Over the next few blog posts I want to write about my thoughts about evangelism. But before I do I feel l need to come clean about a few things.
I think I am naturally (or spiritually gifted) as a Bible teacher. I love teaching the Bible. I love the nerdy stuff of working out verbal aspect of Greek verbs, how does ancient rhetorical devices work in the letters of the New Testament, etc. I realise not many other people share these passions and so I don’t share them around (and I am sure Soma is thankful for that). I love thinking about the Bible, how to apply and teach it. I never get sick of it.
I am not sure I am a natural (or spiritually gifted) evangelist, at least on a personal level. Part of this conclusion has been looking at circumstances. When I go to a church or Christian meeting, I pray God would put me next to someone I can minister to. I try and sit next to someone who is not a Christian. 9/10 I will end up sitting next to a Christian who is thinking about professional ministry (and there aren’t that many of them). I remember one meeting I sat down next to someone I knew to be a non-Christian, they got up a few seconds later and were replaced by a Christian who was dealing with an issue of Christian ministry! It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way things are or rather it is way God is answering my prayer.
When I go on Christian missions and there is time for door knocking, I seem be the one who doesn’t come back with a great story of being able to share the Gospel in some way. I don’t think I am rude, or perhaps not forthright enough. It’s just all the doors I knock on there is no-one home. But it is hard not to feel a small sense of failure since I am the one supposed to be training people in how to do this.
But that does not mean God has not used me in evangelism. Like I said, I love to teach the Bible and I think the best way of doing evangelism is opening the Bible and introducing people to Jesus. People have invited me to do that in preaching opportunities. I have done that in places all over Australia, and some people have become Christians through that. For others it was a first step to finding out about Jesus and months later made commitments. Praise God. I love doing that because it reminds me of the Gospel and who I am too.
But I love personal evangelism…and hate it at the same time.
I love being able to talk about Jesus. I love being able to hear people’s stories and ideas and asking them about how Jesus fits in. I actually love having my beliefs challenged to work out what is truth and what has simply been adopted without thinking about it. I love hearing the Gospel, even if it is from my lips.
But it is a complicated relationship. One of the things that I really hate about doing walk up evangelism is when people say “No thanks, I don’t want to talk to you”. Our relationship has lasted less than 10 secs, and they are far from being rude and yet I can’t help but to take it really personally. It doesn’t make sense, and I am hypocritical about it in that when someone wants to talk to me about “our new credit card deal” or “supporting kids overseas” I have no problem rejecting them, but I feel personally rejected when someone says “no” to me. I have a profound respect for people who go and ask people to talk with them hour after hour and are not reduced to a bawling mess.
I think one of the things I struggle with with cold contact evangelism is that I am painfully shy. Some people might find this surprising. I have worked on TV and stood on stage in front of 10,000 people once and yet I would rather do that than meet someone new. One of the hardest parts of my week is, after preaching (which is far more draining than it appears) having to go up and meet the new people who have come to church.
Some might argue at this point that I should stick to what I am gifted at and let others do what they are gifted at. But here is the thing:
As much as I love the gifts that Jesus has given me, I love Him more.
There are people who don’t know Jesus. I am convinced that being better at personal evangelism will actually make me a better disciple of Jesus and if nothing else a better Bible teacher.