Being a purposeful, wise ambassador of Christ

July 11, 2008

I took a church planting class this last semester at seminary and had to interview a few church planters as a part of the class. The common thread I picked up from these men, my reading, and my professor, was the truth that evangelism only really happens when you’re purposeful about it. I’ve also been learning a lot about how to be purposeful in evangelism…

It’s not wrong to knock on a stranger’s door or walk up to someone you don’t know and immediately give them the gospel, but it’s important to be considerate and wise. I recently had a stranger start talking to me at a Starbucks. Their friendliness brightened my day, until the brief conversation very suddenly turned to a pitch for a pyramid scheme selling “the perfect water” (which, by the sounds of it, comes straight from the fountain of youth, can cure every disease known to man, and would make me a billionaire if I would only take up her offer and start selling it too). My day was no longer brightened. To be honest, I was pretty annoyed. I politely changed the subject, wished her a nice day, and left… I imagine most people would do the same if you were to try present the gospel like she presented her sales pitch. I might have listened to this lady more if I’d actually known her a little bit and believed she was really trying to line me up with something for my good, rather than just buttering me up with a few words of “kindness” so she can make her quick sale and move on…     

I think we’re far more likely to succeed in evangelism when we know people/ get to know people and witness to them within a friendship… when we can show a genuine interest in them, talk with them at length about the gospel and answer questions/ objections they may have, take opportunities to serve them (even in little ways), and follow up with those who do receive Christ – helping them get plugged into church, teaching them more about Christ, etc. This means we should be faithful to give the gospel to the unbelieving friends we already have (I am often blown away by how many people do not make the most of this incredible opportunity!), and we should be purposeful about getting to know more people who do not yet know Christ so that we can tell them about Him too…

Opportunities to meet and get to know people are all around  us, if we’ll be purposeful to take them… Here are a few ways the church planters I interviewed were purposeful about meeting unbelievers who lived in their neighborhoods:

  • Playing basketball in a park every week with a group of men from the area (whom this man did not previosuly know)
  • Riding the bus and walking as much as possible, being friendly and interacting with people as possible
  • Frequenting the same Starbucks and getting to know the employees and regulars
  • Intentionally befriending other parents through parent-teacher meetings. This church-planter and his family now go hiking with a New Age family they met at these meetings and are telling them about Christ.
  • Studying for sermons and doing as much work as possible at local coffee shops
  • Eating in the food court of the local mall with his family every week night for 3 months! (It sounds extreme, but it was at the very beginning of a church plant, when the church planter knew practically no one in the area. By sitting near other people and looking for chances to interact with them in a “non-weird” way, he was able to make dozens of unbelieving friends and tell many of them about Christ)    

I’ve also been encouraged by a few other examples I’ve heard about recently:

  • Lance Skifter told me that one of his professors from Eternity Bible College makes a point of getting his groceries at the same grocery store, the same day and time every time he shops. That way it’s likely that the same tellers will be working and he can get to know them over time. He now knows them quite well and regularly asks them how he can be praying for them. One of the assignments this professor gave his students for an apologetics class was to come up with their own “game plan” for reaching specific people with the gospel and to keep a prayer journal in which they recorded their prayers for the salvation of those souls. 
  • John Brown gets to know people at the McDonalds he eats at regularly and presents Christ to them.
  • I know of several men who purposefully went to the same barbor shop on an ongoing basis so they could befriend and serve the owner for the sake of Christ.
  • Kent Dalton told me he’s been trying to be purposeful about getting to know the people who live in the 5 houses to either side of him and the 10 houses across the street from him. He got this idea from his wife’s uncle, who has planted 27 churches around the world. What does this actually look like? Kent got to know many of these people simply by being friendly and interacting with them as he saw them (while doing yard work or coming and going), as well as taking walks around his block with his family. They’ve been able to befriend another 15-20 people on their walking route and talk with them as they see them. Of course, Kent has got to know some of these people better than others and talks with some of them more often… And that’s fine. You take the opportunities God gives you and look to follow up on others/ open new doors as you can. So, for example, Kent has spoken to the residents of 18 of the 20 houses he’s focussing on in the last month, and he will be purposeful to catch up with the other 2 soon. So far 19 of these families know he is a Christian, and he’s given 9 of them the gospel… By staying purposeful, he’ll communicate the gospel to the other families as he’s able to.

What about you? Have you introduced yourself to your bank tellers? To your mailman? To the cashiers at the Jack in the Box you eat at almost every week? To your neighbors? Will you continue getting to know them as you’re able? Are you thinking and praying through how you will get to know unbelievers for the sake of presenting Christ to them? Do you have your own “game plan”? 

If you are a Christian, you are supposed to be an ambassador for Christ. Are you living out what He has called you to?  

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17-21

I need to be much more purposeful about this. If you, like me, know you have been less than faithful in this area, I encourage you to pursue faithfulness in it along with me. Check in with me and let’s talk about it – I’d love to share ideas as well as stories of God’s faithfulness. 

~Donovan

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4 Responses to “Being a purposeful, wise ambassador of Christ”

  1. Shanda Conger said

    Thanks for sharing this! I don’t know you but stumbled onto your blog… I love what you had to say for a list of reasons:
    1. I too recently took a Church Planting class in Seminary and it taught me a lot about the importance of being strategic in our everyday lives like you have talked about here!
    2. I’ve worked at Starbucks for the past 3 years… Not only is it the way God is allowing me to pay my bills, it’s been great training for me as an ambassador of Christ. As I work with many who do not believe and others who are exploring the possibility of believing, I have seen three ways that Christians interact. (1) Customers think they are doing something good and leave a gospel track in the tip jar or on the condiment bar… I then see how negative of an impression that leaves on my unbelieving co-workers and that such approaches are more likely to push someone away than bring them closer to Christ. (2) I have watched pastors, seminary students, and others who love Jesus choose Starbucks as a place to get to know people, love on them, and in the context of relationship share Jesus! And I’ve seen lives change drastically because of it! (3) I’ve watched people who I see reading their Bibles and talking to their Christian friends but never do a thing to reach out to anyone!

    Thanks for encouraging people to do option number 2!

  2. Bobby Grow said

    Hello Donovan,

    great points! I think friendship evangelism is great, and indeed is an important way to evangelize. But, I think it is one of many methods to evangelize. Often times, and I’m not saying this about you, people use “friendship evangelism” as a cloak or front to hide behind; in other words its not an very urgent approach. It is easy to tell myself, ‘self you should befriend that person with the purpose of eventually evangelizing them,’ but then never getting around to sharing the gospel. I think it is much easier and prudent to let people know, right away, where I am coming from (i.e. share the gospel straightaway); that way any future friendship that is cultivated and established is based upon the knowledge that I am a Christian—and I am hoping that my potential friend will become one too. I’ve seen to many people follow friendship evangelism to their own demise—starting out with good intentions—but waiting too long to share the gospel, and becoming locked into friendships on “compromised” terms.

    The moral of my rambling: if we are going to do “friendship evangelism,” we need to be upfront, right away, about our hopes for the friendship. The Church in America has spent enough time trying to meet peoples’ “felt” needs; and subsequently never getting to the “real” need—IMHO.

    Other than that, the emphasis of your post is excellent; it’s nice to see someone talking about evangelism, that seems to be an lost art within the American Church.

    peace.

  3. Drew Lepis said

    I appreciate the desire to be purposeful in evangelism. It’s not something we do when we aren’t thinking about it. We breath without thinking about it. However, ask anybody – the lawn doesn’t get mowed until you are purposeful about mowing it. It’s just the way things are. So – be purposeful about evangelism. Talk to people, have it on your mind to bring the Gospel. And like Bobby said – don’t just be their friends and hope someday that its going to happen – be purposeful, bring the message to them ASAP. Be honest. Don’t be a jerk – just honest.
    ONE MORE THING – using the term “success” in Evangelism is a dangerous thing. I’m not sure how Donovan really intended to use it – but success is not “winning somebody to the Lord.” Success is not having the person like you or even have a better taste of Christianity when they are done talking to you. When will we get this into our heads.
    Conversion does not equal success.
    Success = faithfully telling another person the whole Gospel – the bad with the good. God and man, holiness and sin, heaven and hell, relationship and separation, repentance and belief. They are all necessary to the presentation.
    Having a good conversation, having somebody enjoy the time, having somebody like you, think that your church must be nice and even not offending people are all great things – but they all are far short of real evangelism. Without the message – we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that we are faithful to God. In fact, we’ve been more faithful to man than a Sovereign God who loves us.
    I think Donovan meant that we’d be better off if we actually did take a genuine interest in somebody. Somebody is more likely to open their ears and give us a hearing – which can make headway for the Gospel to be presented – but lets be careful that we done mistake a “platform for hearing the Gospel” with actual “evangelism” itself.
    For more on this discussion: visit bgbcmen.wordpress.com

    ~Drew

  4. […] 1, 2008    I received a few comments on my earlier post with this title, so I decided to write a “part 2″…           Both Bobby and Drew wanted […]

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