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Conversations Not Conversions by Ed Waken

My doorbell rang. As I rose from my home office to answer it, I wondered to myself, "Who is bothering me?" It was Reese. Reese had trimmed some trees for me earlier in the month. Standing there in a very sweaty ball cap, dirty clothes and a sunken face, he wanted to know if I had more work that he might be able to do.

At that moment, I really didn't care how he was doing. I was busy doing something else and I really didn't need any trees trimmed. Reese was bothering me. But a voice in my heart told me to encourage him. My lips parted. Air from my lungs raced across my vocal chords. I managed to ask, "Hey Reese, how are you doing?"

reese

That simple question, prompted by God, began a conversation about Reese's drug addiction and desperate state of life. As we moved to my back yard and enjoyed some sandwiches and iced tea, Reese shared his life story with me. I shared the story of Life with him. Later, Reese invited the Life-Giver to be His Lord and Savior. He has since been sober for over two months and has already seen a house church with some friends who are new to Jesus and who are desperate for Jesus get started. Whatever I was working on in my office that day doesn't seem that important now!

This is a grand story of success in evangelism, but not because Reese became a follower of Christ. It is successful because I was obedient to have a conversation with him instead of blowing him off for my "stuff." How many times have I blown off conversations with people because I was so tuned into my world, my agenda and priorities? My experience with Reese reflects the Biblical principles of evangelism that are given to every believer.

Many believers have the notion that evangelism is hard, scary and reserved for those who are gifted. The results of this kind of thinking cause us to shy away from spiritual interaction with lost people. After all, we really don't know what to say, how to say it and many of us don't know our Bibles well enough to answer the hard questions people ask. This kind of thinking is not at all what the Bible teaches us.

Many people measure success in evangelism with results. That is, did the person I'm sharing with make a decision for Jesus? If he did, I was successful. If she didn't, I must have missed something and need to do better next time. This is not what the Bible teaches us.

The Biblical principle regarding success in evangelism is always to be obedient to share the truth. In short, we should be measuring conversations about Jesus, not conversions. We can choose to have conversations about the spiritual with people, but we cannot make people respond to the truth we share with them. That is God's realm.

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So what is success in evangelism?

Success in evangelism must be measured by conversations. Here are four truths that will serve to strengthen our passion to share our faith. At the moment of salvation, these truths are equally true for every believer.

1. The Authority of God (Matthew 28:16-20). Every believer has Jesus residing in them and therefore has His authority according to the Great Commission. Jesus said, "All authority is given me...", and I am sending you to share the truth about me with others, make disciples, baptize them and teach them. He ended with "...behold, I am with you always..." Every believer has the authority to share the good news of Christ.

2. The Power of God (Acts 1:8). Acts 1:8 specifically teaches us that the power of the Holy Spirit is given to every believer for the precise purpose of sharing Christ with the world. This powerful witness is not reserved or limited to a few, but is given to all (see Acts 2:38-39).

3. The Mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:16). Paul truly builds confidence in our ability in evangelism when he writes of the believer's reliance upon the Spirit as the real confidence builder regarding evangelism. The principle is that the Spirit of God knows everything. We have the Spirit of God living in us. The Spirit of God freely gives us thoughts that we are to voice. Therefore, Paul concludes that we have the mind of Christ! The context is all about evangelism (see 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

4. The Words of God (Matthew 10:16-20, Mark 13:9-11, Luke 21:12-15). These are parallel passages that give us some tremendous promises regarding evangelism. Jesus instructs us to not worry about what we are to share or how we are to share it. In Mark 13, Jesus tells us not to worry beforehand about what to say or how to say it. In Luke 21 He instructs us to make up our minds not to worry. In the Matthew and Mark passages, we learn that the Spirit will give us the words and method, but in the Luke passage the Word teaches us that Jesus Himself will give us the words and methods to use.

The Godhead takes an active role in teaching us that we have no reason to worry; they will instruct us and give us the confidence, words and methods at just the right time. Jesus promises that if you simply speak what is given to you to say, that none of your adversaries will be able to contradict or refute you.

Conversations, not conversions are what we should be looking at as we think about success in evangelism. Imagine if every believer understood and acted upon the Biblical truth that they have the authority, power, mind and words of God every time they choose to share their faith? Imagine a field that has been sown extravagantly with seeds of the kingdom. What kind of harvest would take root?

Begin many conversations with people not yet connected to Jesus. Be assured that at the moment of sharing, you are successful because Jesus is giving you His words and His methods while doing His work in the heart of the hearer. That is success-100% of the time! All we have to do is open our mouths and speak what is given us in that moment. Simple conversations will produce eternal results.

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© 2005 by Ed Waken Originally published in thechurchplanter- a newsletter by Kurt Miller Spring 2005

See also the articles:
Evangelists: For the Church or the Lost?
Why Organic Church Has an Edge on Outreach
Organic Evangelism Principles by Ed Waken
The Truth, Adventure & Mystery of Evangelism
Who Is In Charge?: ReTooling Leadership 1
The Deal on Disciple Making - Video

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