Per the request of one of my awesome readers I am going to give my thoughts on ministry to the unsaved.
I think that the first priority needs to be explaining to them where you came from. They need to know your past and a bit about your testimony before they will give you entrance into their life. If they don’t know you, they have no reason to listen to or respect you. Tell them how you were raised, what kind of church you went to, when you got saved (or when you decided to follow Christ). Often, as we’ve discussed in earlier blog entries, your wordage is very, very important. You don’t want them to feel beneath you, so don’t use words they won’t understand… no Christianese. So, explain when and where you “decided you’d follow Jesus”. Give them some background, make them feel comfortable with you.
Briefly explain the basics. Tell them who Jesus is and why you believe in Him. Debunk a few myths. A certain sect of Christianity has made our path very difficult with some of the ritualistic nonsense they’ve put forth. Many people believe that Catholicism is what all of us Christians believe. Please, let this not be bash-the-catholic-blog… but it is important that they realize that we don’t believe in confession, or repetitive prayer, or praying to saints and Mary. Help them, if necessary, to understand that we have Pastors, not priests. Many of them will immediately bring up child molestation. Let them know how disgusted you are by it, but also let them know that you aren’t pushing religion on them, you are teaching them about your relationship with Christ.
Religion is a list of do’s and don’ts. A relationship is much different. I use the example of my wife and I. I love her with all of my heart and she loves me equally. I know the things she likes and desires from me, and I also know the things she dislikes and wishes I wouldn’t do. I try, to the best of my ability, to do the things she wants me to, but not to do the things she doesn’t want me to do. Why? Because we love each other and I want her to be happy. When I mess up, she has grace for me. She quickly forgives and we move on. This is very much how our relationship with God should be. He loves us unconditionally. We love Him, so we should aim to please Him always.
Ask them if they have any questions about Christianity. Put the ball in their court early on, this will make them feel less “ganged up on”. No one likes to feel like you are forcing your beliefs on them. Every second you spend with them is valuable. They may have had questions for saved up for years, but no one ever gave them the opportunity to ask. I don’t want anyone to feel inadequate, or feel that they aren’t knowledgeable enough to minister to someone, but it’s important that you have SOME knowledge. You’ll be surprised at how many questions the Holy Spirit will answer for you, but just like with any subject… its good to know your stuff. So answer their questions. They are bound to ask you why you believe what you believe. You need to know your answer. Ask yourself that question and answer it before someone else has the opportunity. Remember that a lot of people won’t believe the Bible is true, so you can’t always just jump to scripture. You may need some practical examples of how God has worked in your life.
Expect a few tough questions. If you don’t know the answer, there is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know. Ensure them that you will do some studying to find the answer for them, but also encourage them to study as well. Take notes if you have to. Leading someone to Christ is a lengthy process. You won’t see fruit overnight, usually. Be prepared for a relationship. This is why I’m not a huge fan of street ministry. I believe successfully leading someone to the Lord requires a relationship. Salvation isn’t a magic prayer. It is a deeply involved process of growing and maturing.
When you have an opportunity tell them how much you enjoy your church and your church family. If this isn’t true for you, you are in the wrong church. Time to find a church you love. I love my church, it’s the best church in the world… for me. Tell them what an awesome preacher your Pastor is. If there was a specific message he taught on that inspired you, share a bit of it that you can remember. Tell them you’ll get them the CD… and actually do it. Tell them a bit about your last church picnic or fun day. These things go a long way with someone who is used to boring old church with hymnals and practiced sermons. Tell them how great your music is. Tell them it really puts you in God’s presence, and then try and explain what His presence feels like. Difficult, huh? Don’t lie to them. If these aren’t things you experience it won’t help to tell them they are… they will go to church with you and be disappointed. I firmly believe that every person has a church set aside just for them. I always tell people who are looking for a job; “Find the church God wants you to serve in and He’ll provide a job near by.”
Tell them you will pick them up for church. People can always find an excuse for not making it. Tell them you’ll pick them up at 10:00am. “I’ll be in your driveway, we’ll grab some lunch afterwards.” Never leave them empty handed. Have something to give them. A Bible, a website address where they can order a free Bible; maybe a tract or flyer for an upcoming event.
Ministering to a non-believer with whom you know starts way before the first word. If they know you are a Christian they have been watching you for a long time. If you work with them and you act like a jerk all the time, don’t bother talking to them. You will just make us look bad. You need to be an example of Christ on a daily basis before you can expect to win someone over in conversation.
In summary, a relationship is almost always more successful than a chance encounter. However, God will set us up divinely with someone who needs a timely word. The Bible tells us to “Be ready in season and out of season.” In other words, be ready to be in an elevator with someone when it malfunctions leaving you stuck with a stranger for an hour. You need to be ready to lead them to God. The harvest is ripe for the picking. God is just waiting on workers.