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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Harvest of Souls

By Jim Hall
Jan. 9, 2011

The Lord of the Harvest has earned His title by coming to Earth to be the world’s No. 1 harvester. What He did models harvest activity, in basic strategy and in spiritual empowerment (Luke 4:18). The significance of His example is not left to implication, but directly spoken to His disciples with the commission: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21, NASB, emphasis added).

Jesus’ purpose for us is to continue to proclaim His message, in His manner, with His motivation, through His means. Much has been written and spoken about all these critical facets of Jesus’ ministry life, but not enough has been written about His manner.

Jesus’ manner of witness was primarily personal contact with people — and it should be ours as well. This does not exclude other means of communication. We need to proceed with a both/and approach to ways of communicating the gospel. At the same time, we should be diligent to “keep the main thing as the main thing.”

The Early Church turned their world upside down with personal contact witness — as have believers in Latin America and China in modern times. We want to “be like Jesus,” and we are the continuation of His church in the world. So our ambition should be to help lost people know Jesus primarily by the way we personally relate to them.

The apostle Paul wrote of personal witness in his famous misquoted statement “by all means to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). What is almost always missed is that he was speaking of different styles of personal interaction with people from differing backgrounds, to whom he related differently in order to build a bridge of commonality with a particular person. Over this bridge, the good news could be communicated in terms understood by that recipient.

Connect with conversation and kindness
We can begin by being warm and open and ready to listen, showing interest in getting acquainted by asking questions and taking time to listen. Look for opportunities to show kindness in response to an obvious need.

The Holy Spirit will arrange contacts with unbelievers and will work in each unbeliever’s heart to inspire interest and trust toward you. As they interact with you and sense the warmth of God’s love radiating from you, they will become receptive to you and at some point to your message as well (John 4:7; Acts 8:26-31; 10:19,20). This is definitely in contrast to the combative spirit of some “bold” witnesses who win arguments, yet alienate the ones they are trying to reach.

Be friends
Pursue a trusting friendship bond with unbelievers that may take time to develop, or that the Spirit may bring about during a single conversation (e.g., Jesus with the Samaritan woman and Philip with the Ethiopian official). Where there is opportunity for ongoing relationship, ask the Spirit to guide you in seeking repeated friendly contacts over a period of time and showing practical love as the Spirit leads.

Non-Christians may be surprised at or suspicious of your motivation in extending yourself, because of the natural self-centeredness of the human heart that they expect to find in others.

Persist patiently and peacefully, and allow the Spirit to convince them that your caring is genuine. Also, look for common ground — conversational topics of shared interest and activities through which you can cultivate friendship. Go to a ball game together or go fishing or get coffee. Let your friendship grow through open and honest communication, without trying to appear different from who you really are.

Life issues will come up naturally in conversation. Find out what their questions are, before presenting Jesus as the Answer. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19, NIV) and let your words be “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that [they] may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Relate Jesus’ help in your own life with similar issues.

Depend on the Holy Spirit to help you influence your friends in ways that are appropriate to the stage of their journey to Jesus. Be aware that kind deeds “plow the ground” of an unbeliever’s heart, helping to turn it into “good soil” worked for planting. Look for ways to show God’s love, as well as opportunities to explain it.

When the unbelieving friends share problems they are facing, promise to pray for God to help — even offer to pray right then in their presence. Later inquire about the situation, assuring them that you are still praying. Encourage them also to pray about it. Pray also for their decisions, their families, their successes and their earthly relationships, in addition to their relationship with God (1 Timothy 2:1).

This kind of interaction sends a repeated message that God wants to be involved in the details of their everyday life in a personal relationship. It is also an act of caring on your part, and usually appreciated by non-Christians. Everyone requires outside help. Through friendship, you will allow unbelievers to experience Jesus in you, the result of the fruit of the Spirit, which will help them to desire to have their own relationship with Jesus.

A well-designed and well-written gospel tract can be shared in everyday encounters with a smile, warm eye contact, and a friendly: “Here’s some good news I’d like to give you.” If refused, maintain courtesy and warmth toward the person. Keep your focus on their well-being and God’s love for them. And, when in situations where it is customary to leave a tip, make it generous (20 percent) and add a tract. Never, ever, leave a tract instead of a tip! (Note: Tip + tract = Missions Giving)

Be an audience of one
Having gained an audience of one through friendship, the process of interactive communication of good news can be launched. There are facts that lost people must have to enable them to entrust their life to Jesus Christ. The most effective means of informing someone is through friendly conversation, which is by definition a two-way delivery system.

I believe this is why person-to-person communication, the primary means of communicating the gospel in New Testament times, is still the best method of informing lost persons of their one hope. And it is the only method that every believer can employ to make the good news accessible to those they meet — a behavior that is commanded to every believer.

Know what you are trying to say
The first step in effective communication is to have a clear idea of the body of information that you want to convey. For the gospel, this falls into two categories:

1. What is the new life with Jesus and its benefits? (The nonbeliever needs to know what is being recommended, to awaken desire to receive.)

2. How do I help someone get started living the new life that Jesus gives? This is known as “leading someone to Christ.” (This information should usually be withheld until there is evidence that the nonbeliever has come to believe the gospel message.) So let’s review basic information about new life with Jesus and its benefits.

New life with Jesus and its benefits
The heart of the Christian life is a personal relationship with God that is like a perfect earthly father-child relationship. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9). John 1:12 states that we can become “children of God.” Romans 8:15-17 shows that God intends that relationship to be warm and loving (Abba), with two-way communication. Every real relationship has two-way “traffic” — interaction of deeds, words and feelings that travel back and forth between those in the relationship. God “first loved us,” and offers relationship to us. This relationship is summarized in John 1:12; 3:16; 15:14.

Calculate the potential growth of God’s kingdom if one person disciples one new believer this year. Next year, each of them disciples a new believer. The third year, the four followers each disciple a new believer. If this continued for 10 years, how many would be added to the Kingdom as a result of the first believer faithfully discipling someone?

JIM HALL is the founder and national director of Urban Bible Training Centers.

From The 360º Disciple by Alton Garrison et al. (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 2009). Excerpted with permission.

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