Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer was a popular read in the 1970’s. I’m certain that wasn’t Jesus’ model for evangelism. I’m just as certain Jesus doesn’t want us to be intimidated from joining Him in the greater process of bringing people into relationship with Him. Sadly, I believe most Christians are fearful of even engaging in spiritual conversations. Most of us are not evangelists and that’s ok. (Surprised?) We can relax in the knowledge the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts as He determines for the common good. (1 Cor. 12) Does that mean because we may not be a good “closer” or “harvester” that we are to take a seat in the grandstand? Hardly! For most of us what is required are the tools of a diplomat, not the weapons of a warrior. Be smart. Nice. Tactical. Ask good questions and seek clarification in a kind, calm manner.
First of all, not all Christians are good closers. Sure, some are effective at being present when a decision is made to follow Jesus. For some, this takes little effort. But understand, foundational work has been in process well ahead of this. The Spirit has been working. The truth of the gospel is sinking in. Hopefully someone has received love through a genuine relationship. Most Christians, myself included, are not “harvesters.” We are more likened to ordinary “gardeners” as described by Gregory Koukl in his book, Tactics. We tend the field, so others can bring in the crop in due season. Some Christians, aware of their difficulty in harvesting, get discouraged and never get into the field at all. Does that describe you? If so, you need to know it’s ok to sow even though you don’t reap. In fact, there would be no harvest without you. We need a lot more gardeners than we do harvesters. God will send harvesters!
Win your friends and family to Jesus in an hour, guaranteed! Probably not going to happen. Would you consider gardening instead? “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” No, this is not a quote from Farmer’s Almanac or from a rally at the Future Farmers of America. This was Jesus talking to His disciples following His encounter with the “woman at the well.” (John 4) He goes on to say “thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” So why do I lead with this, you ask? To illustrate that the process of evangelism, from sowing the seed of God’s word to when a person receives Christ for themselves is most often a group process over time, not a one man endeavor.
Why do I make that point? Because too many people opt out of the “process” of evangelism due to intimidation. Is that you? We don’t need to set out to convert people. But we can give them something to think about. Koukl uses the term “put a stone in their shoe.” Something they can’t ignore and that continues to poke them in a good way. When you are fortunate to initiate or respond to someone that may lead to spiritual conversation, try to gently control the conversation by gathering information about them and their beliefs by asking questions such as “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” “What do you mean by that?” When they respond with ambiguity, ask for clarification. “I’m not sure I understand you. Could you clarify that?” These steps put the burden of disclosure upon the other person and frees you from defending your faith position. As you converse more deeply, ask “Now, how did you come to that conclusion?” “What are your reasons for that?” “Why do you believe that?”
Let people unwrap their story. Let them do the talking. As Ricky Ricardo used to say on the TV show I Love Lucy, “you’ve got some splainin’ to do.” I think you’ll find in many cases people have not thought through well their objections and resistance to faith issues. We can give them something to think about. And we may get additional opportunities. Now you Think About It.