(This post is the sequel to the recent post “Godliness and the Gospel.”)
Last Thursday, I shared the gospel with my friend Samantha. We are both in “MCDB 50: Stem Cell Biology, Politics, and Ethics,” in which, as you might recall, I was required to write an essay regarding whether or not the embryo has moral status. (In more layman terms, we had to write about if the embryo deserves protection as a person–when does life begin?) Here are some of the lessons I learned from sharing the gospel with her.
1. Find and Seize Opportunities
Like I said, Samantha and I are both in MCDB 50. We have been sitting in class together, listening to lectures about morality and justice, and we just finished writing a paper about it. God presented me with an entire quarter of opportunities to share the gospel with her. I realized, sitting in small group, that I had a great opportunity to share the gospel: I could ask her about what she wrote on her paper, I would share what I wrote, and use that as a gateway to talk about why I believe that life starts at fertilization.
But it is not enough to find opportunities. God is not glorified to the fullest extent possible by mere thought exercise on a couch, counting all the opportunities He has provided for sharing the gospel. They must be seized. Colossians 4:5 (NASB) states that we must “[make] the most of the opportunity” given to us to bear witness. Opportunities are not redeemed by inaction. If an opportunity is presented to you, seize it. When I ate lunch with Samantha last Thursday, I sat down with the single intention to share the gospel with her. I would not be satisfied until I had shared wrath and grace with her, so that she would hear what God did for a sinner such as me.
Ultimately, we are dependent on God for everything, so we ought to pray to ask for conformity to His will and for God to work through us. Pray, as Christ did, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). He is the “Lord of the harvest” (Matt. 9:37) and therefore can both send out laborers and redeem the crops; pray that He would do both. Pray as Paul did, when he wrote in Colossians 4:3-4, “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ . . . that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Pray for opportunities and the boldness to seize them; pray for clarity in preaching the gospel.
This was something I was acutely aware of because I was sick last Thursday. More than usual I understood how much I needed God’s power and sustenance. Though my small group prayed for this encounter the previous Monday, last Thursday when I woke up I prayed that God would work through me, understanding my inability in illness and in totality. Let prayer serve as a reminder of our standing and a request for Him to work His will.
3. Be Relational
This one comes courtesy of my friend and graduating senior, Bryan. He offered to take me fishing after an Evangelism and Apologetics Training Seminar and I finally took him up on his offer. (“Fishing” is the GOC term for going out on campus and preaching the gospel to strangers, usually two fishers to one fish.) So this past Tuesday, Bryan took me fishing for the first time. One of the greatest misconceptions I had about fishing is that I thought teams would approach, present, leave, and repeat. The reality is that fishing is so much more personal, and rightfully so.
Christ commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39), and I think this is one of the ways that love is manifested. Yes, we care for their souls, but we care also that they are people created in the image of God. We care about what their name is, how they are doing, what questions they have. And how much more effective our testimony becomes through these acts of love!
A few tips, then, from Bryan: When you approach someone, lead with your name and your partner’s name, then ask them for theirs. This builds a personal rapport that indicates your care for the person as a person, not simply as a target. (I made the mistake of leading with, “Hi! We’re from Grace on Campus. I’m Elliot, and this is Bryan.” He helpfully pointed out that people prefer talking to people, rather than to members of organizations.) Make eye contact! This is something slightly difficult to me, as I tend to gaze at the ground or into the distance as I think and speak simultaneously. But eye contact helps the person know that they are being talked with, rather than talked at.
Also, tailor your gospel presentation to answer any questions they have. If they claim to believe in science, in evolution and the big bang, address that as you present the gospel. As my dear classmate and brother Chris says, it is also helpful to address any stumbling blocks people may have to understanding and believing the gospel. This also helps encourage a sense of conversation and dialogue, rather than merely dropping the gospel into their lap.
I hope these are helpful to you as you consider the tremendous privilege we have to share the gospel. I know I certainly will be considering these the next time I bear witness to the grace of our God!