My family and I were recently out and about in a town. I know, radical stuff this! By some happenstance, there were a group of Christians there too. We could see what they were trying to do because, as it also happens, I’ve done the same sort of stuff myself. It was good to see some folks out trying to share their faith.
But as me and my family were hanging around, fairly aimlessly as it happens, nobody actually came to speak to us. We purposefully didn’t go introducing ourselves because we know they were trying to speak to unbelievers. Nice as it is when believers come up to chat, it can dominate your time as unbelievers mill past, without any attempt to share the gospel being made, because you’re busy listening to the (albeit very pleasant) Christian talk about how encouraged they are to see you out sharing your faith, which ironically stops you doing exactly that.
But, of course, they didn’t know we were Christians. Had they come to speak to us, we would have alerted them to the fact we were believers, briefly assured them our salvation isn’t based on our being nice people or going to church every week, thanked them for the work they are doing and then encouraged them to be about the business they are there to do; namely, reach the unbelievers all around us. But no such interaction came about. Whilst one of the guys was busy talking to somebody, the other chap seemed to be doing all he could to avoid looking in our direction. He looked at his phone, he stared at the floor, but at no point did he look at us nor open his mouth to engage us.
In the end, when the time for us to get on doing something else came, we engaged the chap standing free. Again, not to suck up his time, we actually needed directions somewhere. But, again, here we were engaging him. Yet still, nothing. What a shame, we thought.
It is always interesting watching people about the business of evangelism from the other side of things. I know the fear that grips me every time one conversation ends and that I, once again, have to attempt to strike up conversation with a new person. Each time is a new opportunity for rejection. Each time is a new opportunity to look, or at least feel, a bit foolish for some reason. I know just how hard it is to do and have been there.
But from the other side, I was just willing the lad to say something; anything. Sometimes, all people need is a friendly hello and an attempt to connect. ‘Where are you from? Oh, yes, I have friends there. Are you on holiday? What a lovely place to come.’ Sometimes, it is just making the initial contact that tells you whether people are friendly enough to talk or not. Once the conversation is running, it is easy enough to turn it to spiritual things. At some point, you just tell people why you started talking to them! But, of course, you’re never going to tell them that if you don’t even try to engage them in the first place.
At the end of the day, sometimes evangelism is as simple as saying something, anything, and then simply telling people why you engaged them at all.