Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Reach the Hard to Reach (by One Who Used To Be One)

I know a lot about hard-hearted unbelievers. I used to be one. My conversion from atheism to Christianity was rather dramatic and shocking. It was not a long drawn out process. I woke up one morning, another of many mornings in which I believed that God did not exist. By mid-morning I was convinced that He did exist, and late in the evening I gave my life to Jesus. There can be no doubt, from Scripture or my personal experience, that God did the saving ... I did nothing but receive. Salvation is of the Lord. He is mighty to save and He must do the saving according to His sovereign will, by His sufficient power, in His perfect time. But the Bible assures us that the Spirit works through the Word of God and the witness of the believer to call out the ones He will save. And looking back on how this happened in my life, I can distill several lessons on evangelism that I learned from the people whom God used to reach me. 

1. Be a friend with no strings attached. In my life, I had met many Christians who were willing to be my adversary or to be my friend if I would believe in their God. It was a long time before I met any who were willing to be my friends, even though I was not a Christian. They did not make my conversion a condition on their love and acceptance of me. They desired it and they prayed for it and they took opportunities to discuss it with me, but I was never made to feel that I must convert in order to remain within their circle of friends.

2. Be up-front and honest about your beliefs and convictions. One of the first things I learned about the people God used in my life was that they were Christians. They spoke openly and often of their faith, their church, and the Bible. There was not a weekend that they did not invite me to church. If our plans included Saturday nights, we needed to wrap it up early and I was often invited to overnight with them to attend church the next day. Sunday plans had to wait until church was over. Sunday nights were also for church. They were frustratingly inflexible about this, but I came to see it as an expression of the genuineness of their faith.

3. You don't have to be perfect. There's something always telling us that if we try to share our faith with our friends and family, they will think we are hypocrites because they know about our sin. That something is the devil. None of us are perfect, none of us comes close. So Christians tend to err in 2 ways: 1) Pretend you're perfect; 2) Never witness. Both of these are wrong. My friends failed often to "walk the walk." But I never saw it as hypocrisy, because they spoke openly about things like sin, salvation, repentance and forgiveness. I witnessed moments of broken confession and saw them at times holding one another accountable and being strong for ones who were weak. I saw them fall, but I always saw them falling toward the cross.

4. Give them a Bible and find a way to get them reading it. It is not necessary for you "to find the right words." God has given us a whole book full of His own. And this is what He has promised to use to save the lost. My friends invited me to a retreat and gave me a Bible on the way there. Every morning we would read a portion of the Bible that would be the theme of that day's discussions. That quickly became my favorite part of the day. And it was during that time in God's word that I found myself suddenly believing in Him. Now, you may not have a retreat that you can invite a friend to (but you might, and have just never given thought to it), but could you invite a friend over to fellowship with a group of Christians and have a Bible discussion? You could say, "We are discussing the life of Jesus, and in preparation this week we are reading Mark 14. Why not read that and join us?"

I can't promise you that God will save your hard to reach friend. I can promise you that He can. And I can promise you that He will not apart from His Spirit, His Word, and His people. There are many so-called methods of evangelism out there, but I have found that God works best when we abandon methods in exchange for love of others and confidence in Him and His Word. 

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