There is a dear older brother who would often say, “If you are going out without some tracts in your pocket you are not properly dressed to go out.” I would add one caveat to that; if you don’t hand them out they are just lint collectors in your pocket.
Recently, I was following a thread on facebook about a meme disrupting the notion of a quote wrongly attributed to St. Francis Assisi about ‘preaching the gospel’. A lively conversation such as fb offers, followed; the point of which was this: We cannot separate the proclamation of the gospel, a divine ordinance with the living out of the gospel, another divine ordinance.
So what are you doing to live and preach the gospel? See related article (http://assemblyhub.wpengine.com/the-failure-of-isolated-preaching/)
Different types of contacts
I reference these things to bring to mind we need to be perceptive to preaching the gospel. A brother John McQuoid wrote in his very useful booklet, “Witnessing for Christ” about three types of people we may touch for Christ:
- Expected contacts. These are the people who are part of our everyday lives – family, friends, neighbours, colleagues at work or school.
- Casual contacts. A fellow passenger; the woman at the checkout in at the grocery store; the man who serves us gas at the filling station. We haven’t planned to meet these people, we don’t know their names, and we may never see them again; but for a few minutes each one is part of our lives.
- Ready-made contacts. These are people, the circumstances of whose lives have opened for us a door of opportunity; the parents of our Sunday school children; people who have occasionally visited the church; folk in the hospital; the bereaved.
Do people see Christ?
Expanding on what John wrote, the people in our lives should see Christ in us. The Expected contacts should know by our words and deeds that we are a redeemed lot. They should not be at all surprised that we not only attend church but are active in it and active in seeing the one who bled and died for us magnified in this lost world.
It’s been said, “We should live our lives that people aren’t surprised when we say we are Christian.” So what kinds of opportunities do we see with these folks? A beloved brother I’m pleased to co-labor with makes a habit of being audibly thankful to God, of actively bringing Christ into conversation and circumstances and praying about situations we see and face. This is the ‘effort’ on our part kind of living James would exhort to be “doers of the word”.
For the Causal and Ready-made contacts these are divine appointments. We should pray for them and be willing to be used by the Lord in them. If we are obedient to the Holy Spirit in the realm of expected contacts we’ll have more comfort being obedient in the realm of the unexpected.
That is if we are in the habit of interjecting Christ in our conversation and manner of life with those who know us best it should be ‘second nature’ to do the same with others. Why wouldn’t you? Our identity is found in Christ!
Suggested phrases to open up conversation
I’ve used catch phrases with Casual contacts:
- (How are you?) I am better than I deserve.
- (…you’re good) No. but I am redeemed
- (ISIS scares me) “…I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Tim 1:12)
- (Gay agenda topics) When the bible says “all have sinned” that includes me with the all.
These sometimes open doors for further conversation. Sometimes not. I would caution using these with the Ready-made contacts as the circumstances they are in that brought them to you might make one of these statements seem glib and uncaring.
At a grocery store
Some examples might help. I made one such comment to a checkout girl at a grocery store – “I’m better than I deserve.” She replied, I’m sure that’s not true.” I told her “I, we all really deserve God’s righteous wrath for our sin.” Turns out this girl was raised in a church and had heard some form of the gospel, but not one of repentance of sin and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord gloriously saved her that day.
At a gas station
On the way home from a conference we stopped for gas and the man at the adjacent pump struck a conversation with me about where we were going. When I told him we were coming from a Bible conference he jumped in with the matters of his grieving heart from the loss of his wife to cancer and his faith in Catholicism.
I offered to pray with him and we did. He willingly took a tract. Trusting the Holy Spirit of God to use the conversation and literature to do a marvellous work in him.
At the office
A co-worker saw me returning to the office from open-air preaching carrying a paint board. The conversation was around the gospel at first, and I asked him what he believed. He then opened up to me about some severe problems he was having. I listened, steered the conversation back to gospel for him and listened some more. He said a few days later he is trusting in Christ.
I suppose I might summarize with this. If I continually perceive that I am a wretched vile sinner who richly deserved eternal damnation, but by God’s immeasurable grace and mercy He saved me with the blood of His own dear Son, that alone should keep my perception of others in a similar plight at the forefront of my mind.
Evangelism 101 Series
Check out all of the posts in this series Evangelism 101.