When the Bible tells believers to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have in Christ, he means it. Opportunities will spring up to proclaim the gospel when we least expect it. Instead of being timid, believers can embrace opportunities to witness what Christ has already done for us. A great example of this happened a few weeks ago in Toledo.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries partnered with New Hope Lutheran Church in Toledo OH to train members how to confidently proclaim the gospel. [Click here to read report]
Whenever I am blessed with the opportunity to travel to a congregation to launch an outreach initiative, I take the time to thoroughly prepare myself for the two and half hour training session that evening. Toledo was no different.
After meeting with the pastor and event manager to review final details, I will drive through the neighborhoods where people will be going door-to-door to verbally proclaim the gospel. My next visit is a city park where I can walk on the paths and practice key sections of the training that will take place in the evening.
It’s uncanny how the Lord provides opportunities for me to witness while I practice. People seem to be naturally curious when I walk around studying a clipboard in my hands.
The Lord didn’t disappoint me in Toledo when I met Ed – a rock and roller from the 1960s.
Ed was about to walk his old dog when he called out, “Hey, what are you doing?” He thought that I may be a city planner recording improvements for the park and launching site for boats to enter Lake Erie. After sharing with him that I was partnering with a local church to help with their outreach and evangelism efforts, Ed had a quizzical look on his face. After a pause, he asked, “Can I ask you something?” For the next fifteen minutes, I listened to Ed vent about Christians.
A powerful way for evangelists to start sharing about Jesus is learning the importance of using our ears. Being prepared to give an answer often starts by listening first to build bridges, before verbally proclaiming the hope that we have in Christ.
I listened to Ed share with me his anguish about how people who profess to be Christian can associate themselves with the current platform of a conservative political party. He also expressed dismay that a preacher would want his people to purchase a fourth $50 million-dollar private jet.
Its saddens me that unbelievers often link faithful Christians with conservative politics, unscrupulous televangelists, or widely-publicized immoral actions of pastors. It’s not that most unbelievers have a problem with the Truth of God’s Word, but they have a problem with people who associate themselves with the Truth.
I asked the Lord for patience and guidance in how to answer.
After acknowledging his concerns, I asked him to consider that there are a visible few who present a far different gospel than what the Bible teaches. Instead of judging Christianity by the words and actions of a visible few, I asked him to give Jesus a second chance by hearing directly what he has to say through his Words.
This was not an easy step for Ed.
After working for over thirty years in the nearby Jeep plant in Toledo, Ed was now retired. With a long gray ponytail, he expressed his love for old rock and roll music and once played in a rock band in the 1960’s. He shared with me that when his children were young, they started going to a children’s program at a large Christian church nearby. One day, his children came back to tell them that the preacher taught that rock and roll music was from the devil. This did not sit well with Ed. This story combined with present-day actions of confessing Christians proved to be barriers that will take effort to peel away so that he may hear the true gospel of what Christ has already done for him.
Ed allowed me a brief window of opportunity to share with him the good news of the gospel. All of us are sinners and need Jesus’ substitutionary death to redeem us. By trusting in his completed work instead of our works, we receive the promise of eternal life in heaven right now. With Christ as the object of our faith, we receive confidence and assurance that our sins are forgiven right now. “Ed, I believe it is no accident that we met this afternoon. This is a message that God wants you to hear. He wants you to meet him through his Word so that you can receive the Truth of who he is instead of relying on the words and actions of others who severely misrepresent him.”
Ed thanked me for listening to him. He thanks me for an honest and respectful dialogue together and headed back to his truck.
I will never know if Ed will ever receive faith. I don’t know how the Lord will use the gospel seed that was planted in his heart, but I do believe in the power of God’s Word.
Providing love and respect to an unbeliever helps furrow the hard-packed soil that has been stomped upon by difficult life circumstances and the hypocrisy of those who profess to be Christian. Listening ears beget listening ears. When Christians take the time to build a bridge before verbally planting the seed of God’s Word, unbelievers will listen more closely to what Christ has to say.
Thank you, Lord, for the opportunities that you provide each of us to praise your name and proclaim your mighty works to a world that is longing for answers.