A Story for Motivation in Personal Evangelism

   Imagine yourself in this story.

   You didn’t see your neighbor’s two year old when you backed the car out the driveway. You rushed the child to the hospital but he didn’t make it. What do you do? Perhaps you would sell your house and move. You don’t think you can bear to face your neighbor day in and day out. You don’t think they can face you either. So you move.

   Now, fast forward several years. You become deathly ill. You discover you are about to die from a terrible previously undiagnosed disease There is no known cure and death will occur soon. It is predicted to be one of the most painful deaths anyone can imagine.

Your old neighbor, the one whose son you killed, heard about your illness. Instead of consoling himself about you, he becomes concerned. He is so concerned for you that he sets out to find a cure for your illness.

   This former neighbor of yours is a medical researcher dealing in the treatment of deadly diseases. His work to save your life takes him past the normal funding required for research. He begins to sell his possessions to fund the work. He empties all his bank accounts and retirement accounts. He spends endless hours, up early and working late into the night, sometimes over night.

   Finally he develops a cure, but knowing the progression of your disease, there can be no second chances if it doesn’t work. So, he decides to give himself an advanced form of the disease to see if the cure will work before giving you the serum. The disease immediately makes him ill. He then takes the cure and it works, but not without a cost to his own health. This cure is very valuable because no one else in the world has it. Your neighbor includes you in the royalty rights, perhaps because he would not have discovered it if you were not sick, but maybe he also does not want you to forget how important this cure is by the benefits that come from it.

   By this time, you are near the point of death. Your neighbor arrives and administers the cure and you are saved. 

   What thoughts pass through your mind as your recover? Your mind may be filled with many questions, but the greatest question you have for your former neighbor is, “Why, why after I killed your son, did you do all this to save me?” You know you did more harm than any enemy could have done to him, yet this neighbor gave up wealth, time, and health to save your life.

   He gave you your life back. He gave you your life back better. He destroyed the thing that was killing you. He crossed over the barrier of a broken relationship at great personal cost. He has shared the riches of his work with you. How would you feel about this man? How could you express gratitude? What would you owe him? Could it ever be repaid? How long do you believe you should live out this debt of gratitude?

   What if you thanked him for what he did and then asked, “What do I woe you?” What if whenever people ask you about your amazing recovery, you just tell them you got lucky? “It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” you might say, “I just kept thinking positive.”  You give no recognition or only a passing acknowledgement of what your neighbor did for you. Yet, in your heart you know that the only reason you are alive, healthy, wealthy and free is because the person who had the most reason to reject you, loved you. He demonstrated that love in an unforgettable way.

   Wouldn’t you agree that you owe this former neighbor a debt of love, gratitude and never-ending praise? You could never repay him for what he has done. What should be the proper response? Should it be a loving appreciation to him, a desire to now live a responsible life honoring him, and joining him in compassionate concern to rid the world from this disease?

   If this is true concerning the saving of your life in this present world, what would be true about saving it for eternity? What this neighbor did is certainly commendable, yet it pales in comparison to what Jesus Christ has done for you in purchasing salvation.

   The Bible says you were helpless in your sin. You were doomed to a life “…without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12b, NIV). Whether you sinned on purpose or not, you are guilty. As the neighbor, you didn’t intent to run over the child, but it still happened. You may or may not have intended to sin, but you are still guilty. Not only did you sin against that child, but you sinned against his parent. It is the same with God. Some of your sins may be against other people, but all of your sin is against a holy and righteous God. You begin to appreciate your condition when you realize that the “…wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a, NIV). You have essentially spit in the face of God by our words, deeds and attitudes. Yet God has not treated you as you deserve. He has done something in an infinitely greater measure than your neighbor could ever do for you. The Bible states it this way, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8, NIV). It goes on to read, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10, NIV). God makes you right with him and he is the one paying the price.

   What should be your response to such love? Should your response not be similar to the man who saved your life? Would you agree there should be even more appreciation to God for saving you for eternity? It should be loving appreciation to him, living a responsible life honoring him, and joining him in compassionate concern to save the world is the proper response.

   Your life needs a new orientation. You need to understand that you do not live for yourself any longer. The Bible says, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NIV). Has this been your response? Would you like to make it yours?

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Praying for Yourself in Personal Evangelism

As much time as we should spend in praying for those who are outside of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, we should also spend ample time praying for ourselves to be effective in bringing Christ to them. Praying for your effectiveness in personal evangelism is like sharpening the axe before cutting the tree. It may take some time. It may delay your start. But it will make your strokes much more effective and your effort more productive. I have put together an acronym BOLDNESS to help you in your petitions to God in becoming more intentional in sharing your faith. 

B is for Boldness. Pray for God to give you his courage. It is like the courage of Peter and John when they stood before the ruling council and were told to keep the message of Jesus quiet. They replied,”Judge for yourselves whether it is right in god’s sight to obey you rather than do. For we cannot help speaking about whaty we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, NIV). The Apostle Paul requested others pray for him to have boldness. “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19, HCSB).

O is for Opportunity.  Pray for God to give you opportunities to share. God gave Phillip a wonderful opportunity to share Jesus with an important goverment official. He heard the man reading from Isaiah. Phillip asked the man if he understood what he was reading. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me? So he invited Phillip to come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:31). You will be given opportunities to share as well, when you look for them and when you pray for them.

L is for Laborers. Pray for God to send you as a laborer to work in the field of harvest. “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38, NKJV).

D is for Deliverance From Evil. Pray that you will be protected from the evil one and all his schemes. Jesus prayed this prayer for us as well. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15, NIV).

N is for New Nature. Pray that you will live out the new nature that God has given you through the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). He has changed you and he will also fill you with his Spirit and power as you yield yourself to Him moment by moment. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16, NIV).

E is for Endurance. Pray for endurance in the sharing of your faith. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV). Remember you are sharing out of heart full of love for what God has done for you, not to see some kind of result.

S is for Set Apart. Pray that you will live a holy life that honors God and makes it easier for those who need Christ to see Him. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).

S is for Share the Gospel. Pray for readiness in sharing the gospel. Pray that it will be clear and presented in the way it will make the most impact with those you share. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:4, NIV). 

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Prayer and Personal Evangelism

Prayer has been summed up as simply talking to God and Bible reading as listening to God. When we focus on prayer and our personal evangelism I think prayer can fall into three categories. First, prayer is talking to God about a person before you talk to that person about God. Second, prayer is talking to God about a person when you can’t talk to them about God. Third, prayer is talking to God about a person after you have talked to them about God.

But how we can best pray for the person on our heart.

Several years ago, our mission board, NAMB, came up with some points to pray for our lost friends using the acronym HEART. Here is how I use it.

H is for Heart. Pray for your friend to have a receptive and repentant heart. In the parable of the sower and the soils, Jesus told of only one kind of soil that was totally receptive. It was this soil that bore fruit. In the parable the seed was the Word of God and the soil represented one of four types of people as they respond to the gospel. You can see the story Parable of the Sower.

E is for Eyes. Pray for their spiritual eyes and ears to be opened to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, in the parable of the sower, Jesus says he spoke in parables because “…this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes…” (Matthew 13:15a, HCSB). They have closed themselves off from God because of their attitude toward Him.

The apostle Paul wrote describing much of the problem in people not receiving the message of Christ is blindness brought on by Satan’s work. “If, in fact, our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, HCSB). So it would be a great idea to pray for the influence of Satan to be hindered and removed from the people you are praying to come to Christ as well as praying for themselves to be open.

A is for Attitude. Pray for your friend to change and begin to have the same attitude toward sin as God has. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8, HCSB). There needs to be a dissatisfaction with the direction, values and choices in their life. They will need to take personal responsiblility for the outcomes of those choices. They will need to come to the place of the prodigal son who said, “I have sinned against heaven and in your (his father’s) sight” (Luke 15:18, HCSB). Pray for conviction to lead to repentance that will lead to life.

R is for Release. We are involved in the struggle to see those we care about released from entrapment to this world, their sinful nature and to the spiritual forces of darkness of this present age. In referring to what happened to us when we were saved, The Bible says, “He has deliverd us form the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingodom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13, NKJV). They need release. Some you know and love are trapped in addictions, relationships, wrong values and lifestyles or just plain sin. They need release from their sin and attachment to God through the power of the risen Christ.

T is for Transform. Pray for God to save them and to transform their life. The Bible says, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). They need a tranformed life so they can know that good and perfect will of God and be useful in his kingdom (Romans 12:1-2).

Praying HEART is a great way to begin the sharing of your faith, because you are bringing that person to God in prayer. The Holy Spirit of God may guide you in your prayer time for your friend. Take note of how you are being led. This could later be important when you are in conversation with them.

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The Awareness Factor in Personal Evangelism

I think a lot of us go through life not living in the moment we are living, but living in the next thing we are going to do. Even now, I am thinking about my list of “to do” things. If you are much the same way, then both of us have a potential problem. The problem has a name. It’s what I call “missing the moment.” Missing the moment in personal evangelism is when we are so occupied with another dimension of time that we fail to capitalize on the moment we are now in. How this relates to personal evangelism is very important.

The awareness factor is a mindset that keeps us in check, recognizing the opportunities presented right in front of us, in that moment. Most of us have had the experience of walking away from a situation and later realizing that it would have been a prefect place to embark on a spiritual conversation, perhaps even to present the good news of Jesus Christ, and have missed it. The reason for missing it was simply not being aware of what was happening in the moment.

What causes this kind of mental time distortion? For me it is either I’m preoccupied about a situation that has happened or thinking about my next thing coming up. It is a preoccupation when mentally I have checked out of the moment and I am either living in the past or in the future. I understand we all do this from time to time, and we need to do think this way, but it can be a hindrance to awareness of opportunities to share the live-changing power of Christ.

What can I do to “be in the moment”? First, be aware that this is happening. Awareness about awareness can lead to its own cure. Second, when you have your time alone with God, pray and ask the Lord to help you be aware of possible witnessing situations; situations that could lead to you demonstrating the love of Jesus to someone else around you. Third, at the beginning of the day, think through what you know you’ll be doing; the people you will see. Think about what the situations could be like, then make some mental notes of directive questions you can ask(see other articles on directive questions). Tuck them in the back of your mind and ask the Lord to remind you of them at the proper time. You will be amazed at how God will bring things to the forfront of your mind by simply asking him to help in this. Fourth, remember that you are who you are at God’s calling and equipping. He will use you when you say to him, “Lord, here is what’s on my agenda today, but I would like to follow yours whenever you wish.” Its a dangerous prayer, but one that can make your life exciting. Would you pray that with me today?

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Getting Permission to Share the Gospel for Evangelism

It is hard for most of us who want everyone to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord to be patient enough to gain permission to share Christ with someone. Why get permission anyway? Didn’t Jesus command us to go and share? If the Lord of all creation commands us to do something, why then get permission from someone else? I’ll tell you why.

Getting permission to share Christ with a person is not contradictory in personal evangelistic activity to the command of Jesus. It actually fulfulls it. Not getting permission from a person to share does not mean that you can’t still witness with your life, prayers, actions and other words. Perhaps the person will eventually open up and then become receptive to the message of the Gospel.

Just a few days ago I went to get a haircut. The woman who cut my hair, I found out was from Russia. She has lived here in the US for eleven years. She moved here to be with family who had immigrated to the Atlanta Georgia area. She knew no English when she moved here. In talking to her I tried to find out about her life in Russia, what she experienced that is different here, what were her interests, and her spiritual backgroud, etc. She was Orthodox in her church background, but did not want to talk about it. When I pressed her about her personal spirituality, she told me, and I quote verbatim: “I will talk about anything you want to talk about except religion. I do not want to talk about my beliefs. They are private to me. I’ll talk about anything else.”  Well, I’ll tell you, that ended that subject. So I said fine, let’s talk about how you decided to cut hair. And we did and had a nice conversation. She did ask me what I did, and I told her I worked for a church organization that does a lot of things to help people in many ways. I talked about disaster relief and education, and seeking to help people become all that God intended them to be, etc. She liked that. I was talking about my experience and beliefs. That seemed to be ok with her. After all, she did ask what I did.

I use the above story to illustrate that when someone does not want to talk about spiritual things with you, you will still have other options that do not violate their wishes or force your beliefs on them. There is much more that could be said on gaining permission to share. I usually ask a person if we are on the subject matter of spiritual things if I could share with them the most important thing that has happened to me. 9 out of 10 times I get a yes. I share my story. Then I ask if they would like to know what the Bible says about eternal life. This is how I get permission. If I get a know, or a later then I look for more opportunities elsewhere.

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Directive Questions Help You Find a Person’s Spiritual Address (part 4 of 4)

Directive questioning is a great conversational way to find out the background, values, and spiritual address of a person. People like to talk about themselves. When you ask a series of questions about them, beginning with the general and moving to value related and then spiritual questions, you can gain a lot of insight into a person’s spiritual address.

When referring to spiritual address I am  writing about where a person is in their saving relationship to Jesus Christ. I use the term “spiritual adddress” because each of us is in a different location spiritually. Some people you talk to may be very close to Jesus Christ. Jesus himself referred to this when when aswering the question of one of the lawers of his day. He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 13:34, NIV).  This lawyer was not in the kingdom of God. He did not have a saving relationship with Jesus, but he was close. Likewise, other people may be very far away in their saving relationship to Jesus Christ. They may be hostile to the message of the cross. Directive questions help you to find the general proximity of a persons spiritual address.

There is one more question that I use in the acrostic F.I.R.E. The “E” in this acrostic stands for “Eternal”. This question will help in almost all cases of discussion to find out exactly where a person is spiritually. The answer to this question will tell you in what the person believes will bring eternal life or salvation. The “E” in F.I.R.E. is for the eteranal question: What do you think God requires for a person to have eternal life? 

This question is one you want to ask after you have built some rapport with the person you are talking with. It is a question you want to ask after you have already moved to the subject of spiritual things. This question is too abrupt to ask without another question as a spiritual introduction to the subject matter. That, to a great extent is the purpose of the “R” question in F.I.R.E. Other questions before the “E” question could be, “Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?” or “Do you ever think about spiritual things?” Sometimes a person will talk about their religious background. That is ok, because you are still on the subject.

When asking the eternal question, you may have to wait a moment for their response. It’s a big question. Think about it, you have just asked them a question concerning the meaning to all of life and eternity. It may take a moment for them to process that. Some will answer that they don’t know what God requires. This is a perfect opportunity for you to ask permission to share with them out your experience what the Bible has to say about this. Others may give you a “works” answer such as: “Do the best you can” or “keep the 10 commandments”. I actually had a woman in a home visit reply to this question by saying, “You get eternal life by keeping the 10 Commandments.” I replied, “That certainly is a high standard, tell me do you know what the 10 Commandments are?” She tried to name them but only got out “Do not murder”, “Do not commit adultery”, and “Do not steal.” When I went over the other commandments, she admitted that they had not kept them all, then in an expression of realization she said, “I think we are all in trouble.” I agreed with her and said, “If having eternal life is dependent on our keeping the 10 Commandments, then we are in trouble, but the Bible talks about another way. Can I share that with you?” She agreed and that night she placed her faith in Jesus Christ alone.

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How to Use Directive Questions in Personal Evangelism, Pt. 3

Using the acrostic of F.I.R.E to help remember certain directive and progressive questions will help you guide conversation onto spiritual things in a natural way. The “F” and the “I” are covered in previous articles.

After asking the “important” question you will want to progress to the “R” in F.I.R.E. The “R” is for “religious” question. If the person you are talking to gives you any answer to the “I” question other than having Jesus Christ as their savior, then you will want to use the religious question. As noted in previous articles, the “I” question: “What is the most important thing that has ever happened to you?” Is not necessarily a spiritual or religious question. It is a value question. It will give insight into where the person’s heart is at that moment. The religious question is spiritual or religious on purpose. It will extract a spiritual response. You definately at this point are talking about spiritual things. The religious question is: “What is the most important thing God has done for you?”

While the “F” for “friend” starts at the general and the “I” for “important” moves to the value, the “R” for “religious” moves decidedly to the spiritual, if the conversation has not already gone there. Most people, out of the hundreds I have asked this question, give an answer of God helping them out of some problem. Common responses are: “He saved me out of a car wreck, or when I was sick He helped me to get well, or God helped me thru my personal problems.” The Important question ellicits an answer of something good that has happened. The Religious question often ellicits something painful or tragic that God has helped them through. A follow-up question to this could be: “Tell me, how did God do this?”

The main point is that you are now on spiritual subject matter. It is also personal spiritual subject matter. The next step is then to discover what their spiritual address might be. Have they trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? What is their understanding of sin and salvation? This will be covered in the next post.

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