Some people are natural evangelists. Whilst the rest of us usually have no problem talking about Jesus with like-minded Christians, when it comes to sharing our faith with unbelievers we don’t always find it easy.
I remember being on a train journey with my friend, Pam, when a fellow passenger asked us where we were going and Pam explained that we were on our way home from a weekend of helping on a Creativity Course at a Christian healing centre. The lady shared about her son who had some deep healing needs. She was interested as Pam related stories of healing, and encouraged me to share about my healing journey with Jesus. We got off that train so excited, and prayed that she and her son would go on to receive Jesus for themselves.
Later, as I told another friend about our conversation, and aware that it was unlikely to have taken place if I’d been on my own, I said, “Pam’s such a brilliant evangelist”. But my friend challenged me, “Is it Pam’s gifting, or that she seizes the opportunities God provides?”
I knew she was right! And it set me praying for that holy boldness. But then there’s the question of how and exactly what to share.
Our verse for today comes from the passage about Paul sharing the Gospel with unbelievers in Athens, and really helps. The first thing is: Paul had a heart for the lost and he was seeking the opportunity. The second is: when he found it, before launching into sharing his faith, he looked around the place, listened to the people and discovered where they were at. Then, although he didn’t agree with their superstition, he found a way of affirming them. In effect he said, “I see you’re very careful about practicing your religion”. And because he’d listened he could pick up on something in their beliefs (the altar to the unknown god) that he could use as a starting point. What a great lesson for us. How much more personal, and how much easier is it for someone to accept our message if there’s a connection to where they’re at?
But Paul didn’t jump in then, with, “You’re worshipping false gods, you need Jesus and this is what you need to do to get right with God!” In a very loving way, in essence he said, “You don’t understand who this God is that you’re worshipping. Let me explain”. He adapted the way he shared who the true God is and what He’s like, so the people could hear. His words were completely underpinned by grace and laid the foundation for the Gospel.
What a help for us. By the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, we can make our message personal too, if we ask Him to give us a heart for the lost, look for the opportunities He brings, listen to people, affirm them, find a point of connection and share who God really is and something of our own experience of Him. Then at the right time, without overwhelming the person, we can give the practical steps of praying the prayer of repentance and receiving forgiveness by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and they can cross the threshold to becoming a member of the family of God.
Prayer: Father God, thank You for the story of how Paul shared the Good News of the Gospel in Athens. Please give me that same awareness and compassion he had for the lost people around me, and help me not to shrink back from sharing with those who are willing to hear. Help me to be kind and courteous, to listen and find some common ground, and to share who You really are and the message of hope I truly have in You, in a way that’s just right for the other person. Father, please help me to be prepared for mixed responses, and to be patient, remembering that You’re the one who brings the increase. In Jesus’ name. Amen.