Last week, John Leonard painted two pictures of evangelism, one an interesting and perhaps more natural way of “sowing widely.” Here he continues to expand and gives an example:
“We sow widely by intentional interaction with the people around us. That is hard in a world where personal interaction is being eliminated. I’m a person who likes to get things done. People get in my way; they slow me down. I often do everything I can to avoid interacting with people so I can get to work being a pastor. I gas up and pay outside with my credit card. I get cash from an ATM machine. I even go to the self-checkout lane to avoid slow and inefficient clerks. I zip through my to-do list so I can get to my office, close the door, and begin strategizing how I can reach my community with the gospel. I want to figure out how I can make natural contacts with non-Christians. I put together a set of programs that will take up more of my time and the time of my attenders and ensure they’ll have to rush through their natural interactions to get to church programs that create artificial interactions with people.
Instead of being “efficient,” do exactly the opposite. Go out of your way to interact with people. Stop paying for gas at the pump; go inside and pay. If you do this, you could have a worldwide ministry! At the gas stations and convenience stores I frequent there are Moroccans, Pakistanis, Sikhs from India, Mexicans, and Guatemalans, just to name a few cultural backgrounds. I don’t have to go halfway around the world to have an international ministry—all I have to do is walk inside to pay for my gas.
When I notice that the name on the clerk’s coat is “Momo,” short for Mohammed, I greet him. “Mohammed!” He looks anxious. “Yes, can I help you?” he asks. I say I need twenty dollars on pump five. “Hope that will get me home!” Momo asks, “Where do you live?” I answer, “Right around the corner.” Mohammed laughs. “Where are you from?” I ask him. “I am from Persia,” Mohammed mumbles. Why do they hide their names and say Persia instead of Iran? Because Americans are geographically challenged. “Iran? Do you know I just prayed for your country and your people this morning?” I tell him. How can you tell anyone you meet that you prayed for their country and their people? You put a map of the world up on your wall, and every morning when you get up, you stand in front of the map and say, “God, bless all the countries of the earth and all the people in these countries, and particularly bless the country of anyone you choose to bring across my path today.”
I continue the conversation. “Mohammed from Iran, how are you doing? Is it difficult to be in America when there is so much tension between our countries?” I ask. Do you think that anyone else has taken the time to ask about his life? The difference between most foreigners and Americans is that for the foreigner, people are not intrusions. They enjoy human interaction. In most cultures, particularly Muslim cultures, it is expected that you will ask about one’s family, and prayer is always welcomed. “Mohammed, how is your family? Your father? Your mother? Your brothers and sisters?” You can go all the way to second cousins—but make sure you’re not holding up the line. If Mohammed has the time, he will share a concern about his family back home.
He says a family member is not well, I tell him that I will pray for that family member. The next time I fill up, I enter the store and shout across to Mohammed, “Mohammed, how are things in Iran? How is your father? How is your mother, your brothers, sisters, and cousins?” “John,” Mohammed says, “do you know my father is better?” “I’ve been praying for him,” I tell Mohammed. “Could you also pray for my brother?”
Our opportunities are all around us…
While staying with a pastor in New York City, we walked the six or seven blocks to his church. During the entire walk he lamented the fact that he wasn’t making enough contacts with people and that the people whom he had befriended showed no interest in the gospel. “What should I do?” he asked. My answer: “Take a lot longer to get to work.” As we passed shop after shop I asked him, “Do you know this man’s name? What are the names of his children? What about this lady? What’s her story and her husband’s story? What about that store across the street? What are the owners’ names, and what’s the biggest problem they’re facing?”
My friend shook his head to signify “no” or “I don’t know” after each question. We stopped right there on the sidewalk and I said to him, “You don’t pastor just a church; you pastor a community. Every one of these people, whether they know it or not, are your sheep. Your job is to shepherd them. Learn each of their names. Pray with them and for them. Don’t walk by them without calling out to them, asking, ‘How are you doing today? How’s your family? How’s that problem we spoke about last week?’”
You see, you don’t have to be a pastor in order to draw people to Christ. You just have to be more than a friend and have the faith to sow widely.
Questions for Thought or Discussion:
1. What do you think about the idea of inconveniencing yourself and being less efficient in your daily life for the sake of interacting with people and building relationships for the sake of evangelism? What do you really think about it…not just a guilty head nod? For most of us, it’s an inconceivable idea. Do you think you could do it? Are you willing to do it? If not, why not? Do you not think it will work? Are you too busy?
2. If you like Leonard’s idea of inconveniencing yourself to spend more time with people, how will you implement it? Maybe it would help to keep track of your engagements in a simple journaling style so you can pray and see your progress.
If you are going to choose not to implement this approach, what are 2 steps you can take starting today to engage with a couple more people in your life with a desire to bear witness to them of the gospel in due time and in the right opportunity?