Think of the person you look up to most in the world but also feel comfortable around, the person with whom you can be you, not the public version, but the real version. What qualities do they possess that make them that way? If you want to know how to be a better evangelist, this is the person you want to become –someone who people feel comfortable talking to about the real problems of life, someone who understands and cares.
In a word, this person can be described as AVAILABLE.
Part one of my previous, somewhat snarky, blogs was called e·van·ge·lism, and I spoke mostly to our motives.
- If you’d like to simply read about the work you may skip to the last paragraph. I promise i won’t be offended.
In part two maybe I’ll call it e·van·ge·lism #2, and this one will focus on how to be available in several different ways. I’ll try to maintain just enough of my smart aleck tone so as not to take myself too seriously, yet express some ideas that I feel to be essential for Christians who genuinely want to do evangelism.
Aside from motive, availability is key.
Time is the most obvious way to be available. So, let’s knock this one out first. As a full time evangelist I work when everyone else is off work. My schedule is somewhat upside down so that I can be available when people have free time. So if the mass majority of people work 9-5 I try to arrange it to where that is my down time. Sometimes I will stagger my schedule to where Monday I work mornings and Tuesday I work evenings, etc. maximizing my availability.
Not everyone is a full time evangelist so I’ll address another time issue. Try to avoid short and impromptu studies with people. Well, don’t avoid studies at all, but when you can help it, choose to do something harder, but better. Take the time and effort to set up a fixed schedule to where you have at least a solid hour to sit in peace and take away distractions.
E.g. “Could we talk more in depth about this? Tuesday at 7pm?” Nail it down. Allow yourself time to do a good job as opposed to rushed arguments about details. This is important to me – do you have an hour? We have important things to discuss and talk about that are worth more than a back and forth battle.
You assume that they have the same worldview about the Bible you do, so the arguments on each side are made on these conflicting worldviews. Instead of making progress. You have to establish the reality and truth of the Bible so that you’re both thinking and making logical arguments on the same basis so you can actually have the chance of making progress. Give evangelism the time it deserves.
Be approachable, or available in a way that people are not used to. Here I could simply say, “don’t be haughty” or “be humble,” and 95% of people are going to say, “Well obviously! Thank you captain obvious!” without taking the necessary time for self-reflection and properly kicking ourselves in the pants – in a healthy way, of course. It’s all about perspective.
You have to start by being honest with yourself before you can be honest and transparent with others.
I’m not sure if you’re aware or not, but there are a whole lot of Christians who do not know why their particular sins are bad.
Let’s go deeper than, “hey, nobody’s perfect”
Sometimes we have not taken the time to really deal with the implications that all sin deserves of death, and all have sinned, therefore every last one of us, what we actually deserve is death. But who really believes that? I rarely meet people who think they are bad, and even less who think they are deserving of death. The world didn’t get this way on it’s own… somebody is responsible.
So, if a person does not understand the gravity of their own sin, how could they ever appreciate what it feels like to be lost and in need of Christ? Even worse, that person is more likely to be the very definition of arrogance, much like the churches in Galatia. In short I’m saying, don’t be a patronizing jerk. One way to achieve this is if more Christians would practice a rarely practiced command.
“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16
Imagine the level of honesty and transparency that this would provide. We enter into a debate whether or not people are more likely to listen to an honest transparent Christian, or a Christian eager to talk about someone else’s sin and need for Christ while hiding, masking, their own broken nature.
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Proverbs 28:13
Something to consider.
Being emotionally available is hard, (it’s a girl thing, right?) and sometimes embarrassing, but it’s necessary for understanding the true state of your soul and your true worth, or lack thereof, in the grand scheme of things (and in comparison with other people). Sometimes we are haughty about our “pure” lives because deep down we know that we have the exact same problems we are criticizing in other people – and that’s exactly why we criticize them. It’s easier to say, “That’s your problem, how awful,” than to say, “I have this problem, and it’s destroying me. I’m failing at having the qualities I most desire.” We know we have faults, but we don’t want them. By employing avoidance, simply ignoring the problems, we hope they will go away or fix themselves, and especially that that will keep others from noticing what you already know yourself. Because after all, that would destroy your “perfect” image.
- Humility and Humiliation
I have one last thing to end my rant, before I get to the details about the work here in Cusco. To be truly available, a Christian needs to understand the connection between the words humility and humiliation. Have you ever felt the deep humiliation of your particular sins? It’s an easy thing to say and believe that you are humble. It’s something altogether different to feel humiliated deep in your heart. So I pose the question, should that feel the same? I believe this would make a perceivable difference in the way Christians talk to others and the way ears and hearts might be opened to the Word.
I’m not saying we need to be loved or even liked by the world. I’m saying we need to be real. Honest. We need to do better at being Christians while showing our genuine humanity in this fallen world. At the same time, we need to do what seems like the opposite – be the best at doing what’s right. In all of this, Christians must give credit where credit is due. Only in Christ are we saved, and outside of Christ we ALL deserve death. The credit for being “the good ones” and living pure lives is not in your own efforts but in the efforts of Christ when He died on the cross. You are just as broken and dirty as anyone you ever meet; the only difference is that you have learned what Christ already did and have responded to it. Who are you to blame another and look down on them simply for not having had that opportunity yet? When we approach people to talk about their sin and need from Christ, it would be much better received from someone not speaking down to them, but speaking to them as a person in the same condition… in need of Christ. Too harsh?
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:20
I’ve been watching people approach evangelism and try hard to figure out why people are not as eager to hear the church speak as they were to hear Christ speak. I hope this sheds some light on the difference. Jesus was available, genuinely humble, and compassionate. He actually loved other people. The problem is that some days I don’t – we don’t – and it shows. We have work to do.
For those that skipped the lecture, here’s a report on the work here in Cusco.
In nearly seven years as a new congregation we have only recently got to the point where the church here is beginning to understand that when we fall it’s as simple as getting back up. As opposed to wallowing in shame and growing apart from God and the church they can repent and come back.
7 years ago a life long alcoholic came to the church after a 30-day binge. At this point he had lost his family, work, and home. He was baptized 7 years ago, and really changed his life, regained his family, work, and home and has been one of the most evangelistic of our brethren. A couple of weeks ago life and stress got to him, and he had his first relapse in seven years. He went on a 10-day binge and ended up in the hospital. His temptation was to throw his hands up and say, “I just lost all this progress, and now I can not show my face again. I let the church down and I let my family down. I’ve disappointed so many.” Fortunately he didn’t do this. He went back to church and publicly repented, and let a bunch of 6-year-old Christians know that you can always get back up. We had several visitors in attendance that day and some are still commenting on what a large impression that made on them. From talking to them I believe that for the first time they feel that salvation is possible, and hope is real. They saw it first hand. My sincere belief is that we can provide a version of that on a much more regular basis.
Please pray for this brother. Even though he has repented, this last binge did a lot of irreversible damage to his body. His health is in pretty bad decline.
We love you all, thanks for following the work here in Cusco and your continual prayers