It’s been at least 10 years ago. I was on a plane coming home from a mission trip to Latin America. Another religious group was on the same plane heading back to the states, having just completed a mission of their own.
Still fired up from their campaign, this other group made a point to greet every person on the plane and hand them a tract outlining their beliefs. I was sitting in between a man from another church that participated in the campaign I was on, and a girl from my home congregation. A member from the other group stopped at our seats, greeted us and handed us a tract.
Almost immediately, the man seated next to me began laughing out loud; almost as if he wanted to bring attention to himself. He pulled out his pen, opened the tract and began writing “lies” and “false doctrine” inside the tract without even reading it.
Hearing the laughter one of the men passing out tracts turned and asked the man next to me, “what do you think about that?” motioning to his tract. The man next to me answered, “You don’t want to know what I think about this.” The man in the aisle insisted, “Yes, I really do! It sounds like you might have some questions.” The man next to me replied bluntly, “How can you so happily teach this bunch of lies? Have you ever heard of Acts 2:38?” (He asked this without ever actually quoting the verse.)The voice of the man sitting next to me began to grow louder and more aggressive, “You’re teaching people how to go to hell!” He shouted.
The girl and I sitting next to the man wanted to disappear. I remember thinking, “I hope no one in this plane thinks I am associated with this guy.”
The man in the aisle went from friendly to defensive and a mild, yet immature argument ensued. I noticed several people turning around in their seats and looking at the scene that the man was causing. Upon hearing what the argument was about, many passengers rolled their eyes and turned back around.
When the man from the aisle left the argument and returned to his seat I could tell that the man sitting next to me seemed very proud of himself for successfully “defending” the truth. I couldn’t help but think about all the people sitting around who this man would now never have a chance to win for Christ because of his behavior. His method of sowing was to load all his seed in a shotgun shell and fire it directly into the face of anyone who had a different view than his.
While the shotgun to the face method of evangelism may be very easy to administer, you will rarely find anyone who finds this a comforting way to learn the gospel. Evangelism is an important responsibility that we should all take very seriously.
Here are a few ideas that might help:
1. Don’t let your method destroy your message.
2. Make sure when teaching, you are doing so with a spirit of love. Otherwise your message becomes a sounding brass or a clanging symbol. (I Cor 13)
3. People who disagree with you are not the enemy. They are an opportunity. Remember, Paul went into the synagogue to preach, because this is where people seeking truth could be found. Someone with the conviction to give a complete stranger a tract on an airplane is someone who has a desire to do what is right. That’s someone I want on my team, and I would guess wants those kind of people on His team too! Don’t ruin a good future teammate by being immature.
4. Know your audience and don’t seek to evangelize those who already agree with you. It feels good to hear “amen brother” from someone who firmly agrees with your point, but if you have totally alienated one who was lost in the process, what good have you done?
5. Think about ways you might be receptive to a new idea, and try to implement those ways into your teaching.
6. Think about words, actions, gestures, and phrases that instantly put you on the defensive and try to avoid using these when you teach.
7. Realize that what you want to say isn’t always what a person needs to hear.
8. Before opening your mouth to teach anyone ever; pray.
Evangelism is a great responsibility. What you say could lead someone to closer to Christ or further away. Choose your words very carefully.