Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Most Powerful Tool for Evangelism

Dear Friends,

I knew an evangelist who often spoke of how many “souls he had won for Jesus” and I was somewhat envious. He told me that he had a near 100% success rate and if he started a conversation at a Starbucks (his favorite place) it was almost guaranteed that they would pray the prayer with him to accept Jesus. We were out having coffee one day and he said, “Watch how I do this.” He walked up to a young, slightly-built guy in the parking lot. Told him he was a pastor, engaged him in conversation, found out what some of the guy’s life problems were and then offered to pray for him. Like most people, the young man agreed. 

The evangelist took both of the guy's hands in his and began to pray. Then I saw the secret to the evangelist’s success! When he was through praying, he didn’t let go of the guy’s hands. As the man was struggling to pull away, the evangelist gripped his hands even more tightly. Then he asked the guy if he wanted to accept Jesus into his life.  

Imagine that was you. There’s a large, rough-looking man, standing very close to you. He's holding tightly onto your hands and you can't get away. You feel more than a little claustrophobic standing this close to a stranger and you may be getting anxious – perhaps even a little frightened. And at this point, even if you’re a committed atheist, you're going to pray that prayer to accept Jesus just to get away! My evangelist friend later told me that the secret to “soul winning” is that you never let go of their hands until they've accepted Jesus!

Here’s the good news about sharing the Good News. You don’t have to put people into a holy headlock and strong-arm them into the Kingdom. You don’t need to manipulate them by sweetening the deal with promises of divine health and wealth if they accept Christ. You don't need to carry a sign and preach in a park. And, as I wrote last week, you don’t need to seduce someone into salvation! If you are a Christian (defined as one who follows Jesus) you are already living the Gospel message and that means that His story has been interwoven with your story. And God has now given you the most powerful evangelism tool that you could possibly ever have. Your story.

We are captivated by a good story. Stories shape the way we think when they convey values and solutions. The essence of story is the most powerful communication tool we have. Too many times we want to preach doctrine and become frustrated when we find ourselves engaged in arguing over politics, personal beliefs and doctrinal differences that distract us from the love and grace of Jesus. 

Years ago where I worked, our division secretary was a life-long, committed Jehovah’s Witness. I couldn’t debate doctrine with her. J.W.’s are highly skilled at countering any arguments. But when I would tell her the story of what God was doing in my life, she’d just shake her head in amazement and say, “That doesn’t happen with a Witness!” She could argue all day long with my biblical interpretation, but you can’t debate another person’s experience. She eventually left the J.W.’s and today she’s an Evangelical Christian. She couldn’t dismiss or deny the visible evidence that God was making changes in my life. And, it was not through any skill or cleverness on my part that opened her eyes to the truth of the Gospel. It was nothing I’d learned in Bible college. It was simply my story.

Weaving God’s story into your story points away from Christianity as a belief system and towards the practical reality of lives changed through the grace of God. Your friends and loved ones are not seeking a brilliant theological dissertation on the Christian religion. They’re seeking answers to life and trying to make sense out of an increasingly confusing and dysfunctional world. At a personal level they’re just trying to figure out how to make life work for them. And for many who identify as “spiritual but not religious” they may be trying to fill their “God-shaped void” with other religious beliefs or spiritual substitutes. But the void remains because only God will fit into and completely fill that God-shaped void in their lives. And it’s only when we truly live our lives in the presence of God through Jesus Christ that we can be changed. You and I know that. That’s our story. And your story is the most powerful and effective tool for evangelism that God ever invented. Amen?

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