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Sharing the gospel (the Good News) is not just the job of missionaries, but the job of all who call themselves Christians.
I believe evangelism has two tiers. The first type of evangelism is to the many people we meet in everyday life. We might not know these people personally, but we still might have opportunities to impact them for Christ. This would include people we meet on a plane, in a restaurant, in line at the theater, the people we sit by in the library, and so on. A kind word or gesture or giving them a tract that explains the gospel could be ways we interact with these folks.
The second tier of evangelism would be toward what we think of as our inner circle. This would include the people we interact with on a daily basis, like our family, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, and so on.
When we moved among a remote and primitive tribe, how would we go about evangelizing them? Should we have just gone up right away and started preaching the gospel?
Well first off, since I did not know their language, I couldn’t do that. Second of all, they had a completely different culture and worldview, and without knowing that first, I wouldn’t be able to communicate clearly the gospel in a way in which they would fully understand.
Thankfully we had great training in cross-cultural communication before we stepped into the tribe. We were taught by men who had “been there and done that” and we were fortunate to learn from their mistakes and glean from their wisdom. Some of the foundational principles they taught us as we prepared to evangelize were:
Relationships are key. This is paramount. Without relationships, we have no context in which to impart truth. It took time for us to develop relationships with our tribal neighbors. It took us living among them, laughing and crying with them, experiencing life together. It took us learning their language and their culture. It took us being sensitive to cultural differences and relating to them as much as we could.
“Living” the gospel. This was another important piece of the puzzle in evangelism. Even before we could speak to them fluently, we needed to “live the gospel” before them. Often times our actions speak louder than our words, and the tribal people saw how our family interacted with each other and with them. They saw how we loved each other and how our children obeyed us. They saw that Libby was my friend and equal, not my property. Our living out the gospel before them, even before we could share with our lips, helped to soften and prepare their hearts for God’s Word.
Earning the right to speak. As we lived among a remote tribal people, we also saw that this was very important. We came in as strange foreigners with strange customs and habits. Why would they listen to anything we had to tell them? And then again, why would they want to believe us? Before we could teach them God’s life-changing message, we needed to earn the right to speak. I believe we did this as we cared for their medical needs, and then again when we developed a literacy course and taught them how to read and write their own language! They saw us as people who genuinely cared for them. They saw us as people who could contribute something valuable to their society and could impart knowledge.
I believe that these three keys (among others) prepared the soil of their hearts, and when it came time to teach from God’s Word and present to them the good news, seeds were firmly planted and the spiritual harvest was bountiful.
So you might be thinking, “Wow, that’s great how that worked out in the tribe, but how does it apply to our context here in the US?” I think it is exactly the same! People are people no matter where they are geographically on the globe. We are not that much different, and when it comes to evangelizing those who don’t yet know the Lord, I feel the best way is through relationship. It is through our “living out” the gospel by our actions as we interact with our unbelieving family and friends, and it is by earning the right to speak the truth about the gospel.
While I feel we have the best chance of impacting those in our inner circle, the Bible tells us to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is within us. We should always be looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ with anyone at anytime.
May God give us opportunities to represent Christ to those we meet each day, and may He prepare the hearts of our non-Christian friends and family. May He also grant us wisdom, courage, and the right words to say as we seek to see people come into God’s kingdom!
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