The flight story.
Evangelists like to tell their best stories. They get more support that way.
You may have heard the story about how one of those ‘talk about Jesus all the time’ types – the ones who quietly terrify even pastors and make us all feel guilty if we are not naturally extroverted – has an amazing conversation with the passenger in the next seat.
We listen as the story unfolds about what was said and how the person responded there and then and was blessed and so on.
Actually, these conversations – and sometimes these results – do occur, but a lot of my attempts at flight evangelism go nowhere, or the person is so plugged in to their phone I don’t get a word in except hello.
Also these stories, having been told often, may have become a little evang-elastic, just to hold the audience of course. When they claim to have baptised them there and then, it is a definite clue.
But, for many people there are two responses to these stories. The first is, “…that is awesome”, and the second is “…but I could never do that”.
Then, there’s the story of the zealous and well-meaning person who determined he would not go to bed until he shared the gospel with at least one person – so you might have seen him out at 2am in the rain looking for a homeless person to articulate the gospel to.
This person has put themselves in a legalistic bin and, in my opinion, could do with a good dollop or the grace of God.
To help you have a little more of the “I could do that“ way of thinking, and to have you ready to share with joy and power, allow me to share the following points.
1. We should have a desire to see people come to Christ. If we do not, either we have not been born of the Spirit, or we are not filled with the Spirit.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:4, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (NIV).
If Christ is not in you, you are not a true disciple and you will probably not have any inner desire to see people reconciled to God.
So, check this out. Is your faith authentic? How can a person have the Holy Spirit – who is the motivator and empowerer of world evangelism – living in them and not be moved to at least contribute to the sharing of the Good News.
Passages in the New Testament about believers being filled with the Spirit almost always include something to do with speaking out the message like “…and they spoke the Word of God boldly.”
At eye level, the way to tell if a non-transparent container is full is when it overflows. Evangelism is the overflow of our faith to others. Flowing water is a pretty natural thing.
So should the flow of the Spirit be. This is not some psycho-spiritual experience for the spiritual giants. All God’s blessings are accessible for all his people on the basis of simple faith. Ask God to fill you to overflowing, but realise that He might need to empty out some stuff that shouldn’t be there first.
2. We are not called to be judges. One of my reasons for joining OAC Ministries was hearing people yelling at the public like they were dogs, as if the yeller was a fiery eyed Old Testament prophet called to proclaim damnation on the people.
I thought, “…there has to be a better way…”, and there is. It is true that Jesus will come to judge the world, and what a day of terror that will be, but in his first visit, He came to seek and to save the lost, and He has given us all the task of continuing that work.
Yes, we do need to explain the judgments of God and the law of God and the seriousness of being God’s enemies, and the need for repentance and the free availability of reconciliation, but as a fellow-sinner who has found the rescue plan.
Sharing? Yes. Lovingly imploring? Yes. But not commanding and demanding. Only God commands people to repent. So, relax. Come alongside. Peter tells us to be ready to give an account of the hope we have. An exciting faith sharing opportunity could pop out of the blue.
When it comes, handle it with gentleness and respect. Be gentle with sinners. Respect them. When they signal the conversation is over, let it be over. God can bring someone else along when they are ready for the next phase. It doesn’t all depend on you.
3. Know your resources. There are great resources every believer has to assist them in bringing people to Christ.
A. The presence of Christ. He can love them through you. He can give you wisdom.
B. Their story. Listen to them. It takes time. Draw them out. Hear them out. That gives you the right to share.
C. Your story about your faith journey. Parts of it may be particularly relevant to where they are in their journey. You don’t have to give them the whole download.
D. His story… the gospel.
There are four elements that make up the message people need to hear.
I. God is our Creator and owner, and He owns every atom in our bodies and every second of our existence. They are entrusted to us to be used in such a way that all observers of our lives should see how great and glorious our God is. We, of course, haven’t lived fully to His glory. That is what is meant to ‘fall short’ of it. See Romans 3:23.
II. We are all sinners, born with an inherited tendency to rebel against God’s authority. We are sinners because we have done what God forbids. We are also sinners because we have not always done what God instructs, like loving Him with our whole being, and loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.
III. God has mounted a rescue plan called the Good News – the gospel – , in sending his Son to take the just punishment for our sin. He was raised again to legally declare us not guilty when we trust Him. A dead judge can’t do that.
IV. Since his resurrection, God our Father has entrusted all authority to Jesus. See Matthew 28:18. On this basis, Jesus has instructed us to make disciples of all nations, requiring them to repent. Repenting is not telling God you won’t do a list of bad things anymore.
It is changing your mind about who you are trusting to be the authority – or Lord – of your life, and who you are trusting to reconcile you to God, thus being your Saviour.
At the moment someone trusts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they are declared righteous., as acceptable to God as Jesus himself. This is indeed great news. No member of any other religion or cult can say in truth, “I am saved”.
For them, salvation is a process where they never know they have done enough. For us who believe, it is a gift. That’s a great reason, along with Paul in Romans 1:16, to say, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel”.
Success in evangelism is not leading a person on a prayer of faith, but it is wonderful when that happens. It is realising Christ is in me, sharing his love, listening to a person’s story, sharing part of my story and sharing Jesus’ story.
It is seeing a person move one step closer to trust in Christ by your faith-sharing. And it is trusting the Holy Spirit to bring along another faith-sharer to take them the next step. So be ready, be filled and ready to do your bit – let it flow naturally and relax.
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About the author
Lew Meyer is an evangelist, Bible teacher, apologist and elder of a small fellowship. He is a writer who has recently produced a series of small books on cults and religions designed to educate believers and act as a tool they can give to people of other religions. Lew lives in West Auckland with his wife, Angela.
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