Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Evangelism: One on One

I had the opportunity to spend a Sunday morning with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church. Brad Hill, their full time youth minister, was the preacher for the day. He preached an excellent sermon about the importance of paying deep, spiritual and emotional attention to one person at a time. Too often in the church we are overly concerned with efficiency and attracting large numbers of people to our carefully planned programs, that we forget the gift of the one, individual person who may be standing in front of us. This sermon was a nice interpretation of the parable of the lost sheep. The word that really spoke to me was the short conclusion to Brad’s sermon in which he defined a clear and precise method of doing personal evangelism.

This may be the most clear and beautiful expression of the task of personal evangelism that I have ever heard. It is simple in its clarity but very sophisticated in its understanding of the dynamics of personal evangelism. So here it is: my retelling of Brad Hill’s formula for personal evangelism

Imagine yourself one-on-one in a spiritual conversation with a friend or neighbor. It is a friendly, cordial conversation and you sense a real opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with this friend, and, moreover, you sense that your friend is really open to hearing a new word about Christian faith and Jesus Christ. What do you do? How do you act? What do you say?

Be Silent: Before you rush to express a bunch of words, take a moment to be silent within yourself. Try to move beyond a concern with your own thoughts, feelings and words and open yourself to what God is doing and saying in the moment. Be still and be silent within yourself in order to open your heart and mind to the work of God’s Holy Spirit.

Stand on Holy Ground: If you are feeling that this time with your friend is a special moment in which you may be able to talk about Jesus, realize that this place is holy ground. This special, spiritual openness that you and your friend are sharing is, in itself, a gift from God. This place or moment when you may be able to share deep spiritual conversation is a place itself created and given to you by God. Like Moses taking off his shoes before the burning bush, recognize the gift of holy ground. How do you act when you are standing on holy ground?

Be the Gospel: Before you can talk about the Gospel or share any words about the Gospel you must be committed to being the Gospel. Of course, we are always growing and maturing in our spiritual commitment, but we need to live authentic lives in Christ which truly struggle with the calling toward Christian discipleship and obedience. Only if we are being the Gospel will we be in a place to truly speak a word about the Gospel.

Invite with Words: And the moment arrives when you truly sense a desire to share a spiritual word about Christ with your friend. What should you say? Invite your friend to join you in wanting to learn more about Jesus by gathering regularly, preferably weekly, to read together one of the New Testament Gospels. We do not need to be Bible scholars or prepared to communicate sophisticated theological doctrines. Rather we need to be willing and prepared to invite our friends to join us on a journey toward Jesus. The words you share need not be brilliant or sophisticated; they need to be invitational. Invite your friend to join you on the fabulous journey of Christian faithfulness.

Throw better parties: This short scheme of personal evangelism could end at this point. But Brad added a marvelous final point, “Throw better parties.” This was his way of saying that we in the church need to have more fun. Too often there is an austere coldness about our faith. Too often we do not fully grasp or communicate the profound joy which we have as believers. ‘Throw better parties’ means that we need to have fun in Christ, with Christ and with one another in the church.

Imagine what a church we would become if we each practiced, in serious and committed ways, these patterns of personal evangelism one person at a time; one lost sheep at a time. May it be so in Christ.