5 simple ways to engage
by Robert Krumrey
Last Sunday (7/8/18), I preached on Hebrews 13:10-14 about what it means to bear the reproach of being a Christian. You can listen to that sermon here. This was a huge burden for the original hearers of the book of Hebrews. They were very discouraged that their own Jewish brothers were attempting to shame them back into a Judaism without Jesus. Evidently, they were starting to go the way of compromising their belief in and practice of the gospel because of it. The book of Hebrews is an all out attempt to exhort them back into whole-hearted gospel life.
We too suffer from a burden of fear and shame when it comes to our faith. Being bible believing Christians who seek to commend a message of absolute truth over and against other truth claims (religious & secular) is less than popular in our cultural moment. After the sermon, a few of you shared that you were walking away from our church service with a newfound willingness to engage people with the gospel in spite of the risks of being treated with contempt. So now what?
Here are five simple ways to engage others with the gospel:
The simplest way to begin engaging people with the gospel is to begin to pray for opportunities to do so. We see this in Paul's writings. He writes this to the Colossians, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." (Col 4:3,4). He is asking God to open doors for the gospel and to supernaturally empower Paul to speak the gospel clearly when those doors open. If the Apostle Paul needed to pray (and ask others to pray) in order to see God work through is evangelistic efforts, surely we need that too.
2. Offer Hospitality
Effective evangelism occurs in the context of real relationship. If we don't have some genuine friendships with people without Christ, we probably aren't going to be very good at commending Jesus to others. This weekend I was in the Amherst farmers market and ran into some Christians who were passing out gospel tracts. They were friendly but the interaction felt very strange as I was handed a strange and confusing flyer with absolutely no relational connection. To be fair, they were doing more to evangelize Amherst than I was last Saturday, but their efforts were completely devoid of relationship and therefore fairly ineffective as far as I could tell. Opening your life and home to others to merely do life together is a huge step toward being able to commend the gospel to friends and neighbors. Even better, doing so alongside other Christians so that people can see an authentication of the gospel message in Christian community.
3. Just Ask
Most of us think of gospel witness in terms of us talking and the other person listening. To be sure, if there is not explanation of gospel truth, we are not going to be faithful in this endeavor. But how do we know what to say if we haven't asked some good questions and listened well to understand the person's background. No one grows up in a vacuum. Who they are today (spiritually or otherwise) is a result of all of their yesterdays. Therefore, ask lots of questions to find out where people are in their understanding of Jesus. One, because you love them and really want to get to know them. Two, because you can't really address the questions or misunderstandings that they have about the gospel if you don't know what those are. So ask some good questions and then really listen and ask follow-up questions. People who have been listened too are much more likely to enter into a respectful and friendly dialogue about Jesus.
4. Tell Your Story
Once someone has done some history giving about their own lives, reciprocate by giving some of your own. This is actually just a good way to relate with others. This of course will not be exclusively Christian content but some of it will be. Don't edit yourself (except if some of your religious language you typically use is hard to understand) but be honest about what Jesus means to you and what he has done in your life. Follow up with questions to them about their own experience with Jesus or church if they haven't already given that information in their own story telling.
5. Next Steps
As you get to know someone, you will become aware of their level of receptivity as it pertains to the gospel. When a friend begins to ask you questions and shows signs of sincere interest in knowing more, offer them a "next step". This could be an invite to Sunday worship or a Bible study. It could be giving them a Christian book to read (we give out some good ones for free in our services) or asking them if they want to read and discuss one of the four gospels. This takes courage but you'll never know until you try. A huge percentage of people say that if they were asked to engage in some kind of Christian activity that they would (see surprise #3 in this article).
So with hearts strengthened with grace, let's risk having to bear the reproach of being a gospel witness by praying for and engaging with the people around us with the greatest news ever told!