Last Saturday, I had an unexpected witness opportunity. I had planned on walking that morning to the Tango Cafe to get some work done, and then on to Chris and Eileen’s to interview some intern applicants. Those plans were altered, though, when I saw the fire at the Burton Hirsch Funeral home. The fire kept me from going into the Cafe, and instead I spent some time with other bystanders watching the largest fire I’ve ever seen.
Then came the witnessing opportunity. I stood on the corner of the street, and shouted at the crowd, “Listen up people! You see those flames?! Well, that’s what in store for you lest you repent….” Just kidding. Besides the fact that I’m way too bashful ever to attempt something like that, it also probably (I hope) goes without saying that methods like that are inappropriate in any context. What did happen though was an unexpected conversation with a young woman.
She and I along with a couple others were talking about the fire, when I said, “Well, I’m walking to my friend’s place, and he lives up there, so I need to find an alternate route.”
She replied, “Oh, me too. How can we get there.”
So we walked together and made small talk for a while, talking about jobs and living in Squirrel Hill. Eventually it came out that I’m a pastor starting a new church in Squirrel Hill. She responded, “Oh, so you’re a pastor? Can I ask you some questions?”
From there, she shared her hesitations about faith and religion and why she considers herself an agnostic. Her concerns were honest and well thought out. In fact, she’s probably thought more about faith than most people who claim to be Christians have. I shared with her some of my own, similar struggles, and how I’ve worked through them. She said she found the conversation helpful, and even expressed interest in visiting “my church.”
As I reflected on this conversation, one of the first things I thought was, “That was easy!” The opportunity for witness came naturally and seemed to be leading to results. I think there were a few reasons for this:
1.) The conversation was on her terms. I never had to ask loaded questions or force the conversation into matters of faith. She brought it up and was never uncomfortable in the conversation.
2.) I was myself. As she was sharing her struggles, it was tempting to search my “apologetic memory bank” for a clever answer that would try to simply God and faith into logical reasoning. Thankfully, I resisted this temptation. She wasn’t speaking from her mind as much as she was speaking from her heart, and so I responded my sharing mine. We don’t speak to people’s hearts by logical reasoning, we do it by sharing our heart.
3.) The “evangelism” was more about listening than sharing. I never thought to myself, “Okay, Mike, squeeze in a good word for Jesus.” I eventually shared some of my own story, but most of the time I just listened to her. I think effective evangelism is just as much about being silent and listening as it is about proclaiming Jesus.
Pray that these conversations can continue!