Drive By Evangelism
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30, ESV)
The thing about evangelistic opportunities: Sometimes you come upon them, and sometimes they come upon you—like a drive by shooting. For me, this week, it was definitely a case of the latter. There I was sitting, minding my own business, enjoying sushi with two friends in a downtown restaurant. We were discussing the possibility of starting a refugee ministry at Christ Covenant Church, when suddenly a rather salty, female voice announced from behind, “Let me tell you the thing I don’t like about Christians!” I turned to meet the gaze of a feisty lady, well into her autumn years. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, while she may have had the body of a sparrow, she had the eyes of an eagle—a decidedly upper crust and irate eagle at that! What she lacked in brawn she clearly made up for in her walking stick. I rather suspect she had the mind to use it too, on anyone standing in her way.
Before I could interrupt her interrupting me, she started again: “Do you know what those Born Againers said to my husband while he was dying?” “No, do tell me!” I replied, radiating all the warmth I could muster. “They asked him was his soul safe, and would he go to heaven when he died?” As I recall, she went to the Episcopal Church, and was quite mortified with grief that anyone would think of asking a dying agnostic such an insensitive question.
How would you respond in that situation? It’s not easy, the space is tight, the time is limited, and there is much room to make a bad situation worse. Let me tell you how God helped me (I’m not normally good in those moments).
Thank the Lord, I had the presence of mind to pray. Just a brief prayer, you understand, barely an upward glance of the soul to God, but enough to get me grounded.
First of all, I did the polite thing, introduced myself and apologized for my spiritual clan. “Ma’am, I am so glad to meet you, my name is Neil Stewart. I am the Pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Greensboro. I must apologize, we Christians can be terribly insensitive at such moments, can’t we?” “But,” I said, before she could start again, “in these kinds of situations I have learned how important it is to distinguish between the words that were said and the skill and kindness of the one speaking them.” “Take doctors for example—and I used to be a doctor myself before I was a pastor. Some doctors have the most frightful bedside manners. I used to wince when I would hear them tell their patients the bad news after some results came back. (I remember one who told his patient, “You’ve got cancer, you’re going to die, and it ain’t going to be long!”) “What an insensitive way to break such news. The thing was, though, the patient did have cancer. Facts are stubborn things. The doctor was quite correct, if not exactly kind. So it was, perhaps, with this Christian who reached out to your husband. His manner might have been lacking, but what he was trying to do surely was not. The Bible says, “It is appointed once for men to die and after that comes the Judgment.” We only die once but it is for a very long time!”
Then, as you might imagine, she cut me off again, though more kindly this time, and the conversation quickly came to an end. I tried to close with a, “On my part, I am thankful for Christ. For He has saved me from what I deserve at the hands of God.” But it didn’t come out very well, and she certainly didn’t want to hear anymore.
Let me leave you with a few take home thoughts to ponder:
Have a plan (or at least the desire) to share Christ with everyone you meet. Resolve never to be a dead end to truth. Resolve to know Christ and to make Him known every day.
Practice explaining the gospel briefly. Try answering the following questions in 30 seconds or less. Try to use at least one verse of Scripture as you do: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10).
What is the gospel?
How is a person saved?
How can you know you are saved?
What is sin?
Why is the God of the Bible such an angry God?
What is the Bible all about?
Why is there so much evil in the world?
Don’t forget to pray? Before you meet anyone, ask God to open the door, for only He can. Pray when the opportunity presents itself. Pray afterwards that God will cause the person to consider what you said.