Every Christian needs to take 10 minutes out to watch this video!
It’s the story of Mr.Genor. An elderly man who lived in Sydney, Australia. As a young sailor he was wonderfully saved, and so grateful to God that he promised he would try and tell 10 people a day about Jesus. To the best of his ability he kept that promise. In his retirement years he stood on George Street and simply handed out gospel tracts, asking people whether they were saved, and if they died that night did they know where they would go.
Until 2 weeks before his death, Mr.Genor never knew of one person that had ever given their life to Christ as a result of his faithful witness.
This video is his story. Watch it now before you read any further!
In recent years we have been told that “street witnessing”, “gospel tracts”, “open air preaching”, “confrontational evangelism”, etc, are outmoded forms of evangelism and are ineffective. Just about every popular book and resource being published on the subject of evangelism today scorns such methods and proposes that “friendship evangelism” or “relational evanglism” is the way we must engage.
Now firstly let me say that I have no objection to the idea of friendship evangelism per se. I believe we certainly SHOULD be seeking to share our faith with every person we are in relationship with – family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. We do build a platform of trust with those who know us well that gives us an extraordinary opportunity to share the gospel very powerfully (providing we are living what we preach – if not, we do detriment to the gospel).
However, I have a few concerns about friendship evangelism:
1) The idea of cultivating a friendship with an unbeliever SOLELY for the unstated purpose of winning them to Christ should be named for what it is … deceitful. And how can you build a true friendship on an agenda like that?
2) If you are in friendship with an unbeliever, don’t wait too long before sharing the gospel. My experience is that Christians who haven’t shared the gospel early in a relationship rarely ever do. It becomes harder, not easier, to do so as time passes if there hasn’t already been a previous verbal witness.
3) We need to heed the warning of Scripture that “friendship with the world is hostility toward God” (James 4:4). Now, before every Christian reader starts jumping up and down, let me be quick to say that verse is NOT saying we should not be friends with unbelievers. Jesus Himself was accused of being a “friend of sinners” because of His love for lost people. James is talking about friendship with the world’s values and philosophy; it’s sin. BUT many a Christian has been drawn back to worldliness and proved themselves unfit for the kingdom because they continued to be influenced by unsaved friends. Your first love must be Christ, and your first responsibility is your walk with Him. If that means severing old relationships that tempt you with your old life, you should do so. Pluck out your eye if you have to! (Matthew 18:9) But follow Christ with no other pretenders to the throne of your heart; allow no distractions.
But, by all means practise friendship evangelism with your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors who don’t know Christ. I don’t think we need books and seminars about that, it’s just simply living the Christian life!
In defense of street witnessing & open air preaching
The criticisms of more confrontational or direct forms of evangelism are usually argued on the basis that “this is a different generation and they don’t respond to such methods”.
Please note, this argument is based solely on reasoning or rationalizing. It is not based on Scripture or even any consideration of past history.
Some points you should consider:
1) Street witnessing & open air preaching have a long and distinguished history dating back to the first apostles. The book of Acts has numerous examples of it. Some of the greatest preachers of the Christian church took their message to the streets and open fields to arrest the attention of people who would never be reached otherwise. George Whitefield and John Wesley are outstanding, but not the only, examples. Leonard Ravenhill used it very effectively after the second world war. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron are spearheading a movement that demonstrating it’s effectiveness still today. Check out their website at www.wayofthemaster.com
2) The same arguments (“this is a new generation, they won’t respond” … blah blah blah) were thrown at Whitefield and Wesley in their day! Thank God they didn’t listen.
3) In Ephesians chapter 4 we read about the leadership gift in the church of “the evangelist”. Some people are given by the Lord to help mobilize the church in evangelism. However, I defy anyone to find me where in Scripture we are told that there is a spiritual gift of “evangelism” that some Christians have and some don’t. We are ALL included in the Great Commission. And the promise to us all in Acts 1:8 was that the Holy Spirit would make us “witnesses” (martyrs) for Jesus.
The two ideas of (1) Friendship Evangelism as the preferred method to reach people today, and (2) the spiritual gift of evangelism given only to a portion of Christians BOTH seem to me very clearly to be nothing more than lying strategies of Satan to limit the outreach activity of the Church. And we have bought into these lies because it is very comforting and convenient for us to do so. It rationalizes our apathy and insecurities.
Every believer ought to be taking every opportunity to share the faith with as many people as possible, in every way possible.
Now, if you find the thought of speaking to a stranger about Jesus scary … join the club! EVERY Christians finds these things intimidating. But we know what is in the balance: people’s eternity. What does the inconvenience we feel for a moment matter in light of that?
Start small. Get some good gospel tracts and just leave them in conspicuous places – with your tip at a restaurant, etc. See how many places you can come up with. Then you might pluck up the courage to hand a few out (like old Mr.Genor). Finally ask God to give you the confidence to speak to some people.
Mr.Genor’s testimony screams to us today … one simple, unnoticed, but faithful life can change the world and eternity.