I don’t typically initiate evangelistic conversations with people. I tried when I was young, and again sporadically as I aged. Painful, faltering episodes, not knowing what to say or how to say it. I knew the content but intuitively sensed I simultaneously lacked confidence and depth of relationship with them.
But something happened on my journey of following Jesus. I started listening more and talking less, understanding others more while holding back on evangelical information dumps. And people began initiating conversations with me.
In a high school locker room. The teammate who asked the question about whether there really is a God…. He committed suicide a few years later. I was speechless when he asked; more so when I learned of his death.
In a cornfield in the rain during the summer. The fellow high school laborer was delivered from demonic oppression and gave his heart to Christ two hours later. In the driving rain. The Christian owner told me I would not be paid for not working for two hours. When I explained what happened and said I agreed I should not paid, he rejoiced at the young man’s salvation. No, I wasn’t compensated (rightly so).
On a college campus as a freshman. A man ten years older struck up a conversation with me. He was from Hollywood, California. I listened to his story for two hours. Such a hard life, full of unfortunate decisions. His brother, a college senior, came to me afterward and thanked me for sharing the gospel with him.
On an urban outdoor basketball court in Eugene. Numerous times. Other young men in their early 20s challenged me to games of one-on-one. After I defeated them they wanted to talk. About religion, spirituality, God, life. Never once did I steer them toward conversations about faith. God did that, and they asked of the hope within me.
And so many other encounters over the years. In the marketplace, on city streets, in children’s ministry, in homes, at parks, and so on. Individual conversations far from the glare of the ministry limelight during the course of normal everyday living.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t seek to evangelize. I’m just saying I choose to enter relationships with my neighbors with the understanding that opportunities to tell God’s story will arise as my story interacts with theirs in the daily routines of real life.