This is an update on what’s been going on since my post called Out There Preaching back in late February.
Breaking the sound barrier - opening up my mouth and telling people about the good news of Jesus. More traditionally called evangelism.
This is an area I’ve struggled with for a long time. I’m naturally an introvert, so being bold in conversation doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not the kind of guy who strikes up conversation with people I don’t know most of the time – I’m actually pretty quiet. In addition, I’ve been a pastor for over a decade, and it has been very easy to settle into a really comfortable pattern of spending most all my time with church people.
But there’s something greater at work than my natural introversion and typical social circles – I’ve been given a call by God to be preacher of the Gospel. This year, I’ve been praying that God would change me, and give me a heart broken for people who are lost and separated from God, coupled with boldness to share the gospel. I’m praying for opportunities, and he’s giving them to me – often in the form of me having to get really uncomfortable.
I’ve been spending more time out in public places and on our the university campus, trying to strike up conversations with people. This is way outside of my comfort zone, but I’m learning. I’m also trying hard to move things to spiritual matters more quickly and not be afraid to go there. Often times I get an open door when I tell people I’m a pastor – I ask about their spiritual background, listen to their story, look for opportunities to bring the gospel. Listening to people and drawing out their stories comes pretty naturally to me, but I used to be much more passive about it. Essentially, unless they came out and said the equivalent of “will you tell me about the gospel?” I would stay in passive mode. Recently I’ve been trying to move past that, asking permission to share the gospel in the midst of conversations. (For example: “I grew up in a pretty religious background too, but have come to understand that Jesus was about something other than religion. Can I tell you a little about that?” or even “Would it be alright if I quickly told you what’s at the heart of the Christian faith? It’s different than what a lot of people think.”) If people are open after talking, I’m trying to set up times to get together and talk further.
I was also really challenged by Steve McCoy’s writing recently on Open Air Preaching. At first, I bristled against the idea – it seems so out of the norm for our culture. I’ve known some guys for years (an evangelism ministry called Peasant Saints) who do this on a daily basis here in Houston – I had always kept my distance. But what I came to realize is – I wasn’t doing anything. I was really convicted by the story of D.L. Moody:
D.L. Moody, one of the greatest and most effective evangelists of the last century, once got into a discussion with a woman about his style of evangelizing, which some people complained was too pushy or too in-your-face. “I don’t like your methods very much, Mr. Moody,” she told him. “I’m not sure I like them all that much either. Why don’t you tell me your method and maybe we can compare?” “I don’t have a method,” she answered. “On second thought, I like my method better,” Moody replied.
I decided I liked the Peasant Saints guys’ method of getting the gospel out better than my doing nothing at all. So I spent a few weeks watching them in action, trying to learn. After a few weeks of watching and praying, I felt God leading me to try. I’ve been preaching for over a long time, but I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous as I stood up to preach. But I did it. By the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I broke the sound barrier.
I preached twice that week, and I’ve been out there preaching with them three mornings a week for the past month. Every morning, 20-40 people hear the gospel in a clear, concise, and winsome way. And here’s the thing – no one has freaked out. No one was resentful. People listen. No one has fallen down and cried out “What must I do to be saved” either, but we have been able to give out a dozens of free ESV Bibles to folks as well. In the past month, I’ve been able to preach the gospel to hundreds of people who never would have walked through the doors of my church. Not only that, but I’ve been able to have many conversations with people afterwards, often with the opportunity to pray for them. God is at work through the power of His word, and He is at work shaping a growing me.
I’m still stretching and learning, and I know a lot of this runs counter to much of the common thinking of the day in many circles – but I feel really good. I’m becoming more bold, and I believe that God is honored in our speaking regularly and clearly of Jesus. For years I had been a “build a relationship and earn the right to be heard” kind of guys… but because of my lack of boldness I rarely got to the gospel with people. It’s not that I don’t want to build relationships – I do, and am trying to be much more intentional in that. But I want to Gospel to be at the forefront very early and very often.
I hope I can be an encouragement to others who are shy, introverted, and on the fence – the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Let it out of the walls of the church, pray like mad, and watch and see what God might do.