“I can’t begin to talk about Jesus with my neighbors. I don’t have enough time to reach my own kids.” As this mother of five defended her case, the evangelistic focus seemed to scatter from our church meeting. Deep inside I agreed with her, but I was too much of a coward to admit it.
For years, I clung to a number of “legitimate excuses” for ignoring the Great Commission:
My quiet nature can’t compete with Billy Graham’s charisma. How can God use me to bring anyone to him?
Only designated missionaries assigned to foreign countries are called to share the Good News with others. (I had forgotten that an insurance salesman, in a small Wisconsin farming community, shared the Gospel with my husband and me.)
God only gives the gift of evangelism to a select group. Since my spiritual gift inventory revealed my strengths as a teacher, I closed the door to any evangelistic outreach.
Living a consistent lifestyle of kindness and unconditional love towards those who don’t believe in God seemed beyond my ability. Reaching out to one more person while caring for my husband and five children was just too overwhelming to think about.
But God’s wisdom and power reached beyond my excuses. It all began with Jamie, my friend’s future daughter-in-law.
Jamie and her high school sweetheart fell in love during her senior year in high school; she became pregnant. I empathized with Jamie, even though we had never met, as I remembered the emotional pain from my own teenage years. I asked God to help her choose adoption or single parenting instead of an abortion. I also prayed for her salvation. Six months later, I met Jamie and her healthy baby girl at a potluck.
Then one night, I sensed God wanted me to pray. As I closed my eyes, Jamie’s name came to mind. “God, please draw Jamie to yourself,” I prayed. Suddenly, I pictured us sitting in a booth at my favorite Italian restaurant, talking intimately about the Lord. I slipped back into bed anticipating a lunch date with Jamie.
Then fear gripped me. I thought I was imagining all of it, or that I would make a fool of myself. While trying to dismiss the whole idea, strength and confidence in the Spirit’s provision seized me and won the emotional tug-of-war. My hesitation turned into excitement.
The next morning, I called Jamie. “Do you like Italian food?”
“It’s my favorite,” she said. “My mother is Italian.”
The waiter seated us at the same table I had pictured during my prayer time. This is like playing “Follow the Leader”, I thought. God leads me, I follow. It seemed too easy. With each little step I took, God unfolded the next.
After eating, I shared my testimony with Jamie. My religious background and search for God as a teenager was similar to her story. I saw emptiness and confusion in Jamie’s deep brown eyes, and a wave of compassion flooded me. “God knows you and cares for you, Jamie.” With tears in her eyes, she confessed, “I’ve recently been thinking about God and want to know him better. This is what I need.”
In the parking lot of the restaurant, I offered her a pamphlet that clearly explained who Jesus is. She eagerly reached for it and assured me she would read it.
I drove home exhilarated, like I had just gone skydiving. God had used me, an inexperienced stay-at-home mom with five kids, to share the Gospel. He unraveled my “legitimate excuses” and whet my appetite for more.
The next day, Jamie told me she had prayed to receive Christ. All this occurred because God unlocked the door of my heart. His compassion conquered my resistance.
In weakness, I am learning what to pray so that I might taste the ecstasy that comes with leading others to Christ more often. You, too, might experience a few evangelistic joy rides if you begin praying for the following:
For God to give you a heart for the lost
Being a mother to five children and being married to a minister can be overwhelming. I’m often consumed with appointments, chauffeuring, and a flurry of other activities. Unintentionally, I become apathetic towards those who didn’t know Jesus. But once I begin asking God to replace my selfishness with love for others, he gives me unending compassion for those around me.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:16,17).
For God to give you sensitivity and boldness
I live in an affluent white suburban neighborhood. Any chance of impacting the inner city seemed inconceivable. Then one summer Saturday afternoon, a teenage girl from the inner city appeared at my door. She plopped her overpriced candy at my feet and told me stories about poverty-stricken children.
After purchasing a bag of candy from her, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Share the Gospel with her.” After some initial hesitation on my part, our conversation evolved from going to church to knowing God personally. With my leading, on my doorstep, she prayed to invite Christ into her heart. So when you ask God to give you opportunities, he will give them to you! Ask God to give you the ability to recognize these opportunities when you see them, and the courage to take advantage of them!
Paul states: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
For God to give you creativity
Embracing evangelism from a strictly traditional point of view (such as inviting friends to church) is only one way to reach people. But there’s no right way or wrong way. We need to share Jesus. Period.
At the McDonald’s drive through, my friend Debbie occasionally pays for the meals of the people in the car behind hers. She writes a note saying, “Jesus loves you,” and gives it to the cashier, who, in turn, gives it to the customer with their food. By doing this, Debbie shares the love of God with people she will probably never meet.
God equips us to carry out what he calls us to do (Hebrews 13:21). He provides time, wisdom, courage, and a love for those who don’t know him yet.
Because God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword,” he uses it to impact the hearts of those around us: no matter who we are, where we live, or how many kids we have.