Tuesday, May 24

My Plan of Evangelism...

In a class on Evangelism and Discipleship the Professor asked us to write out our plan of evangelism. In it we were to include our testimony, what type of situations we would set up or seek out, how we would present the Gospel, and how we would answer the common questions or problems that people raise regarding Christianity or God. In my paper I followed none of these steps. I have no clue what my grade will be but I had to be honest to my true plan of Evangelism which is a living a life permeated with God. Below is the paper I submitted. Please read it, ponder over it and let me know what you think. You may think I am way off... and that is fine, just please share why and share it with love.

My Plan of Evangelism

We all have a story; we may see our story as starting at different times, some in their childhood, some in their teen years and some not until later in life. Whether we realize it or not our stories began long ago, our stories are just one in a line of many all pointing to the same conclusion. From the beginning of time, all of creation has pointed toward Christ’s coming, redemption, and parousia, and every person born is a part of the Big Story of God. Whether an individual is a believer or unbeliever they are apart of Gods Story. As believers, God calls us to witness to those who have yet to enter a loving relationship with the Father and accept the gift of salvation offered only through His son Jesus Christ.

Just as every person is apart of God’s Big Story, we each have our own individual stories, which are valuable to God and to our fellow man. It is easy to think of our story as swallowed up in Gods story, while this is true it is not to the neglect of our individual story. All of our stories point either toward Christ or away from him. In the process of evangelism, God is asking us to share His Story, the good news of the Gospel, with our fellow man. Sometimes this will involve sharing our own personal story as well, and at other times, our story may not enter the conversation, or may come later in the relationship (if one develops).

Our individual stories are long and often when sharing the Gospel the Holy Spirit may lead us to share a certain part of our life while leaving out other aspects of our story. I am only twenty-eight years old and yet I have been able to share parts of my story with those close to three times my elder as well as with little kids. Obviously, I did not share the same content. My regular prayer to God is that I would be open to the leading of His Spirit at every moment of every day. I cannot plan when a conversation with my neighbor will lead to a prayer or when it will stick to the topic of gardening but God is more than aware and He is already at work on others and on us. He is aware of the process of the person we are talking with and He is more than confident in His leading us in what to share and how to share it.

Learning to listen to and understand the voice of God, as well as responding with obedience, are the first steps in my plan of Evangelism. The Holy Spirit is our helper and our guide, as I learn to listen to the Holy Spirit I see regular trips to the supermarket becoming God-encounters, and at other times they are simply trips to the supermarket. The reason this is such a valuable step and part of my “plan” is that it puts all the pressure back on God. It is not my job to save people, to come up with what to say, to convince them etc. My only job is to be submitted to God in love, walking in obedience. This does not rule out the need for preparation, on the contrary, as we read in 1 Peter 3:15 we need to “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence”.

For this reason another part of my plan of evangelism is to be in the habit of studying scripture. I do not mean to study only the parts of scripture that refer to some form of evangelism but to be in the discipline of studying. God can and does speak to us through his word. If we store up the words of God in our heart we give Him more to pull from when we reach certain circumstances. If I am witnessing to a woman, all the while praying for direction, and God brings to mind the story of the encounter between Jesus and the woman at the well I would then ask God how that applies to this woman and how I can use that in sharing Christ with her. Knowing the word also helps when people have problems with God and Christianity or if they have trouble understanding God or the ways he acted in scripture. One of the common responses of unbelievers toward the thought of God is “what about the Old Testament? Is that the same God? He did a lot of mean and violent stuff to people and I could not follow a God like that”. Our understanding of scripture and how God reveals His character and His principals, through the compliment of both testaments, helps clear up those misunderstandings and show unbelievers that there is one God and he is all good, all loving and all just all at the same time and never to the neglect of an aspect of His character. Our study of scripture also serves to aid us in our understanding of God and His ways. The more we understand, the more we can share with others who do not believe. The Bible teaches us how to walk in Christ likeness, how to minister, how to teach, how to love and so much more. As we learn these things, our very life will be the fragrance of Christ both to those who believe and to those who are perishing (2Cor2:15).

Another part of my plan of evangelism is to stay up to date on what is happening in our culture as well as around the world. It is important as believers to not live in a bubble. We are to live in the world but not to allow the ways of the world to guide us. We are to remember that while we live in the world we are citizens of another realm. But, we are still to be in the world. Much of what is happening today (and in history for that matter) is a great source of grief and misunderstanding for those in the world who do not know God. There is so much devastation, pain, poverty, crime, and pure evil for an unbeliever to understand or even believe that there is a good all-powerful God who created this world and who still holds all power.

Some of the problems and question unbeliever have today relate to the events in Haiti, New Orleans, the surge of tornado’s and hurricanes, the unrest in the Middle East, revolutions, wars, famine, sex-slavery, selfishness and list goes on and on. The common question is that if God is good, loving and all-powerful he could do something about all this, but evil and pain continue, so either there is not a God or he is not a God I want to follow. We do not want to be unaware of the struggles of our fellow man but we want to be able to approach the situations of the world from a higher perspective. We do not have all the answers, we cannot say why certain things happened or if it was judgment or just nature. We do not understand why some people are protected and others suffer or die. We may never have these answers for a hurting world but we do know God, we know the story of how he created and intended the world to be and we know what set things in a different direction, the fall of man and handing over of this world to the enemy of God. But, we also know Gods plan of redemption, we know the hope of the story in the coming of Christ. We know and can communicate the love of God that was demonstrated to the world in the sending of His Son, the death of His Son and the resurrection of His Son by the very power of God. We also know Gods plan for the future, for us to realize in the natural the full reign of God over everything. Hebrews 2 tells us: “’you have put all things in subjection under his feet’. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus…” (Heb 2:8-9a). Although Satan is the God of this world, Christ has opened the door for redemption, and all who choose to enter in take part in the kingdom of God. The good news of salvation must be spread to all peoples, to every set of ears born. Gods desire is that all would receive the salvation He has freely offered to all who believe; in actuality we know that many will reject this free gift and the way of life that is a part of a relationship with God.

We need to understand that some, even many, will reject God. It is easy to feel guilty if people we are witnessing to reject the life God has called them to, but we must remember it is not about us. If we are fulfilling the great commission through being led by the Spirit and open to the voice of God in every situation, following through with obedience, then all we need to do is what God tells us to do in the way he tells us to do it. In this way, although it will break our heart if people reject the Gospel we must keep our focus on God, allow him to correct us if we did make a mistake and trust that he loves the lost far more than we do and he is working to lead them toward him.

Another part of my plan is honesty. By honesty, I do not only mean not lying but also not withholding certain things for the sake of getting a yes from people. I have heard people teach that in evangelism you pretty much are not suppose to say anything hard, say nothing about lifestyle change… Jesus accepts people just as they are right? This avoidance of the ‘hard things’ is thought to be based in Love but really it is based in self and not the love of God. Jesus said many hard things but he was always right in what he was saying and in his motivation. My goal is not to purposely turn people away but I also will not shy away from hard things if the Spirit is leading me to share those things. I remember hearing a preacher once say, “what you win them with, you will have to keep them with”. This has always stuck with me and been apart of my plan of evangelism. If we ‘win’ people with a prosperity gospel what will happen when hard times come? Will they have a strong enough relationship with God to stick it out and grow in the midst of what is happening? What if God wants us to tell people to leave all they have and fully submit to Jesus as Lord, that there life will no longer be there own, that they will be giving up all right to control their own life? These are things many would never say to an unbeliever, out of fear or man or fear of turning them off to the gospel, but are not these principals involved in following Jesus. The beauty of these hard sayings is that we are not just giving up control and throwing things to the wind, we are giving complete authority to the creator of the universe, who has a perfect perspective of how things are, is completely loving and good and has only our best in mind. We are choosing to admit that we do not know how things are suppose to be, that we are prone toward selfishness and carnal desires but we are wiling to put our trust in one greater than ourselves.

I know many will have questions about Christianity but I also do not have a set answer for these type of questions. Through out the gospels we see Jesus giving answers to questions the Pharisee’s did not seem to ask, or addressing what people were really thinking but not willing to say aloud. Different people have asked me the same question but, each time I answer, it is different. People are asking questions for a variety of reasons, some out of anger, or hurt, some out of cynicism or pride. We do not know where the question is coming from but God does and I trust that he will lead me in addressing the questions that he allows people to bring my way. This, plus being faithful to study scripture, culture, and other beliefs leads me to answer the same question in many different ways. Most often, I find peoples questions are not really about the specific details they are asking about but are about principals. Through study of scripture and time spent in relationship with God we can understand the principals he has laid out and communicate those to people who are seeking.

My main step in my plan of evangelism is in being overwhelmed by the love of God for me and the world, and asking to Him to continually open my eyes to see from his perspective. As we become increasingly devoted in our love toward Him and throw ourselves into understanding Him and demonstrating Christ-likeness in our everyday life, evangelism will pour out of our whole life naturally. No area of our life will be closed off to evangelism but everything from our prayers, marriages, families, daily ‘chores’, and errands, purposeful encounters and everyday life will be permeated with openness to evangelism as the Spirit leads and directs. Moreover, we can trust that God desires the lost to receive salvation even more than we do and He is able to lead us to fulfill our role. All we have to do is walk in humble submission and obedience, leading with love.