But in your hearts revere 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)
Every few weeks, I am visited by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A lady by the name of Crystal used to come, but she has been replaced by someone else (whose name I can’t remember). Ironically, almost every time they would visit I would be in the process of doing my seminary homework or writing a sermon. Maybe it’s not ironic, since that’s what has occupied much of my time over the last several years.
Although I always speak with them and take their literature, I never invite them in to sit down and talk. I generally skim through their literature, although I haven’t made a point to keep it on my desk to point out the differences between their beliefs and mine the next time they come. I finally disclosed that I’m a pastor. This hasn’t put them off, though, as I was visited just this morning.
Here’s what I admire about them:
- They are dedicated. Although much warmer than yesterday, the temperature this morning was in the single digits even before the wind chill. (I did invite her in today because I’m not going to make anyone stand out in that cold). And she is just as dedicated in the summer when it’s nearly 90.
- They always remember and call me by name when they talk with me. They also remember that I have kids, and make a point of bringing literature geared towards family and pointing out what will be of particular interest to me as a parent. Today, citing that I’m a pastor, she pointed out that the current version of their newsletter discusses their website and all of the resources available on it.
- They always open the Bible. I know this is planned, but every time she gets out her Bible and brings me to a verse that highlights the literature she is bringing to me. And she doesn’t just read it – she talks about it (you know, like she’s read it before and actually thought about it).
Interestingly, I don’t do any of these things in return – although I do often respond with another passage of scripture that is on the same topic. If anyone should be witnessing, it should be me! After all, I’m a professional.
I’m not sure that our evangelism efforts as the Church are often as effective as the Jehovah’s Witnesseses that come to my door. Too often (but not always) we take a one-time, all-or-nothing approach. We may go door-to-door or hand out information at a public event. We may share the Gospel with the person we meet at the grocery store or at a PTO event.
But I’m not sure we’re really sharing Christ.
We may be really dedicated at our evangelism but we aren’t generally all in on a daily basis. If someone isn’t home, do we just leave our information or do we make a point of coming back? And when we’ve made a connection, do we simply invite them to come to our church or do we continue to meet them where they are? In the chance, one-time meetings we may tell the Gospel story – but Christ didn’t eat in the drive thru or with his coat on. He took time to sit down with people over a meal, or on a walk between Cana and Capernaum. He stopped what he was doing to go to Jairus’ house. And how often do we open the Scripture up (not including the Romans Road) to share God’s Word and expound on it?The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. – Luke 4:18-19 (CEB)
Evangelism and Discipleship go hand-in-hand. I don’t think you can effectively have one without the other. Some have gifts in one or the other, or maybe both. My gifts definitely tend toward the latter. I think both, however, require relationship. Both require listening and not just telling. And both require time.
This fall I heard Mark Davis speak about Evangelism and the commissions (yes, there’s more than one) to the Church. What I loved most was his emphasis on listening to the story of the other person without the intent to tell them what is wrong in their life or what they need. Instead, we are called to listen to how God is already at work in their life and join God there. We are open to how seeds may already be taking root, realizing that we may also only be planting the first seeds but trusting that they will be nurtured and harvested sometime later.
So my goal is to be a little bit more like the Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to visit me. To be dedicated in witnessing and sharing my beliefs through listening to others and sharing God’s Word. To see where I need to slow down and take a meal with someone or welcome an interruption to my schedule, just as Jesus did. To God be the glory. Amen.
If you are interested in Davis’ book, Talking About Evangelism, you can find it here.