Recently, my church has been making evangelism a priority, by hosting an Evangelism Seminar and by continuing discussions about evangelism in our home groups. Although we all agree on the importance of evangelism, everyone admits that witnessing is often something awkward, uncomfortable, or even nerve-wracking. So how do we best go about sharing our faith with others?
To be clear, evangelism is not my spiritual gifting. That said, as I learn, I would like to share what I find to be effective. Today's idea is simply this: Pray with people.
don't just pray for people--pray with people.
One time, at the pregnancy center at which I work, a young woman came in for a pregnancy test. As we talked, I was formulating an impression of her: articulate, well-educated, confident, and goal-oriented. But something nagged the back of my mind. What was it? As I listened, I finally identified it.
She was afraid.
When a natural break in the conversation occurred, I gently told her that I was sensing fear from her. I pointed out certain things she had said and asked her to elaborate on them.
The mask came away and she began to share some very deep desires and hurts. Soon, the sheer weight of her fears overwhelmed me. No one but God could ever have the power to overcome or solve the problems she revealed. How could I offer her hope?
The only thing that came to mind was to pray--not for her, but with her.
What if she was offended or felt awkward? What if I came across as a religious nutcase? What if she closed up and regretted her openness with me? But I had to try, because I had nothing else.
"Look," I said. "I don't know what you know about God, but when I'm overwhelmed, I find that talking to Him makes a big difference. Would you like to pray with me?"
She nodded. I bowed my head and asked God to show her His love in an astounding way, to calm her fears and fill her with the confidence of His provision and care. I didn't get the Gospel in one neat soundbite through my prayer. I just prayed out of genuine compassion.
When I finally said "Amen" and raised my head, I discovered that she was weeping openly. We hugged and cried together, and I assured her that God truly did care, more than anyone else could. We went on to have a wonderful time of spiritual openness and sharing.
I don't know if this experience strengthened whatever faith she might have had, but I do know it strengthened mine, and I also trusted that God would use that experience in her life to build a road toward Himself.
Why does this work?
Even the irreligious can hardly object when you ask to pray for them and with them. They recognize it as your way of extending compassion to them, and, in the interest of tolerance and respect for others, they will often accept.
Many people are used to "holy prayers" filled with thees and thous, or a disconnected sing-songy tone that addresses God in a formal way. When they hear a genuine prayer, in the tone of one who speaks to a beloved father, who trusts God implicitly, and who is convinced of God's ability to bring change to the situation, it affects them powerfully. They realize that it isn't a "religious thing." It's a "relationship thing." It may be the first time they've ever seen God as a knowable, personal being.
Furthermore, love connects with people. No matter what people think of God, they desire love. When your love toward others is clearly linked to your relationship with the Lord, it will make them think twice about the effect of Jesus Christ in one's life. It will make them consider, even unconsciously, the source of real love.
Finally, no appeal to God is unheard. Prayer is not simply an exercise in faith. It is real access to a living God, and, when done on behalf of another, regardless of his or her relationship status with Him, it allows God the open door to move powerfully in that person's life.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.