nets, when they had caught nothing, and they brought in a bountiful catch. The point is by the time Jesus called them they knew who he was because of his actions.
· Cornelius (gentile) Peter (Jew)- God gave both these men a relationship through a vision. Cornelius was told to send for Peter in his, while Peter was instructed that nothing was unclean in his vision. When Peter arrives at Cornelius he had invited his whole family and acquaintances to hear the Word of God. Because Cornelius had a relationship with these people they trusted him to steer them in the right direction. This ultimately led to his whole household being saved. Acts 10:45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
· The woman at the well. Jesus shared the gospel with the woman at the well. She then went back into town and told all her neighbors what she had heard. Because she had a relationship with people in her town they gathered at the well to hear what Jesus had to say. John 4:39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (NIV)
· When Jesus meets Mathew he is a tax collector. The Bible says he had dinner with him, and many other tax collectors and sinners came in to dine. Mathew 9:11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
In all these occasions Jesus meets the people where they are in their life. He doesn’t brow beat them with the gospel, but confronts them with genuine compassion and love. The problem with the average Christian today is they are in a bubble with only professed Christians. Is there anything wrong with having Christian friends--of course not. We have to push our self to the edge however to make opportunities to share our faith. We have to be intentional about the relationships we seek. League softball has always been a great place for us to find ministry opportunities. Every year we have prayed that God will give us a family on our team that needs someone to minister to them. Every year he has provided us with the opportunity.
I challenge you today to think of someone that you have a relationship with that may not know the Lord. As you are talking with them in the coming days be intentional in your conversations about the Lord. Remember our everyday lives speak much louder than our words. Everyday we must faithfully commit ourselves to live for the Lord. Although it can be nerve racking, if we have spent time in prayer God will surely give us the words.
Luke 12:11 do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”