NPL - A Recipe For Sucess
By Karen Verderber
Did you ever wonder if you had the gift of evangelism—verbalizing the gospel? Well I never thought I did, that is, not until I attended the Doable Evangelism retreat at St. Luke’s Church presented by Randy Siever. Evangelism can be a real pressure point. Although many times well intended, it can be a daunting task and for many of us it can be an unnatural approach, one we haven’t made a habit of. Even though we have methodology coming out of our ears, a multitude of books and courses at our fingertips, most of us still feel reticent about evangelizing.
So what’s the stumbling block? I decided to seek some responses from friends and neighbors. May of those I questioned said they felt awkward and ill-equipped. Some felt they would be scoffed at and rejected for their thinking. One of the most honest answers came from a man who expressed his remorse in the fact that he couldn’t command Jesus to others because he was not walking in spiritual fellowship with Him. I, like many others, struggle with the fact that I’m still in the thick of biblical learning and I won’t have the right answers. However, our rector, Father Andrew assured me that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct me, literally feeding me the correct words. Father Andrew cited Matthew 18:20—“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” How awesome is that! I won’t feel alone in the conversation—God will be right there to spread His good news.
Now taking that leap of faith, our retreat speaker explains that evangelism is not about conversion, but about conversation. And every conversation is spiritual because God is present when you’re in it. I thought—I can do that because everyone knows I love to talk. All I needed was to mix in 3 ingredients and I would have a recipe for success. They are: Notice, Pray and Listen. Throughout the Bible, Jesus showed us how to use these 3 ingredients in the most ordinary and extraordinary ways.
I think of two biblical stories that exemplify the act of notice and Jesus’ magnificent use of conversation and how important it is in evangelism. The first involves a marginalized and hated tax collector in Jericho named Zacchaeus, who Jesus included as one of the recipients of His salvation plan (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus was desperate to see Jesus and climbed a tree to get a glimpse of Him. When Jesus passed by, he noticed Zacchaeus’ desire and told him to come down. Jesus’ loving attention changed this man’s life. He repented and offered restitution for those he had defrauded. The second story involves Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She was not seeking to find Jesus as some others did. But Jesus sought her out. He not only speaks to this woman (also marginalized), but asks her for a drink of water. By doing this, he chooses to affirm her life rather than discuss her disreputable past. The end result of this conversation—the Samaritan woman, a sinner, becomes an early Evangelist testifying to the Advent of Christ and bringing others to Him. And all because of a conversation—our new recipe for success.
There are many more instances where Jesus stops, takes notice and speaks to a stranger’s pain, e.g., the paralytic at the pool, the woman with the flow of blood, the blind man, Jairus’ daughter, etc… Jesus made a point of choosing to single out people who had a great need. He has given us an example to do the same.
The second ingredient is prayer. Randy suggested to pray covertly for that person without anyone knowing. To me, it’s so comforting to know that someone is praying for you. And if we can practice praying increasingly throughout the day we are blessing that person ever more greatly.
Our third ingredient in our evangelism recipe is Listen, really Listen. Listening itself is a ministry, but in today’s techno-world, although it’s such an important conversation tool, it has become highly neglected. St. Paul said “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” I personally have a lot of work to do in this area. Usually I’m so busy trying to get my point across, that I don’t take enough time to really listen. I’m determined to be a better listener and not try to steer the conversation, correct or judge. And just know that you don’t have to get the conversation done at that moment. You’ve planted the seeds and now you can wait for the seeds to germinate. A last suggestion Randy Siever closed with that took away some of my apprehension was this; ask open-ended questions about the person’s life, family, dreams, and avoid letting your eyes wander. And if you’re startled or offended during your conversation, say “Wow” a lot!
So, do you have the gift of evangelism? I think you have more of it than you know. When you meet a few people at the well during your lifetime, will you notice them? Will you pray for them? Will you listen to them? Just try it. And then leave the rest up to God.
It’s really doable!