Our training before Madagascar challenged us to share the Gospel as a regular discipline. One teacher talked about how looking for regular opportunities to share the Gospel–with people we work with, or buy vegetables from, or send their kids to the same school as ours–is not something we do as missionaries, but something we do as Christians. We met a church planter in New York who explained that he tries to share the Gospel in the first 30 seconds of any conversation with a stranger.
I found all of this very challenging. I’ve never been what I would call a “bold witness.” Nathan is. He makes a practice of sharing regularly. He isn’t afraid to challenge people, and yet he does it in a winning and respectful way that people respond well to. They seem to feel heard and remain open to talking more. I’ve been trying to learn from his example and share more regularly, even if it’s a short conversation. For me, the hardest part is still starting: turning the conversation from the meat I’m ordering to the Gospel, from telling how old Chyella is to the Gospel.
I have noticed, though, that intentionality helps. At the end of last year, I had been sharing more often, and I found myself looking for opportunities, ready with questions to start the conversation. Through our trip to Spain and back to the US, I got out of the habit of sharing, and I’ve found it hard to start back again. Thinking of a question and engaging the person takes much more effort now than it did before. Noticing this change has been a good reminder–sharing needs to be a discipline, a practice, an exercise. The more I do it, the more natural it becomes.
If you’re like me, even reading this is intimidating, and brings an uncomfortable mixture of guilt and anxiety to your stomach. We’re terrified of being pushy, of offending someone, of seeming like an extremist. Here’s the thing, though. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 9:16 that preaching the Gospel is nothing to boast about–it is the bare minimum–it’s a necessity. What if I lived like that? What if the most important thing on my to-do list each day was to intentionally share the Gospel with those around me: family, old friends, new friends, strangers? Paul talks about another area where we are willing to put forth significant effort: exercise, eating healthy. This example doesn’t really resonate with me, because I hate exercise, but what about areas where I do work hard? What is it for you? School? Your career? Creative pursuits? But, Paul reminds us, these efforts are “perishable”–they won’t last. The effort we pour into others’ souls is eternal!
I want to give two ideas that have helped me, by way of practical advice to grow in this area. First, it’s helped me to have a question to ask–a simple, unoffending question. Maybe, “Do you go to church anywhere?” works in your context. Maybe something like, “What are your thoughts on religion?” Maybe both of these sound awful to you–think of one you’re comfortable with. Practice using this question to open conversations.
A great question that I’ve never had anyone object to is, “How can I be praying for you?” We learned a fun idea from a colleague in West Africa. Think about 3-5 ways this question will likely be answered–decisions, family, sickness, money, etc. Then, find a simple Bible story or reference that applies to each of these responses, and be ready to briefly share it as someone asks for prayer. And be sure to pray for them!
I’d love to hear your ideas and stories, too. Know that even here as a missionary, this is still something I’m growing in. Praying for all of us to be bold and winsome in sharing the hope we have!