I hate to admit it, but sometimes I'm afraid to open my mouth to tell others about Jesus. Oh, I love the Lord and want all my friends and family to know himbut when I try to witness, sometimes I feel as though there's a sock stuffed down my throat.
Perhaps you've felt the same way. You're just not comfortable with witnessing tools like tracts but you feel guilty about not sharing Jesus' love with others. If you can't relate to traditional methods, there's another option I've found successful in leading several of my neighbors to Christlifestyle evangelism. I let my natural personality show neighbors the love of Christ as I walk with Jesus moment by moment.
Scripture tells us "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). This basic backdrop of truth to witnessing relieves me of the burden of perfectionism. It's God doing all the workI'm just the vessel. As I align my life with him according to his Word, I can more easily share how the Lord has intimately changed the flawed woman I am into a usable woman! Here are some steps I've found helpful in sharing the Good News with those around me.
Pray for opportunities. The Bible tells us that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16, NKJV). So I ask the Lord whom he is drawing to himself, and within that parameter, how he can use me. You can do the samethen make a list of those he brings to mind and pray that God will soften their hearts and give them faith to believe in him. Pray for their salvation and petition Jesus to help you meet their needs and reveal himself through your actions. When God nudges you to share your faith, say a silent prayer for him to give you his words. If all goes well, the Lord receives the glory. If disaster occurs, he takes responsibility. No pressure!
Obey God's promptings. Several years ago, I invited an unchurched friend, Marion, to our church. Unfortunately, the Sunday she and her husband attended, our church was going through an intense fundraising drive. Marion wasn't interested in going back. But the Lord prompted me to invite her to go with me to a Bible study. I adamantly replied, "No way!"
I still remember the battle in my mind. I arrived home from the Bible study and heard the Holy Spirit prompt, Invite Marion.I argued, She already gave church a try. I can't!and Who am I to ask her?But no matter how I tried, I couldn't shake the words, Invite Marion!
Finally I picked up the phone. When Marion answered, I literally held my breath and said, "I feel God telling me to ask you to my Bible study. If you can't go or don't want to, I understand, but I can't get you out of my thoughts." Surprisingly, she agreed, and has been attending ever since (this is her fourth year). She accepted the Lord, and now has more Bible knowledge than most lifelong Christians!
Watching Marion love the Lord so intensely has touched my very being. This precious soul mate has filled empty holes in my own life with her love and encouragement. To have the privilege to introduce her to Jesus is an unbelievable honor because she's an absolute treasure for a confidante.
Being obedient to the Holy Spiriteven when you feel awkwardcan reap unexpected blessings.
Walk the walk. One of my neighbors, Melissa, used to push every one of my buttons possible. She constantly judged my actions and belittled my faith. Her son spent a lot of time at my house playing with my son and would tell his mom, "We prayed today at lunch for good behavior. I also learned God can change bad men into good men, like he did with Paul in the Bible." In a rush of anger, she once stormed into my house lecturing, "My child is not to pray. If you want to teach your children to depend on a God who lets innocent babies die and earthquakes kill people, fine. But I will teach my child all he has to depend on is himself. Your religion is for the weak."
Many nights, I cried out to the Lord, "Bring someone else to minister to her!" But the Lord continually reminded me, With my power, I can give you genuine affection for Melissa and her family.
God's might was tested the eight years they were our neighbors. But before they moved, God laid it on my heart to speak to Melissa one last time. Obediently I offered, "I know you don't understand and share my faith, but I want you to know that if you ever get to the place where you want to know God personally or have any questions, please know my door is always open to you."
Her reply brought tears to my eyes. "Suzy, I've watched you, and you really live your Christian faith. It isn't something you just talk about. I'm beginning to think more about religion, since my son is curious on this subject."
Her words encouraged my souland made me realize anew that people on my street are watching me.
Your neighbors will notice if you still go to church in bad weather. They'll notice if you forgive a friend who treats you poorly or exercise self-control with an out-of-control child. They'll note if you choose not to complain about your absent, working husband or opt out of gossip sessions concerning a mutual acquaintance. When you choose to represent the Lord, you must hold yourself to a higher standard.
Meet others' needs. Analyze pertinent ideas to help friends. Do they need an encouraging note? Why not have your children make a picture with a treat attached? Can you offer to baby-sit for a weary mother or make dinner for a working couple? Or maybe you can think of a book or tape that's appropriate to encourage a harried mom, a woman irritated with her husband, or a friend grieving a loss. Why not furnish welcome baskets for new neighbors, with Bible verses attached? Meet your neighbors' needs as you impart God's Word, making it come alive by your consistent conduct of unconditional giving.
Unconditional love without expectation is a powerful testimony. And God has blessed me with the opportunity to implement all these suggestions. However, one word of warning: Know your limits. Since I have three children five years and under, my garage door shuts at 2 p.m. for naptime, and I hang a "Do not disturb" sign on my door. Start by praying where God would like you to begin, and obediently listen to his voice. He will not stretch you past your limits.
Be willing to be inconvenienced. "To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). God can't work through you if you're filled with self. To be an effective witness, you may have to drive out of your way to pick up a friend for church, but will losing a little sleep really kill you?
If you're discussing a controversial topic, how about giving up the last word for the Lord? Remain steadfast in your commitment to basic biblical truths, but don't cram them down another person's throat. If a friend wants to discuss abortion, compassionately listen to her point of view. Agree to disagree. These healthy dialogues actually solidify the position in your own heart. Don't apologize for your opinion, but respect hers. Admit more Christians should support unwed mothers. If the neighbor wants to discuss hypocrisy in church, confess that it is rampant, but that God remains true and trustworthy. My secular companions know where I stand on social issues, but I never allow myself a defensive or holier-than-thou attitude.
Practice patience. Cultivating the right to share your faith means building respect. Sometimes this seed is sown for years, but many times it's overnight. Pray where God would like you to embark, and then ask questions. "How can I pray for you?" might help console a depressed friend.
Several months ago, a friend and I started praying God would bring Christians into our neighborhood. The day we prayed was the day Troy and Susan's family bought a house on our street. Although they weren't yet Christians, Susan expressed her desire to find a church to attend with her two young daughters, so I immediately invited them to our place of worship. Basically, all I did was extend the requestand the Lord graciously used me as the vehicle for this precious family to get to know him. Today they're attending church, their children are in a youth program, and she attends a Bible study.
There's another neighbor, Lisa, who moved in six months before Susan. At first she seemed interested in the Lord, even asking me for an explanation of salvation. But she's backed away after we went to church together. I'm waiting patiently, praying for her. I don't request her presence at Christian functions any more, because she's made it clear she needs space. Discernment is key in every situation, and God liberally provides this gift. When he is ready for me to start the invitations again, he'll let me know.
In the end, lifestyle evangelism's really about allowing the Lord to change and use you when you make your life available to him. There's no greater pleasure in life than to introduce someone else to God's grace.
Suzy Ryan is a freelance writer who lives with her family in California.
Copyright © 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail email@example.com.