How to earn that critical time that can change everything.
Let me just say it, "I suck at evangelizing."
What is one of the core missions of my ministry? Evangelizing.
God, is tricky like that. I was totally thinking it was something else when we started but I've come to the terrifying realization that I am called to evangelize. Billy Graham...he knows how to talk about Jesus - offer salvation. Who else?
It's interesting to me as I was trying to think of other prominent evangelists, every well-known Christians I thought of wouldn't be classified as an evangelist. Sure they might occasionally do an "altar call," but that's not their primary deal. Many focus on the needs of current Christians - pastoring, leading, motivating, educating, encouraging, discipling, and disciplining. We are a needy bunch.
A punch in the head may be coming
The reality is it all comes down to us telling people about Jesus. I always admire those people who are so comfortable sharing Jesus with the clerk at the convenience store, their waitress, and the person in line behind them at Target. I just can't get comfortable doing that. My son has a friend who was working security at a rock concert. He was standing off stage when the lead performer came off. As the singer passed by him with his entourage my son's friend said, "Jesus loves you man!" The performer punched him in the head and kept walking. I'm sure our would-be evangelist racked up some treasures in heaven that day, but he also validated another reason why the rest of us are chicken.
So why did God pick a sucky evangelist like me to evangelize? Why did he pick Gideon - the least of his family within the least tribe in the nation to go against the Midianite horde? Why did he pick Rachel (a prostitute) to do something honorable? Why did he go get Saul (aka Paul - a high-ranking Jew ferociously persecuting Christians) to convert and encourage people to Christianity?
Because that's how God rolls. Because then you know it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with God's grace. God's ability. God's strength.
No excuses allowed
I think God chose me because I know how hard it is. How ill-equipped we can feel. How vulnerable. The truth is, he didn't just call me. He calls each of us to tell people about him. What I'm realizing is that when we think it's hard, or going to be weird, we start making excuses. We decide, I'm not "gifted" in that area so we give ourselves an out. The other response can be that we just do it as quickly as possible. Yank the bandaid off and get it over with. We get into this formulaic thinking - say this, do that, pray these words, and abra-ca-dabra, zippity do dah, you are saved! Check the box.
Get comfortable. Relax
The truth is, I don't suck at evangelizing. I tell people about Jesus all the time. I just don't typically do it in a way that fits the mold. That's why I didn't initially recognize it. I'm not Billy Graham and neither are most people. We're just normal folks with no stage or pulpit to work from. We have to show Jesus in a way that works for us...and for the people we want to reach. Telling people about Jesus has to be authentic, natural, and comfortable. If we aren't comfortable do we think our listener will be?
I think the reason we are afraid of evangelizing is because we make it all about us. How we'll feel. What others will say. Do we know enough? Evangelizing has very little to do with us. It is about looking at others. We need to focus on others and ask, "What do they need?" and then, "Why don't they have it already?" We have to get to know people. We have to get rid of our agenda to evangelize and just be with them. Our goal can be to share the gospel, but we need to do it in a way that shows we care about them...not about checking our gospel-sharing box.
Renowned theologian and pastor Francis Schaeffer was asked what he would do if he had an hour with a non-Christian, he said he would listen for 55 minutes. Then, in the last five minutes, he'd have something to say.
“If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last 5 minutes I will share something of the truth.”- Francis Schaeffer
When you know where a person is coming from, what their hangups are, what struggles they've faced, then you're better equipped to introduce Jesus in a way that speaks to their unique life. For people you do time with (friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.), evangelizing starts with getting to know them. Your 5 minutes will come...and you'll know what to say.