I could hardly believe my eyes. Ten years before, I'd spent two hours debating with John1 the Good news of Jesus' death and rising to life, but he left my home still unwilling to accept it for himself.
Prior to that I'd invested two and a half years of intentional relationship building, invited and occasionally got him to attend a variety of men's outreach events, poured out heaps of prayer and spent regular periods providing encouragement to his Christian wife, Carol. All this effort apparently to no avail. Yet here I was, preaching in a different suburb and towards the back were John and Carol both sitting and listening intently!
After the service we caught up and I discovered John was now a Christian and attended church with his wife and children twice each weekend. One part of me (the sinful) wanted to say – "It's not fair, all my efforts and someone else reaps the rewards!" However, the other part of me (the Christian) was rejoicing at the wonder of God's grace.
As I reflect on John's spiritual journey to faith in Christ and my small part in it, we can recognise several lessons about sharing Person to Person about Christ. The first is that gospelling is above all the Lord's work. We can't convert anyone (John 6:44). Therefore we must be prayerful, patient and yet persistent in our relationship with lost family and friends.
Secondly, our lives, including our family relationships, actions and speech, should make the message of Christ attractive to the outsider (Titus 2:10). The first level of influence for most of us will come when we show that the gospel is relevant and positively impacts our everyday life.
If our quality of behaviour is authentic and markedly different, friends who have learnt to trust us will know why (Colossians 4:5-6). Then, we will be able to explain the good news to them (i.e. evangelise them).
This logically leads to the third lesson, the necessity of being ready to explain the gospel truthfully, simply, interestingly and boldly. I believe the best place to begin is the sharing of our own faith journey. It's important to make sure that our own personal testimony provides the reasons for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), that is, the gospel of the resurrected Christ (1 Peter 1:3).
If you want a resource for preparing an interesting and gospel center faith journey, my 'Guidelines for Sharing Your Story' may be just what you need2 ..
One final comment is to spend time with lost people on their turf showing a genuine interest in their lives (1 Corinthians 9:19-22). Laugh and cry with them. Play and work alongside them. Quality time spent with our unbelieving friends will often lead to quality opportunities to speak into their lives gospel truths. We ought to talk to our friends at all levels and all situations, listening for the chinks in their 'She'll be right!' attitudes. Also we ought to speak naturally and openly about our relationship with the Lord without sounding like we are better than them. In one-on-one situations, we should boldly ask them what they think about spiritual issues, for in the peer pressure of the pack few will be bold enough to express their honest opinions.
In Matthew 5:14-16 after explaining that disciples are different to the world, Jesus explains that disciples are to be influential in society. Their difference is a fundamental aspect of their influence (see also 1 Peter 2:11-12). He describes those who follow him as "the light of the world". Notice he doesn't say that they are "to be" the light of the world, but that they "are"! The result of their good deeds shining before men is surely that they must verbalise their allegiance to the Lord. If not, how do people know whom to praise for the disciple's exemplary lives?
L LIVE a Christ-like life of servant love towards others, which will make the message of Christ attractive.
I INTERCEDE (pray) regularly for our lost mates asking for open doors for the gospel.
G GEAR up by preparing our own personal faith story, which majors on the Son not our sin.
H HEAR what the unbelieving world is saying so that we might respond with both understanding and the relevant points of God's truth.
T TALK openly and naturally about the reality of Christ in our lives and relationships.
It may be helpful for the memory to incorporate the witnessing lessons noted above, into an acronym, which describes how we can fulfill our LIGHT of the world role (see box above).
Work out how you can apply the general principles above into your own life, remembering that the best way to develop your skills is to practice.
Let's get involved in purposeful relationships with the lost where we talk Person to Person about Christ!
1 Name has been changed.
2 Resources can be purchased from Ridley Bookshop in Melbourne or Evangelism Ministries Sydney.