Since becoming a Christian in my early teens I have been very burdened to tell others about Jesus. I soon discovered that not everyone wants to know. And it was heart-breaking to experience how hard it is to share the gospel with those closest to you. How easy it is to come across as ‘holier than thou’ or ‘preachy’. But I have always been struck by the words of the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Jesus’ encouragement in Luke 10:2 about the plentiful harvest and the experience of the woman at the well, who gave what testimony she could and drew her neighbours to find out for themselves (John 4:39-40).
Often it is easy to be bold in talking to strangers, particularly if you know you have very little chance to see them again. These unsuspecting strangers can feel the full blast of your gospel ‘sales-pitch’ if you don’t take time to find to about them, their concerns and their questions.
It was something Roger Carswell spoke about, and later wrote, that gave me a greater perspective on how to make the most of gospel opportunities. He wrote:
At the age of 17 I read John Pollock’s book ‘Moody without Sankey’ and was challenged to speak to someone about the Lord every day. It became a discipline of my life which has been a tremendous blessing to me and I trust to others too. It has meant that daily I pray that the Lord would give me someone to whom I could chat and share the gospel and then gone into each new day looking for people with whom I could change inconsequential chatter into conversation about things that really mattered. I count it one of the greatest joys to share the gospel with those whom ‘I just happen to meet’.
I keep these words in my daily Bible and read them often, especially when I am bogged down with daily life and feel lethargic and unmotivated.
I have had some interesting times trying to put Roger’s example into practice and have discovered that more opportunities present themselves when we are looking out for them but also how easy it is to miss opportunities right under your nose.
So I’m no evangelism expert and know I have failed God on so many occasions when I could have given ‘a reason for the hope’ that I have (1 Peter 3:15), but here is a flavour of some of the times when I have been able to take the opportunities that come along.
Hairdressers can be your captive audience – after all they are there to do your hair and keep you happy as a customer so that you return to the salon. On one visit to a new hairdresser, I soon struck up a conversation with the man styling my hair. He asked me what I did in my spare time. I decided to tell him that I taught in Sunday school. He then told me that he remembered going to Sunday school as a lad, so I asked him what he remembered and he told me.
That struck a chord in the mind of the hairdresser cutting in the next bay and they both started asking me questions. The other customer left, hair neat and tidy, and the conversation flowed, with the two hairdressers asking lots and lots of questions. I had a chance to answer and give my testimony. Two hours later I emerged from the appointment. Nine months later the male hairdresser turned up to church and heard the gospel.
The irony was that with the hairdresser distracted by my conversation, my haircut was uneven. I felt embarrassed to go back and so I went to another nearby hairdresser for a quick trim. That hairdresser received a children’s booklet that I had in my bag as we got on to the subject of children hearing about God.
I took my car to the Ford Dealer for its MOT. I was allowed to wait upstairs with coffee and a magazine. As I was leaving I moved downstairs and one of the mechanics was passing on his way up. He told me that it was unlucky to pass on the stairs, to which I answered that I didn’t believe in luck, I believed in God. We had a further conversation and I returned to the garage the next week with an invitation to our community carol service.
The local supermarket was busy with Christmas bargains. A couple near me picked up a door wreath and looked at it. The woman said, ‘I thought that wreaths were for funerals?’ She wasn’t talking to me, but I piped up, ‘Do you know about our Christmas traditions?’ and gave her a brief rundown of how the Romans Christianised some pagan traditions. They seemed interested and the man said, ‘I thought that the Romans killed him,’ so I shared a bit of the gospel. I wished I’d had a carol service invitation in my handbag to give out.
The operating theatre
Just before Christmas I had eye surgery by local anaesthetic. To say I was nervous as the hypodermic needle approached my face, is putting it mildly! One of the theatre nurses struck up a conversation and asked me what I did for work. I told them about being a visiting lecturer in a Bible college and I’m not quite sure how we got onto it but I told them the story of Robert Jermaine Thomas taking the gospel to Korea. I had a captive audience, as no one could walk out and as I couldn’t see anyone, I felt quite bold! In the recovery room afterwards another nurse struck up a conversation and we got on to prayer. She thanked me and told me it had helped her.
These are myriad. One example was when I was walking past McDonald’s and saw two men sitting chatting on a seat outside. I noticed as they walked away that they had left a bunch of keys on the floor. I ran after them and gave them the keys, which had fallen out of one of their pockets. ‘You’re an angel,’ one of them said. And I said nothing but wasn’t that an opportunity?
Just the very day I started writing this article, we’d had lunch in a local restaurant and the older couple sitting near us struck up a conversation. They’d had a bad day and gave us an example. The man turned and said, ‘At least I’ve got a Guinness.’ To which I said nothing – what a missed opportunity!
A few tips
- Pray daily for opportunities to come along – and then expect and look for them.
- Have a tract in your handbag or pocket. If you have one then you are more likely to look for opportunities to give it away.
- Don’t expect to be an expert on science or apologetics. Find out about which websites to point people to where, if they are really interested, they can get answers.
- Point people to the website www.lookingforgod.com, where they can write in and get answers to their questions and get linked up with a local church.
- Point people to short talks by well-known evangelists on YouTube, such as Roger Carswell and Glen Scrivener.
Two books that I have found helpful recently are:
- Roger Carswell’s Facing a Task Unfinished, republished in 2015 by Christian Focus. It is a book of 52 devotion-based Bible texts, to encourage personal evangelism.
- The other book is shorter, just 101 pages, published by 10Publishing in 2016, Intentional – Evangelism that Takes People to Jesus by Paul Williams. It is really instructional and encourages the reader to get started.