I was talking with a friend recently about the topic of evangelism and of each individual Christian’s responsibility to share the good news of Christ at every opportunity. Knowing him to be a highly effective individual for influencing others, I coveted his thoughts. He said to me,
“You know, I just heard about something a man did that I would really like to try. Let me tell you about it.”
As I listened, he proceeded to tell me the story of a man who sat outside a coffee shop in a busy downtown area of a large city with a cardboard sign on which he had written, “Let me tell you about my experience with God and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” He had several takers and some good, long Bible studies with people who were searching. On the second day, he did the same thing again, only this time his sign read “Tell me about YOUR experience with God and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” According to my friend, there was a line out the door that didn’t go down until the end of the day.
While I’m not sure his approach was the best (the very best is what’s called “friendship evangelism,” meaning you form relationships with people and then try to touch their hearts with the gospel), I think the story makes a very valid point. Some people are interested to hear you have to say about the Lord, but a lot more people are more anxious to tell you about their relationships with God than to hear about yours. Don’t get me wrong—it is so important that you share what you know about the Lord and about salvation, but your message will likely be much better received if you treat that person as though their point of view is every bit as valid and important as yours is.
I remember numerous times growing up when my dad would answer the door and two Mormon ‘elders’ would be at the door asking if they could come in and talk to him about the Bible. My dad would stop what he was doing and eagerly welcome them in and serve them sweet tea as they talked to him about the Mormon doctrine. When the conversation allowed him to comment and ask questions, he would ask them questions using scriptures that he knew they would be unable to answer with scripture while adhering to the Mormon doctrine. His questions were kind and polite and his comments were loving and calm. Oftentimes, they would sit in our kitchen for hours–deep in study and deep in thought about simple Biblical concepts the Mormons had never been taught.
I would venture to say that evangelism isn’t just about teaching. Half of evangelism is just about listening.
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” –Proverbs 29:20
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” –Proverbs 18:2