Monday, June 1, 2015

Evangelism

       When I hear the word, "evangelism," my heart starts racing. I don't know about you, but the thought of walking up to a complete stranger and asking them about the status of their relationship with God has always terrified me. People's stories make it sound easy (well, sometimes...) and then I wonder what is wrong with me. But, when the call comes at the end of the sermon for me to, "go into all the world and preach the good news," suddenly things begin to look very complicated.
        Now, I want you to know that I am no expert in evangelism. I am not descended from Billy Graham. I am no Amy Semple McPherson. However, the Holy Spirit does live inside of me and this makes all of the difference.
        This morning, while I was spending time with Jesus, He reminded me of two times last summer when I was able to share my faith with a total stranger. Both of these were unplanned meetings - but they have really changed the way I think about evangelism. I am not so scared of it anymore. I hope that after you have heard them, "evangelism" might not sound like such a scary word to you either.



Thelma and I at the Mall in South Africa
        The first meeting happened on an afternoon in South Africa, at a mall (yes, there are malls there, and they make great study locations!). My friend Thelma and I were there and we decided to go exploring. On our way we came across a quaint little shop and decided to look around.
        Being foreigners, we were easily picked out of a crowd because of our accents - we sounded different, she being from India and I from America. Before long the woman at the counter asked us where we were from. Walking up to her, we started a conversation.
        Now, being a missionary in a foreign country is a great segway to talking more about Jesus! Conversation came naturally from there and one thing led to another. We shared about our lives and she shared some struggles with us. It turned out that this woman was a Christian and had been praying for her husband to know Jesus. So, right there in her shop we had an opportunity to minister to her in prayer. We met a sister in Christ out of the blue, and boy did it make our day!
        From that meeting, I learned that evangelism does not have to be something that is forced, scary, or planned. It can simply come as part of a conversation with a stranger. You never know when the Holy Spirit has someone in the path of your day, waiting for you to bless them and I daresay- to be blessed by them.
        Her name was Sandy, and I will not soon forget her. May Sandy remind you that God can use you wherever you are, even in a mall on a weekday when you don't know that the cashier has been interceding for her husband to come to the faith. Evangelism can be spontaneous!

        The next meeting happened on an airplane as I was flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Once I heard a pastor say that an airplane in one of the best places to evangelize because you are stuck with someone for an odd number of hours in a small space, and they can't escape! This couldn't be more true. (I am not condoning  you trapping someone into hearing the gospel, but pray for divine appointments as you travel...you never know what could be ahead!)
        On this particular journey, I had already been traveling for over 24 hours and had decided (from past inexperience) to stay awake as I made my way across the globe. Never again - I do not recommend this form of travel. However, I don't regret it because if I had chosen to sleep on this 5 hour flight, I never would have met Maureen.
        Maureen was coming to Los Angeles for a religious conference, I think it was a Darwinist convention. I'm not familiar with this as a religion, aside from what she told me about it. Maureen was a very sweet and compassionate woman in her early forties. She had worked with special education children for many years, and was desperately searching for four things: fulfillment, peace, self-reconciliation, and forgiveness.
        I never dreamed that five hours in a small plane surrounded by strangers could fly by so quickly! In those five hours, we shred stories and searched the Word together. We walked through the story of the bible and watched God's relationship with man unfold, connecting the dots between the Old and New Testament and seeing how Jesus fulfilled the plan of God to save mankind. We talked about the peace and forgiveness that could be found in Him alone, and how the rituals of self-searching compared to relationship with Jesus. I think it was one of the best conversations I've ever had in my life!
        Eventually we did land in LA and we parted ways with warm wishes. I don't know where Maureen is today, but I still think of her and I pray for her. I believe that one day I'll see her again and she will have found the peace forgiveness, and fulfillment that her heart longs for.
        From my meeting with Maureen I learned that traveling poses a great opportunity to talk to people about Jesus! Also, that God can use you even when you haven't slept in over 24 hours...when we are weak, He is strong in us!

        I hope that these stories encourage you. You can do this! Evangelism doesn't have to be a daunting task. It can happen when you least expect it...before you have time to psyche yourself out. The Father is ready to use you anytime, anywhere. The Holy Spirit lives in you- He knows these people, He is familiar with their struggles, and He knows exactly the way to draw them back to His heart. Every encounter may not end in salvation at that moment, but the pressure is not on you. Simply be open to the Father.
        May you encounter your own Sandy's and Maureen's


. Whether it is in a mall, on a plane, at the zoo, or in the cubicle across from you, may the Spirit give you the words to speak and calm your heart. We don't have to be experts, only willing...

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