We must never forget the bitter and confusing lostness, the isolation and spiritual barrenness by which the unsaved and the unenlightened negotiate the world.1
True indeed. But just how do I win my lost friends to Christ? Much of what many of us were taught is that as a matter of course we are to directly confront every one we can with the Gospel. Kind of hit them in the face with it. Many of us were taught a tool or two that we felt compelled to present to our potential converts. Kind of a sales pitch for Jesus. No doubt many of us felt uncomfortable and relatively ineffective with this packaged approach. Perhaps we wonder how many people we have alienated with this rather rigid and blunt tactic.
One thing we may need to do is take a careful look at our giftedness. Some people seem to have a natural gift of evangelism. Fine. Most of us do not. Perhaps we need to re-examine the Scriptures on this subject, especially observing Jesus approach to reaching the lost.
In studying Jesus encounters with people, we are hard-pressed to observe a set approach to evangelism. What stands out is that he served and loved people at their perceived point of need. For example, the blind men in John 9 and Luke 18:35 -43, and the leper in Luke 5:2-13. With Nicodemus in John 3, and the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus did use a more direct approach. It seems that Christ viewed the winning of the lost not so much as an event, but as a process. Does that not suggest that we too should view each person we encounter as someone in process on their spiritual journey toward God? Our job then is to love them, listen to their heart, and then prayerfully, as guided by the Holy Spirit, gently seek to move them a step or two closer to Christ on their journey. We would do well to heed St. Pauls wise counsel:
The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
As we live our lives among the lost, there are at least two powerful ways we can influence them spiritually:
By the power of love: If we truly believe with St. Paul that love is the greatest force in the world (I Cor. 13:13 ), we would find it easier to soften and slow our approach with people. We could start by allowing the very life and love of Jesus to flow through us to others. Remember how he commended those who cared for the needy? "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for meFor I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (Matt. 25:40, 35,36)
By the power of example: Just the other day a dear friend of ours led one of her employees to Christ after praying for her and loving her for 3 years. Said the new believer, The reason I came to Christ is that for 3 years I have observed your quiet, Christlike manner. You lived it so powerfully and beautifully before me. And you did not push your beliefs on me. You just loved and served me. In the end, I could not resist Christ. Certainly this is verification of Christs instruction: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:16)
1 Mane Attraction, Touchstone Magazine, page 39, June 2006