This weekend, one of my friends shared with me a first hand story about an evangelistic encounter he had.
I found myself encouraged as I listened to it.
Here is a one who gets the idea of cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve retold the story here for your thoughts and for your encouragement.
While passing time in port on the Operation Mobilization mercy ministry trip during a stop in Brazil, I received word that a person wanted to receive a boat tour and to learn about the ministry.
I agreed to serve as a tour guide.
I took him around the ship, explaining about our ministry, our work, and what we were doing in Brazil. I wondered if this was a moment to present the gospel to him. As I pondered these things, he said, “I’m an atheist, so please don’t talk to me about God.”
I respected that boundary, but began to pray daily for an appropriate opportunity.
To my surprise, over the next few weeks, this man kept returning to the ship regularly to visit with me and we began to become friends.
Eventually, he started to spill out about his life — the conversation had moved from impersonal level about work and life to a more personal level.
One afternoon, his looked straight into my eyes and he asked me, “Tell me about your life.”
I replied, “I can’t really talk about my life without talking about God’s work in it, and the first day we met you asked me not to talk about God.”
His body language instantly communicated to me that he suddenly realized how I had respected his boundary from the first day we had met. Then just as quickly as he threw up the boundary, he gave me permission to talk with him God’s involvement in my life.
I began to share about my calling to ministry, how I became a Christian, and why I was willing to give all I had to help other people know and experience God’s love through Jesus Christ
The more I shared, it became clear to me that the Holy Spirit was at work in preparing this heart to start following Jesus.
As the conversation flowed naturally, it eventually led to me giving him an invitation to start following Jesus, just as I had done years before.
The Holy Spirit had worked on this man’s heart through our conversation and friendship that he invited Christ into his life that afternoon.
By respecting his boundary at the beginning, I earned the right to be heard when it was God’s timing to bring him salvation.
What I appreciate about my friend’s story is that he respected the person’s boundary.
Evangelism is not force feeding the gospel to someone who doesn’t want it.
Evangelism happens in cooperation between a spiritually thirsty person, the working of the Holy Spirit in that Kairos moment, and the cooperative evangelist who is praying and watching for those moments.
What do you think?
Great story…Is this more about being led by the Holy Spirit than respecting boundaries? We must be careful about allowing political correctness to affect our witness.
To answer — it’s both.
On the human side of the equation, it’s respecting the boundary appropriately.
On the divine side of the equation, it’s being led by the Spirit to the appropriate moment.
The teller of the story is not about political correctness, as I’ve known him for a while.
Thanks for sharing this story, Chris. When my sister and I were planning Mom’s Memorial service and the subject of hymns came up, she vehemently declared that she didn’t want Jesus to be part of it. The pastor involved had suggested “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. I respected her view and she chose “Amazing Grace”. Later during the week an assortment of conversations got her thinking in the realm of faith issues. Still praying for open doors not only for me but with others she’s in contact with.
What a great story. While we are called to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, as in Acts, where the apostles were forbidden to preach, yet obeyed God and not man, I believe we must earn the right to speak into someone’s spirit, someone’s inner life, to which only that person can give us access.
If asked, many unchurched people will give their impressions of evangelicals – pushy with their faith, narrow minded, know-it-all, etc. etc. I have found that by consciously avoiding those traits and working to be accessible, open-minded, and not given to pressure tactics, I have had more good ‘results’ and openings to share my faith.
Thanks for dropping by and sharing.
We experience the fine line between urgency in sharing the good news, and the patience to wait upon the right timing and working of the Holy Spirit.
There is something to be said for those respecting the other person, but I think we all agree that it’s not right to always be silent.