A mother teaches her toddler to share her toys with her brother, who is one year younger. A father instructs his seven-year-old son about trust and mistrust before he goes to school.
Teaching and sharing are a natural part of our daily lives. They should also be a natural part of our daily witness. For example, a co-worker can share her personal encounter with Jesus and how this has impacted her life for the good. In a brief testimony, a person on a plane can share with the person sitting next to them the good news of the gospel — for such a time as this.
We are instructed to go into all the world and teach others about Jesus. This happens by being proactive and engaging in their lives, and it takes forethought, risk, and determination. Though it may appear difficult, it’s easy when we care for others and embrace the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Remember, our Father didn’t say to love only your relatives, friends, and the people of your race, ethnicity, or political persuasion. No, going into “all the world” means all ethnicities, all walks of life, all social and economic statuses. All people!
How do we reach all people with the love of the Father? We can make it hard on ourselves by trying to share our faith from a religious point of view or merely trying to earn points with Yahweh God. We can get caught up in the method or rationale of witnessing and fail to gain the perspective that we’re trying to save drowning victims, like those who perished in Noah’s day. We are to teach wherever we go and, as in the parable of the sower, we are to sow gospel “seeds of grace” and our heavenly Father’s love for humanity. But we need a strategy. How did Jesus share the good news when He was on this earth?
For one thing, Jesus called people to follow Him so He could train them and so they, in turn, could train others. It’s what the apostle Paul later wrote about in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Jesus cared about people’s welfare, but He knew that being confined to a human body, He couldn’t be everywhere as He was before the Incarnation.
We can follow Jesus’ method of operation in our own outreach. Here are a few ideas.
Selecting teams. Jesus was particular about who would be in His first circle of influence. He chose twelve men as an elite team (Matthew 10:1-6; Luke 6:13-16) who would later have apostolic authority when He went back to heaven. He spent the next three-and-a-half years pouring into them the eternal truths and principles that would change their lives forever. They, in turn, would teach others by the Holy Spirit, as recorded in Acts. This first circle wasn’t only the Twelve but included those related to them and Jesus: their families, Jesus’ mother, His half brothers, and other women who ministered to Jesus’ needs as a group of evangelists.
As His mission expanded over a larger territory in Israel (Luke 10:1, 2), Jesus chose seventy others for His second circle of influence. These frontline people would go ahead of Him to towns and villages, preparing the way, telling others that Jesus was coming soon. These men of the Bible evangelized in much the same way as the late Billy Graham. Whatever city his crusade went to, he would send a delegation six to twelve months ahead of time to take care of logistics, like finding churches and pastor support and developing local prayer teams to pray for the event from beginning to end.
Small groups. Another example we can follow is Jesus’ way of ministering in intimate settings, meeting personal needs. Matthew 8 says that Jesus lovingly healed Peter’s mother-in-law when she was sick and that, being made well, she lovingly helped Jesus in service (vv. 14, 15). In His close contact with others, the gospel became good news indeed.
More than once Jesus went to Martha’s home in Bethany when traveling to Jerusalem from Galilee. He would meet with her and her two siblings, Lazarus and Mary, their friends, and other followers. These occasions revealed that Jesus was different from His religious contemporaries. He was accessible and near. His teaching was intimate and included transforming power, proving to others that they could respond to Him immediately. Jesus showed them that God is a personal God.
Baiting and sowing
We need to be like Jesus when seeking people who will be faithful followers. We can do this as fishers of men and women and as sowers of good seed by baiting the hook with the right bait and scattering the seed liberally. These suggestions can get us started.
Ask questions. We can talk to someone with friendly interest and get to know their needs. Simple conversation is a gateway to discipleship. Jesus’ questions with the woman at the well (John 4) can be like us talking with a person on a plane or in our neighborhood. Asking a question like, “What do you do for a living?” is a way to get started.
As an example, one person may say they’re a national salesman traveling three to five days a week. You may ask if he or she is married, and they may say, “Yes, with two small children.” You can ask, “How is traveling so much working for you?” If the person responds that they’ve missed some birthdays and anniversaries, you may reply, “How does that affect your home life?”
Whatever their response, you have baited the hook and sown a seed. Encourage them to seek God’s wisdom, or share a godly perspective. You may ask if you can pray for them or leave them a gospel tract to read later.
Share yourself. One of the best ways to tell someone about Christianity is to be transparent about your faith. Share your own testimony — how following Jesus has changed your life. That’s what the woman at the well did after Jesus related the truth about Himself. Transformed by Christ, she told her neighbors her story (John 4:25-30). We can too.
Some encounters with people are routine, like those at work, school, the gym, or the grocery store. We should take advantage of these opportunities to build friendships and trust, and be ready to share the good news when the time is right.
Maybe you are shy or passive. If so, do something simple to break the ice, like giving the person a compliment and introducing yourself by sharing your first name. In time you’ll feel comfortable asking a pertinent question, like about something in the news. Wait for their answer, then share a sentence or two of what you think from a Christian perspective.
Continue talking if the opportunity is there. Either way, you have planted a seed and baited the hook. Maybe you’ll see evidence the next time you see the person again. By asking questions and sharing yourself, you can expect a response. Wait for it.
Value others. Getting to know a person is also important. For them to value what you have to say depends on their knowing you value them. This is especially true with a big question like “Who, in your opinion, is Jesus?” or “Are you a follower of Christ?”
Be ready for an array of replies. You may get an atheistic one: “I don’t believe in God or Jesus!” Prepare to give an answer, but first listen — and then listen some more. This shows genuine love and concern for the person.
Be patient. What is the person’s body language telling you, or their voice inflection? Do they appear to be angry or apathetic? Do they seem to be inquisitive? The person may say that they, a friend, or a relative had a bad experience at a church. Tell them that you’re sorry and follow up by stating that not all churches are bad. Share a recent experience at church that was healthy, and follow their cues, changing the subject if you need to. You’ve given the person plenty to think about. Too much in one setting can be detrimental and could cause them to walk away from the conversation or get defensive.
Take your time. Love is patient. And sowing and fishing with the Master require patience.
Following the Master
Participating in the Great Commission is not a choice but a mandate from our Lord Jesus. Sharing the gospel takes courage and commitment, and a desire to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. There’s no formula except His way of sharing and teaching. Every person you meet, every encounter you have, will be unique, but the way of the Master is universal. Begin by loving people as He did.
So are you ready to go to the next level in sharing your faith? The good news is that you are not alone: Jesus promised that He is with us always. And He gives us a helper, the Holy Spirit, as we follow the guidance Jesus left for us. Let’s be like the Master: Let’s go!