Have you ever realized that you just seem to do certain things well but they seem to come so easily you take them for granted? I had this pointed out to me in a couple areas of my life - things that I just did - I thought they were no big deal but I have discovered after a couple requests that maybe there is a little more to it. One such area in my life is the way I have been able to cultivate relationships and introduce Jesus to folks (evangelism) in some non-traditional arenas. I had to stop and think about what I did and the way I did it and this will form the bulk of what I share in this post.
Yesterday I was in a local coffee shop. I was reading my Kindle and just trying to be aware of what the Father was doing around me. I am learning that to minister from a place of rest - not having to work anything up - that I can hear/see/sense much better what may be happening than trying to do so through the noise of "working too hard" to make something happen. There were a couple ladies sitting across the restaurant who I knew from years ago. I smiled and said "Hello". We talked about the weather for a few minutes and I went back to my reading. One of the ladies passed by my table, smiled on her way to the coffee counter and said in a hushed voice "Pray for me". I smiled and said "Sure and thanks for asking me." She went to the coffee counter, picked up the drinks for her table, left them at her table and the next thing I know she is sitting at my table. We spent the next 5-10 minutes praying together for a situation that was really hard for her and then I had a few moments to encourage her with the Fathers love for her in this situation. It was amazing as this woman got colour in her face, took a couple of deep cleansing breathes and she began to beam. She returned to her table and was telling her friends about our time together and I heard her say to her friends "Thank you Jesus!". This opened the door for continue conversation and provided an introduction to her sister who was now open to what I might have to share.
Luke 10 talks about Jesus sending the 72 out to proclaim the Kingdom and in verse 6 He talks about finding a "man of peace". I am on the look out for who that person of peace may be.
They may be a person of peace if:
1) Smile. If they return the smile ... they may be a person of peace.
2) Initiating a conversation. They converse back in an open way... they may be a person of peace.
3) Help Practically. If it looks like they are having some challenges I offer help where appropriate. Demonstrate genuine empathy. And often let them know I will pray for them. If they accept with a smile.... they may be a person of peace.
4) Initiate Conversation and REALLY listen. Often times when I start conversing with people, after a few minutes they will start to share some personal things that may be causing them stress / pain (don't go digging for it!).... they may be a person of peace.
5) Offer to Pray with them on the Spot. I ask them if they would like to pray about it with me and by this time, whether they want to pray or not, I am pretty confident ... they may be a person of peace.
---> Sometimes the person of peace is right in front of you. Remember, you are just learning to recognize where God is at work and joining in as it seems right, prudent and person-honouring as possible. I am often most surprised that the people who seem to have it all together are the ones who are the most desiring to get some encouragement from God! These can be friends, family and co-workers. Of course, whether obvious or not so obvious, it flows from the rest of relationship with God and an awareness that it is the work of God's Holy Spirit!
---> "I'd like Church if it wasn't for the Christians" is a comment I get fairly often. "So full of hypocrites" they lament. To which I exclaim "And there's always room for one more!" with a big smile on my face! Truth is, 9 times out of 10 they laugh! Look folks - we can't possibly defend and apologize for all the Christians who have made mistakes, have misspoken or fail to live the way they wished they could, BUT what we can do is avoid one of the most annoying things - self-righteous, preachy-ness! People like to be spoken with, not preached at.
---> Don't try and answer every question: Crusades, 7 day creation, problem with evil...These are all wonderful discussions and ones that people have wrestled with throughout history. Truth is for about 99% of the people asking these kinds of question not having answers is not the reason they haven't come to faith. Most of the time these questions are a straw man. Truth is, some of these questions are huge and to offer a packaged, neat, black and white answer is very unsatisfying and almost always a put-off! Honesty is always the best way to go. "Those are great questions. I don't know I have an answer that satisfies me let alone you."
---> In many cases, it's not about knowing enough information. It is about knowing a person - Jesus. Many are intimidated by the JW's or the Mormon missionaries coming to the door. The panic sets in "What do I say?" While good thinking is always a good thing, most people aren't looking for a good argument per sae but are most often persuaded by genuine love and a sense that you know Him!
---> I encourage folks to share what / who they love. Share your experience, your relationship / journey with Jesus and why you love Jesus. Be genuine and generous with your time realizing the conversation is taking place in the first place because God is already at work!
1) These are not hunting trips - notches on your bible. This is simply being aware of where God might be working and joining His work already in progress.
2) Don't fake it - don't pretend to care or be compassionate if you really dont. If fact, if you are not interested in being a genuine friend it may be better to keep your mouth shut.
3) Nobody wants to be a "project". Relationships take time and need to be cultivated, be genuine, enjoy the relationship and be yourself.
4) Homeruns are awesome but rare. Many folks get greedy out of a twisted sense of it's all up to them" and they can often try and steal bases - so to speak. This will most often get you called out! Honour people wherever they are on their journey.
5) Ends don't justify the means - Never! "God is no respecter of persons" doesn't justify us being an ass.
6) God loves that person more than we do. It is His will that none should perish - we need to trust God that He is at work.
7) God is not worried. The bologna that it is "all on your shoulders", that you "may be the only Jesus these people ever meet" is an outright lie and manipulation - to guilt you to get out and share your faith. Shake that off and just enjoy. Share what you love, the way you are!
8) Inviting people on a journey to follow Jesus not join our church. Here is the tipping of a popular sacred cow. The Good News is Jesus not the Church. The Church is made up of folks who are following Jesus, we are to be sign-posts pointing the way, proclaiming the good news with our lives. Be careful not to confuse Church doctrines, preferences, politics and opinions with the Good News. Don't worry, you will find that where relationship is, people will follow.