Saturday, June 29, 2013

Natural Witness: The Modes of Evangelism (Part 3)

In recent posts, I have introduced the Modes of Evangelism (article & video) and Body Witness. The second mode is Natural Witness. 

As believers leave their fellowship to reengage in everyday living, their lives naturally intersect countless people. Some of these intersections involve intimate and long-term relationships, such as family and close friends. But most will be casual and brief. And while the number of intimate relationships may be relatively few, the total web of natural connections can be substantial. We have classmates, coworkers, and neighbors. We briefly relate to store clerks, waitresses, hairdressers and others in the marketplace. We talk with doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, and repairmen. Entertainment, sports and recreational opportunities expose us to more people in casual settings. Even fellow travelers on planes can become temporary conversational partners. This is not to suggest that every time we are near someone, God intends for us to speak of Jesus. But we must recognize that our lives do intersect those of countless others and be ready at all times (2 Timothy 4:2).

Among this group of natural relational connections, God is already at work and may want to use us. If we are available and alert, if we show genuine care and concern, if we ask good questions and listen, we will often discover opportunities for gospel conversations. Paul exhorted us to be ready for such. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5,6). The key in natural witness is not the duration of the relationship, depth of its intimacy or the length of the conversation. Rather it is wisdom to make the most of each opportunity.

Witness among natural relationships was common in the New Testament. Among the first disciples, Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus and Philip brought his friend, Nathaniel (John 1:40-51). Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman was in a brief, but natural (albeit unusual) setting—at the watering hole. The Samaritan woman’s subsequent witness to her village was among those with whom she had natural relationships, though not particularly positive ones (John 4:1-42). The delivered demoniac was a witness to his people back home (Luke 8:38, 39). All of these examples underscore the importance of natural witness. God delights to work through his people within their web of natural relationships.

How does a leader help expand the natural witness of the believers they lead? It requires casting a compelling vision for the needs of others and the opportunities to be used by God. The leader must raise awareness, helping believers to be alert for divine appointments and opportunities to engage with others. It also requires motivation. Many influences work against believers’ natural witness, and probably none more than fear and busyness. The leader must cultivate the heart desire for God’s glory and the ultimate good of others. (See the Master principles, above.) But there is also the need for believers to be equipped in conversational evangelism, increasing their confidence and competence. Finally, they need practical ways to engage conversationally. It may be as simple as everyday conversation, guided by genuine interest. Or it may involve specialized outreach tools and resources (like Soularium, CruPress, 2008, or the Perspective Cards, CruPress, 2010). But believers need a plan, steps they can follow and methods they can employ.

Excerpt from Evangelism Design

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