So, two Mondays ago my friend Marty and I went to a nearby park to hang out, wind down, enjoy our pipes, and possibly watch some flame throwers practicing their art. Marty had discovered this place a few weeks prior, as well as meeting these performance artists. The week following this encounter, he had brought me here, and we first enjoyed a smoke of our pipes together in what, that night, was an empty, quite serene space.
As luck would have it, these flame throwers were there this night. As seems predictable, we soon were not the only spectators enjoying their practice. A small collection of local college students wandered in as well. While we watched the show, we and the students engaged in what at first was casual conversation, but then developed into a discussion of Christianity. This was a fabulous opportunity to witness to the Gospel. The discussion went on more than an hour. One particular individual in the group, a girl, held to some Christian belief, but her theology was overall flawed and, truthfully, was thus not Christian at all. The philosophical/theological discussion opened doors for both this young lady’s own presuppositions to be erroneous and for us to put up a decent defense of our Christian beliefs at the same time. All this while watching a group of guys tossing about flaming sticks.
Sometimes attacking someone with the Gospel in five minutes is not the best route. These kids would have been completely off-put if we had shoved the Roman Road down their throats, gave them a quick conversion speech, and such. This casual conversation about everyone’s backgrounds and, eventually, why we are Christians and ministers (and why they were each pursuing their own professions as well), led to a much more open, honest conversation that led into real heart issues that these kids needed to face. Nobody got “saved” that night, you might say. But, at the end of the conversation, when the one girl said, “I understand,” it meant the world to me. Sometimes conversion doesn’t happen overnight. The Spirit works in his own time and goes where he will. It is my hope that a bit more of his light was shown to this girl that night.
I have nothing against any form of evangelism that works. The apostles obviously used open-air preaching to much benefit of the Gospel. However, I know that sometimes you have to have a respect from your audience before they will ever listen to you. Sometimes you have to reason with your listeners a long time before what you say will carry any weight with them. I don’t necessarily think that hit-and-run evangelism efforts are really the best deal. They may not be wrong, but I would feel much more secure in the recipient’s understanding of the Truth I was preaching if I invested a bit more time into explaining to them the knowledge that God’s Spirit has given me through the light of his Word.