Stop, Talk & EncourageRead Now
What do you do when you come across another professing believer out sharing the gospel in public? As I look back in life at the amount of times I have ran into someone in public out sharing the gospel, I can sadly say that it hasn't been as often as I wish it would have been. In fact, if I am being honest, which as a Christian and just in general that should be a principle we all seek to live by, I can say it's really only been less than a handful of times in my life that someone gave me a gospel tract or shared the gospel with me in a conversation, or ran into someone on the streets evangelizing in the years before I became a Christian.
Thankfully, I can say that since I have become a Christian those numbers have gone up, although I would love to see evangelism happening much more often in my area and surrounding cities, it is still wonderful to know that there are more people who are stepping outside their comfort zones and handing out a tract, or getting into conversations with others and yes I have even seen more people on the streets, some just out holding up signs, others out preaching.
As one who engages in evangelism on a regular basis, I can attest that some of the most pushback I have received over the years is from other professing Christians. I've heard it all before, they say, "You're doing it wrong", or "You are only pushing people away from Jesus", or "This is why people don't like Christians, because you are shoving religion upon them". I could go on and on but I believe you get the point.
Before I move on, I do need to address the reality that there are people out there seeking to "evangelize" but they really shouldn't be out there, so let me address it here briefly.
Yes, some people who profess to be Christians are only so in profession, but not reality. There are some false preachers and individuals who are out in the public seeking to evangelize and promote heretical teachings in the process. Some Pelagians who deny Original Sin, some who deny the Trinity, some who believe in and teach Open Theism, and some who preach a works based salvation. These are all serious error and should be avoided and not proclaimed by professing Christians as biblical truth's, these types of people lead people astray into serious error and not into the truth.
Some are just plain mean and heartless in their efforts to "reach the lost" with name calling and harsh words to those they claim to want to see come to Jesus.
Lastly, there are those who are recent converts who haven't really been properly discipled and are out in the public sphere without any oversight or accountability for what they say and teach to others they are seeking to reach, while these individuals might have the right intentions and the heart motivation behind their desire to see people come to faith, we cannot disregard the need for accountability and being discipled under sound theology. Especially with new converts.
I don't want that to be a discouragement for new genuine believers who want to share the gospel, I want to encourage you to share the gospel but to also seek out those in the faith preferably in your local church those who can disciple you in theology and hold you accountable as you engage in the public square.
Which brings me to why I am writing this article as a way to encourage Christians to stop and talk to other professing Christians they may run into on the streets, at the grocery store or wherever you may run into someone who is either handing you a gospel tract, starting a conversation with you or out preaching on the streets.
Here is what I do! Knowing that there are those who as mentioned above are heretical and there are others who may be genuine brothers and sisters in the faith. I first start by always giving the benefit of the doubt, I seek to listen first to what they are saying. If I come across other men out preaching on the streets, I listen to what they are saying, if what I am hearing is biblical, I will try to stick around, if possible, and talk to them afterward and inquire more about their beliefs and what church they are members of. When they turn out to be legit, I leave with encouraging them to keep pressing on and let them know I will be praying for them in their efforts to evangelize they lost.
The same basically applies in any other area of evangelism, if someone hands me a tract, same thing, I seek to inquire more about what they believe and dependent upon the time I have to interact, I always want to leave them with encouraging words.
Now in those instances where the individuals turn out to be preaching, teaching and promoting heretical errors, I do try, time permitting, to engage in conversation with them graciously using the scripture to show my concerns, and that can go in a few directions depending on whether or not the other party is willing to engage. I never agree to disagree over biblical essentials but I still seek to be gracious in how I address them and respond.
Upon leaving individuals who fall in this category, in love I make it a point to let them know as I leave that I am praying for their repentance, that they would see the error of their teaching and come into a more biblical understanding of the truth.
But not every encounter is with heretics, sometimes it is with Christians whether they are a newer believer or someone who has been in the faith for some time and are just now getting more serious about evangelism, and so my desire is not to crush them when they might stumble over their attempt to share the gospel or if they don't happen to cross every t or dot every i.
Sharing the gospel can be scary, as someone who has been engaging in street evangelism out in many different public spaces from sporting events to college campuses and everywhere in between, even to this day I get nervous before going out. I don't know if that ever goes away, at least for me it has not happened yet. I also know that there have been times where I have had encounters of sharing the gospel and when I walked away thought to myself, I really presented that poorly or didn't have the best responses to the questions asked. So the first thing I want to do when engaging someone out sharing the gospel is be patient and gracious with them.
Let me share with you an example.
The neighbor county fair was wrapping up their fair week and since I had never been to their fair, we decided to go check it out. While we were there we walked by a lady who was sitting in a chair under a pop up tent and outside the tent was a dry erase board that had written on the board, Are you ready? Along with some bibles laying in front of the board and some single gospels of John.
So I decided to stop and ask her, ready for what? Now I knew it was in reference to a Christian message, I didn't know what church or if they were theological sound or not, so I wanted to inquire.
The lady began to share with me that it was referring to eternity, are you ready for eternity? What happens when we die? She explained that we are all sinners and only Jesus can save us, He is the only way to be saved and know for sure where we will spend eternity. She did a good job explaining, she stumbled a few times but again it can be nerve wrecking, she told us later she had been there for a while and had not talked to anyone yet, most people just walk by paying no mind, so considering that, along with knowing it can be nerve wrecking for some of us, I thought she did a wonderful job explaining why we needed Jesus.
After she explained the are you ready sign, she asked if we are believers but then answered for us, because my wife's shirt said blessed, so she said I guess you are because of what your shirt says.
As a side note, I never assume, I do give the benefit of the doubt but I always try to inquire more, never assume someone is a believer they might be or they might not be but never assume ask questions and in either case do your best to leave them with the gospel, which she did give us before she assumed we were.
I responded to her with, maybe.
I wanted to find out more about what she believed, so I asked her where in the bible did she find the things she was telling us. She said, I am so glad you asked, and took us to John chapter 3, we talked for a little while longer before departing. She told us she had been a Christian for 34 years, and that she just recently took a class to learn how to evangelize because she wanted to witness to her friend.
I told her before we left that I wanted to encourage her to keep sharing the gospel, and thanked her for sharing with us.
Who knows, she said we were the only ones she talked to that day, she also said we just missed the pastor, as he just left. Could we have been there just to give her an opportunity to share the gospel on her own for the first time that day to build her confidence in the Lord to get her through sharing the gospel with complete strangers, I'd like to think that is the case, I mean the Lord does ordain all things to come to pass.
If we did not stop, would she have sat there the rest of the evening and never had the chance to engage anyone else, who knows if anyone else would have stopped, who knows if anyone else stopped after we left, I hope others stopped after we left and I hope our stopping built her confidence to be a witness.
I share all that because I want to encourage you Christian. When you see Christians out at a County Fair, a local festival or just out and about, stop, talk and encourage them.
Grace and Peace
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