The time had come. She and I were the only ones in the office. I sent a quick email asking for prayer from a prayer partner and walked over to her desk, sat beside her, and asked her a question.
I was prepared. At church I was learning a new evangelism strategy that I thought was ground-breaking. It seemed to surpass every other strategy I’d ever been taught over the years – and I had gone through a LOT of them. Like this one. Do you recognize it? It got a major design upgrade since 1994. 🙂
But this one was unlike any I had ever known. It was based on Jesus’ ministry. It was a common-sense approach. I consumed my training, and I was ready.
However, the conversation didn’t go quite as planned. For one, she answered a question in a way that wasn’t in the script. I was so concentrated on going from step to step that I had to completely recalibrate on what would otherwise have been simple for me to handle. Half-trying to get back to my training and half trying to wing it, I could see I wasn’t going anywhere with her. She was friendly, but uninterested.
I tried to convince myself that I had done my part. It was my job to share. It was the Spirit’s job to do the rest. But still, all I could feel after the experience was one emotion.
It seemed so simple on the video I had watched. So clear. What went wrong?
It took me a few years to understand the answer to that question. It wasn’t in what I said or what I did.
It was what I didn’t do.
I was spending probably 20 hours per week in an office with this girl and I never sought to get to know her. Really know her. Sure, she shared general details of her life and we talked about surface subjects. But at any point, did she ever feel loved by me? Did she ever feel that I really cared?
Was my conversation with her taken as an act of loving her enough to show her freedom in Christ from the sin that held her hostage? The same chains I would be enslaved by if it hadn’t been for Christ?
Or was it taken as what it was: my eagerness to share the gospel minus the love that brought the world the good news in the first place.
I would venture most people would not have a story like this in which to relate. If you grew up in church and learned evangelism strategies like I did, you probably only used them at youth events or church outreaches or mission trips with people you may or may not see again. Rarely did they make their way into normal conversations in everyday life. I know that with few exceptions (the story above being one of them), that describes me as well.
Which is probably why we don’t share the gospel. Let’s be honest here. We cringe at sermons on evangelism. We wait out the outreach emphases in our churches until something more palatable comes up. We know we need to be reaching the world, but we have no idea how. So we throw our money in the plate and “pay” someone else to do it and feel we’ve done our part.
Here’s the deal. I was sharing Jesus with my coworker primarily because I knew the Great Commission with my mind and heart. I knew as a follower of Jesus, this was what I was supposed to do. I also could see in her life longings for God that she was trying to fulfill by the world’s promises. Her heart’s cry was evident to me. I had compassion for her.
But I didn’t love her.
In all my nervous eagerness to share the gospel I had forgotten what compelled God to send Jesus in the first place. For God so LOVED the world.
Do you want to see lost and broken come to find the freedom and wholeness that Christ offers? Do you feel completely ill-equipped to do so?
Pray for love. Ask God to help you see those around you the way He sees them. Pray the bold prayer of asking him to fill you with His love for them. When we love someone with the love of Christ so much that it hurts, then, we’ll be in the right frame of mind and state of heart to share Jesus as the Spirit leads us.
And seeing that love from us might just open their hearts to see the love of the God who relentlessly pursues them.
If I had it to do over again, what would I have done? I would have listened more. I would have asked more questions. I would have prayed for her every day. I would have asked God to give me His love for her. I would ask the Spirit to show me when to speak and when to be silent. I may have used the evangelism strategy I had learned. Or I may not have used it at all.
Please don’t get me wrong. Gospel tracts and evangelism strategies are helpful tools. And sharing Jesus with someone we hardly know IS biblical. We see example after example of this in Acts when the church grew at an explosive rate.
But for those of us who spend most of our days at work or raising our children or caring for loved ones, we need not check ourselves out of the evangelism equation. Look around you. Who do you need to get to know a little better? Who needs a listening ear? Who can you share the love of Christ with by first exemplifying the love of Christ?
Many times those opportunities are closer than we think.