We are breaking down Allison Hill’s great article about Outreach in Dayton, Ohio. Pastor Tyler Detrick was interviewed about a Youth Evangelism Conference they held. You can read the first post here (Part 1) for context and the “why” of the conference. This week, we look at the “what” of the conference and take a moment for thought or discussion. Think of it as your 3-minute evangelism meditation that you can chew on the rest of the day.
At the outset of the event, participants took part in preliminary training as well as one of two areas of service. The young ladies volunteered their time at a local pregnancy crisis center while the young men spent multiple hours weeding and landscaping an elderly woman’s yard in the neighborhood adjacent to the church. A providential and impromptu chance to share the gospel with a Muslim neighbor who stopped by to help lent itself to solidify the idea that there are opportunities for evangelism everywhere. This early segment of the schedule was intentionally designated for the purpose of serving. Pastor Detrick explains his reasoning, saying, “Our ministry of mercy and our ministry of evangelism must go hand in hand. We need to be the hands and feet of Christ if we are going to speak the words of Christ.” According to Detrick, this is one of the many benefits of evangelizing in proximity to your local church: service to those close by enables ongoing relationships and gospel opportunities with them. “Your witness and work go together,” Detrick says.
Following their service, the kids engaged in over eight hours of training over the course of the next three days. This training utilized the book Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice and consisted of four parts. First, Detrick discussed what the Bible teaches about evangelism, correcting wrong assumptions about what it is and why Christians do it while exploring various worldviews the students might encounter. This was followed by a time of group-wide honest reflection on why evangelism is difficult and what barriers, such as pride and fear of man, often stand in the way. The third portion of the training was an exploration of evangelistic tactics and elements, including teaching on how to articulate the gospel clearly, how to use tracts, and how to engage with nonbelievers by posing thought-provoking questions. Lastly, there was time for role play and practice before the youth went out to put what they had learned to the test.
Interspersed throughout the conference were public evangelism outings. The kids ‘took to the streets’, handing out surveys and tracts at a Dayton Dragon’s baseball game, a German festival, bus stops, local parks, and in Dayton’s Oregon District. Their goal was simple, yet not necessarily easy: meet people, talk with them, and attempt to broach the message of the gospel. This was aided and facilitated by a survey Detrick and the other chaperones had developed ahead of time, which encouraged the community to share what they believed about Jesus, sin, and the gospel. This proved to be an excellently effective method, which produced over 150 conversations between the young adults and strangers. Even the individuals who were not open to discussion often still walked away with the survey flier in their hand, which contained three verses explaining what the Bible declares about Jesus, sin, and the good news of the gospel.
In addition to the survey brochure, the group used a tract designed as a Dayton-themed postcard which included the gospel message on the back as well as information about Light of the Nations Church. With these tools in hand, the youth engaged with Daytonians from every walk of life. They encountered many catholic individuals and others who believed in a self-made religion, were critical of the authority of scripture, and whose language seemed religious yet did not profess faith in Christ. In such interactions the kids unwaveringly insisted on the necessity of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
1. In regard to service opportunities close to the church building ongoing relationships with locals, does your church have any ongoing relationships with people close by? If so, what could be done to further that in a small way this week? Do you have the opportunity to take a walk near the church, observe houses, talk to people and say hi and see if there are any opportunities to open a door through service?
2. What is the scariest thing about talking to strangers with a view to the gospel? What is the easiest thing about it? What’s the difference between trying to talk to friends about the gospel versus strangers? Which are you more cut out for?