By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
Recently, I received an email that pointed out that the public is becoming more receptive to hearing evangelistic messages due largely to the pressures of dealing with Covid 19. The email had real credibility because it came from the Gideons, the international Bible distribution society. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Gideon.)
Of course, you don’t have to be a Gideon to sense that people are under unique pressures due to the pandemic. Their friends or family members are sick or have died. They’ve lost liberty and peace of mind due to restrictions, tedious quarantines, confusion over mask mandates, and businesses closing or job losses.
Yes sir, Covid packed a real punch beyond just being a troubling virus. It has made the world feel a lot less safe and stable. And does it seem to you that prices seem to rise the very moment you walk into a supermarket? We hear of famines in various places, war and rumors of war (Mathew 24:6). Russia for instance, initially pretended as if reports that they would invade Ukraine were little more than gossip. Yet, the moment we turned our backs, they began bombing the living daylights out of the tiny, but scrappy little country and still are attacking, even as you read this.
In March, a Gallup poll revealed that three quarters of Americans polled said they were dissatisfied with where America is headed. That poll was cited in an article on AOL that also pointed out that violence is on the increase since the pandemic and mentioned that we are seeing a general distrust in U.S institutions and increased political polarization, which is so strong it is dividing America, turning us from the United States into a sort of Un-United States. In short, we are a nation of very unhappy people.
This has all created an environment in which people are beginning to think deeper about life issues. Not everyone you see with their head down is texting. Some may be praying. Many are seeking answers that they just cannot get from the 24-hour news cycle, mind numbing reality shows, or a hype-filled media circus.
We are having to face the unavoidable issue of our mortality sooner than we originally wanted to. And not all of us are prepared to do so. That is where you come in, my Christian friend. Believe it or not, there are people out there who actually want to hear from you. In many cases it may not be obvious. But if you will open your eyes just a bit wider, you will be presented with opportunities to share what God will put in your heart at that particular moment in time. When you do, there is a strong possibility that someone will be drawn just a bit closer to Christ.
However, there is a problem: unfortunately, many who “say” they are Christians simply are not prepared or willing to witness. A 2019 poll by Barna Research revealed “Nearly half of Christian Millennials say evangelism is wrong.” The poll noted that this generation of young people is reluctant to share their faith because the growing Post-Christian Society we live in portrays sharing one’s religious beliefs in a negative light.
Others are not witnessing because of fear or a feeling of being unqualified. Although it’s true that certain evangelists do have a gift, we are all called to spread the Gospel. You do not have to be the great Billy Graham. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus asked all believers, regardless of where they are in their Bible knowledge, to spread the gospel in some way. What is often forgotten and should encourage us, is that Jesus also said, he would help the believer do the work of witnessing. In other words, anyone can witness because Jesus will do the work through the believer. So, the good news is, you do not need skills. All you need is a concern and love for other people. That is something anyone can have.
John 14:6 gives us the reason this matters most. In that verse, Jesus is quoted as saying “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes through the Father except through me.” What he was boldly saying here is that no one can get to heaven unless they will confess him as savior and lord. That means, that if a person does not become a Christian, they cannot get into heaven. Wow. That should motivate every believer to tell those he loves about Jesus, beginning with family and extending to friends, neighbors, coworkers and just people in general. After all, who do we really want to see doomed to an eternity in hell?
Another reason evangelism isn’t widely practiced is that we have unintentionally made it intimidating. Witnessing does not have to be complicated. It can and should be kept simple. For instance, just greeting someone in a Christian manner goes a long way and is a quick form of witnessing. At dinner in a restaurant or standing in the checkout line in a store, you can say, “God bless you.” Or “Jesus loves you.” Or perhaps, “God be with you today.” Some people say “Have a blessed day.” (I personally find that kind of vague because it doesn’t mention God or Christ directly, but I have no doubt it can work, depending on the context.)
Taking prayer requests from friends is also a way to both start a conversation and hear their concerns. A listening ear is helpful to those who are going through something. Praying with people has a power that can hardly be described. And it works. Because when we pray sincerely, God answers (Mark 11:22-24). Witnessing does not always require words. Helping someone in need by buying them food or helping pay a bill and then crediting Jesus, is a form of evangelism known as “service evangelism”. Remember, Jesus was known for feeding people before he preached to them.
Churches also offer excellent opportunities to reach the lost. Each summer many churches host fun VBS times (Vacation Bible Schools). These programs reach many unchurched children. Kids love them, whether they are being raised in Christian homes or not. Volunteer to help at a local church and don’t be surprised if God places a child in your path who can benefit from your love and sincere attention. If your church does not have an evangelism ministry, what’s wrong with suggesting to the pastor that they start one?
One form of evangelizing that gets overlooked is witnessing to family members. People often underestimate the value of sharing their faith with their own relatives. We often underestimate how receptive some relatives can be. Someone once said, “People will disagree with your religious views, but it’s hard for them to disagree with your life experiences.”
Sure, initially your attempt to witness may catch them off guard, but keep plugging. I remember when I was a small boy, my mother announced to me and my brothers and sisters that we would have a Bible story once a week over a family supper. She had four kids in the house and we all groaned the way kids do when adults announce such a decision. But we grew to like it and we learned a lot. It matters when a parent says, “God matters” or “Our Christian faith matters.” I thank her for that act of love which cost zero dollars. After all, it was the same beans and rice and cornbread. She just spiced it up with a little spiritual food.
I really believe that if more Christians would attend Bible study classes, evangelism would increase. Bible classes increase our knowledge of God’s Word and inspire us to walk with Him throughout the week. But unfortunately, as the Bible predicted, we are experiencing a falling away in our churches (1 Timothy 4:1). People are distracted by the world. Few attend little more than Sunday worship, skipping the classes available at their church.
As a lyric in the Black National Anthem warns, many of us have become “drunk with the wine of the world and have forgotten God.” The cost of this is that many people who do not know God, are being spiritually left behind. Yet, so many are in need and really are ready to hear what God has done for us and the world through Jesus. Just tell them.
Christianity is not supposed to be a secret. This is not the witness protection program. It’s about being willing to be used by God to save unbelievers. Telling someone how God has helped you deal with an illness, overcome a challenge, or how faith has brought you peace in a stressful situation can really make a difference for the hearer—a soul saving difference. And think of this. If we Christians don’t tell people about Jesus, who else will?
In the Book of Acts, 8th chapter, an Ethiopian eunuch made a similar point to the Apostle Philip when he asked him to help him understand the Bible passages he was reading. He asked Philip, “How can I know unless some man shows me?” Good question. Many people today are asking us Christians the same question. They’re searching for answers and peace of mind in a world reeling from epidemics, addictions, financial worries, broken families and new stresses lurking around every corner. Wherever you are in your Christian walk, you can help in some way by sharing whatever Jesus gives you to share in that moment. Will you? Remember this too. The Bible says, the word of God will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). But you do have to share it first. Now is the time to do so. Pray and ask God to use you in Jesus’ name.
If you are a Christian, it is only because someone shared Jesus with you. In the same way, someone may become a Christian if you allow God to use you to share Jesus with them.