Why is it difficult for me to share my faith with people? Am I afraid of offending someone? Am I scared of being asked a difficult question and being scrutinized? Why am I fearful of another person rejecting my testimony?
I asked myself these questions as I walked into the prayer room on Friday evening. SOW, one of Arbor Road’s evangelizing ministries was meeting there before an outreach event at the Lakewood Mall. I walked into the room and immediately noticed how diverse the group was. There were high school and college students speaking with Gladys Stamps and Marian Blackshear. Diony Aguhob, the pastor of the Filipino church, was there along with Bert Suluvale.
At 6:30, Bert started the night by sharing his vision for outreach. Everyone in the room got several tracts and some small Bibles to hand out. I wasn’t surprised to receive these, but then Bert said something really powerful. He said, “We’re not going there to just hand out these tracts or leave them on tables. If we did that we’d just be littering the mall. We’re going there to have a conversation and know that it’s the Holy Spirit who works in the lives of people.”
Diony affirmed what Bert said with, “We can only plant the seed. The Holy Spirit will have to water and grow it.”
At that point my nerves were put at ease. I no longer felt the pressure to convert someone, but to just start a conversation about what we believe and let the Lord do the work.
After arriving at the mall, we broke off into groups of two or three people. I went with a high school student named Sam and another college student named Abby. Each one of us would take a turn at starting a conversation with someone and asking them if we could share the gospel with them. Everyone we approached said they would be willing to talk with us. Some people were already Christians, while others graciously told us they had another faith.
At the end of the night we had given away the Bibles and most of our tracts. No one that Sam, Abby, or I had talked to accepted Christ in front of us. We left not knowing if they would actually read the tract or accept our invitation to come to a service at Arbor Road.
I asked Gladys and Marian what draws them to an evangelising ministry? What keeps them going when they don’t always get to see the fruit of their work? Gladys responded by sharing a story from several months back. She approached a young man on his break and asked, “Have you heard of the gospel?” He said he had, but had no idea what it meant. She asked if he was willing to hear it and he said he was interested. Once she had finished sharing the Gospel’s meaning, she said he was ready to accept Christ right there.
Marian said, “That’s not us; that’s the Holy Spirit working.”
And Gladys added, “It’s not by chance that we’re there. God sent us to the mall to speak with these people.” With that powerful statement, she helped underline the importance of the SOW ministry. As random as the interactions may seem, Gladys is constantly aware that the person in front of her is placed there for a specific reason. That’s what helps her keep going when those outreach events may not seem as fruitful. Even if the person she speaks with doesn’t accept Christ, God is still at work.
I asked Bert a similar question, “Does it ever get discouraging knowing we can only plant a seed?” He replied, “No, in the two years that I’ve been involved with SOW, I’ve seen the Lord bring fruition.”
He shared that through SOW he was able to mentor a student from CSULB who was a former Hindu. “I find it comforting knowing that it’s the Holy Spirit who actually guides them and grows them.” We have a small role to play in people’s lives and it’s good to just be there for that short amount of time.
Bert continued and told me that there is another young man named Harsha who he has connected with because of SOW. He’s shared the gospel with him, but Harsha is a devout Hindu. Every time they run into each other, Bert tells him, “Jesus is alive and He loves you.” Last week he connected Harsha to another family at Arbor Road and he plans on spending Thanksgiving with that family. “Harsha’s story excites me,” Bert says. And he’ll continue to spend time with him.
The experiences of Bert, Gladys, and Marian are great examples of what evangelising looks like. The intentionality of Gladys and Marian reminds us that our effort to share our faith with others has a purpose, even though we may not see it right away. Evangelising for Bert means following up and consistently reminding people that they are loved by Christ.
“I think everyone at Arbor Road should join us a couple of times a year just to experience the thrill of doing something so nerve racking as talking to strangers about Jesus,” Bert says.
When was the last time you were thrilled to talk about Jesus with someone?
Written by: Robert Heckert