I was sitting at a table in the student center, grateful for the warm cup of bitter brew that helped ward off the chill from the winter wind blasting through the door. The sound of my friend's singing and guitar strumming drifted pleasantly in one ear and out the other. It had been a long, stressful day, and I was enjoying this opportunity to relax. I was totally unaware of what was lurking in the shadows - ready to pounce on me at any moment. Even to this day, I shudder when I think about The Attack of the Student Evangelist.
It started out innocently enough. This nice-looking young woman approached me and asked if she could join me. I didn't see how I could refuse, since I was the only person at the table. That was my mistake.
"Do you know who Jesus is?" she asked.
"I, um, yes, actually. I accepted Him as my Savior when I was eight years old."
"Well, that's great. Let me tell you about my experience."
I tried to tell her that I was listening to my friend's performance, but she didn't listen. She didn’t even seem to care. It was only later that
I found out she was from another college in town - one where they gave GRADES for witnessing. I can't help but wonder if there was someone in the shadows watching her - and watching me – to assess her "performance." After several minutes, she finished her spiel, and I never saw her again.
A few years later, when I was planning on going on a mission trip to Mexico, a minister at my church recommended I take an evangelism class. Immediate flashbacks of that girl and her rude, pushy attitude flipped through my brain. 'Wait a minute,' I thought. 'If THAT'S what they teach you in evangelism classes, I don't want any part!'
Fortunately, I did take that class, and I learned some of the keys to effective evangelism. I just wish that girl in the student center had learned them, too. These keys can be summed up by the acronym RAID:
Relationships: Build relationships with people - at home, school - wherever. And remember that building relationships takes time. Don't try to force things. Get to know the people around you, and let them get to know you. Find out what they’re interested in, and talk to them about these things. This will open up channels of communication. Once you open the communication lines, then you can bring your faith into the conversation. You might turn people off if you start talking about your relationship with Jesus before you’ve formed a relationship with them.
Availability: Make yourself available to God and to others. Don't see people as interruptions; see them as opportunities God has given you to tell others about Him. There are people around you all the time who need to hear about the change in your life.
Invite people into your home. Offer to buy them a McDonald’s hamburger or a Starbucks Frappuccino. You can even invite them to an activity at church. Most people will agree to go to a church-sponsored activity more readily than they will an actual church service.
Describe how God changed your life. Plan out what you will say whenever someone asks you about what you believe, or why you believe. “Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that it is in you, with humility and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, WEB). The key is here is “with humility and fear.” Share your faith, but do so only when you know that someone is ready to hear.
Follow these keys, and you will be on your way to changing the world for Christ – one person at a time.
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