Last Tuesday I was meeting a friend at a local mall to share the gospel. But my friend never showed up, which was really surprising. So I decided to go it alone.
I really struggled. Let me just say, “I hate malls.” At least trying to strike up conversation in them. For the most part they are distracting and I feel claustrophobic in them. I prefer being outside. It’s not fear that I struggle with, but the awkwardness, especially in a place that is dead when it comes to the amount of people there. You’re eyeing up people wanting to talk, make eye contact, and walk over — with about 30 yards of space in between. The person sees you and immediately can hear the ‘Jaws’ theme music in their head, thinking your going to sell them something or worse.
But what do you do when you’re in that situation, especially by yourself? Here are some things you can do to help.
Sit down and pray
Really, sometimes it’s just that simple. There were so many times I just couldn’t strike up a conversation to save my life. I’d try and either people would walk away, ignore me, or flat out give me the stiff-arm. So, after a few I would just go aside somewhere and pray that the Lord would send the person He wants me to talk to at this moment.
Evangelism is a lot like fishing. Moving from place to place stirs up the water and makes the fish nervous; all you accomplish is driving a boat all over the lake wasting gas and energy. But, sometimes the Lord just wants you to be still and trust in Him to send the right person to you.
This was the case when I was in Manti, Utah at the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant sharing the gospel to the Latter-Day Saints (LDS). I kept getting the stiff-arm and got yelled at a few other times. It wasn’t until I sat down, prayed, and listened to the Lord speak to my heart on what to do. I got up, went to where a brother was open-air preaching and had a real divine interaction with a guy who just “showed up” to the event who wasn’t even Mormon. I led him to the Lord and he skipped away with joy among a crowd of ten listening in. Trying to do everything ourselves without the Lord’s help can be impossible.
Go buy a cookie
Sound’s ridiculous, but this has worked for me as well. Which is the hardest tract to give away? The very first one. There were times when I just couldn’t get my first one out. So I would go to a stand nearby that is selling food or drinks and I would buy something, then hand the attendant a tract. Sure it cost me a dollar or two, but at least I was able to get my first one out, and start talking. Plus, maybe that person needed Jesus as well, and was the conversation you were supposed to have in the first place. Not to mention, cookies just cheer anyone up on a rainy day.
Maybe you’re there for other reasons
Sometimes I’ve gone witnessing and I was there for other reasons than sharing the gospel. Once I shared the gospel and the only people I gave tracts to were already Christians. I didn’t consider it a waste, but used the time to encourage other believers to go out and share their faith too.
This time at the mall, I ran into a couple that I haven’t seen in years who used to go to my church. It was a great visit and was really nice and encouraging to see them again. Maybe the reason I was there was to run into them, reconnect, and get together in the near future for some much needed Christian fellowship.
If evangelism is not going well where you are, leaving the venue is not necessarily giving up; it just means you are not in the right place. Pray and ask the Lord where to go. Sometimes getting in your car and driving home is what you were meant to do. There were two times this happened in my life that blew me away when I did this.
One of which was on May 17, 2005 I started the day with my wife at Saylorville Dam, a scenic spot near my home. There wasn’t many people there, but there were a few opportunities which for some reason I hesitated and didn’t take. I left for home feeling I had let my Lord down, and should have at the very least talked to one guy sitting on a bench.
When I gotten home, my wife made plans with another couple who came to the house for dinner. The boyfriend and I were watching Star Wars on the Television which led to a conversation about God, then pornography, and before I knew it I was sharing the gospel to him. Before they left I gave him the book, The Case for Christ, and even to this day he remembers our conversation. I was so encouraged that I went out to share the gospel the next several days.
The other time was on December 19, 2006. My wife and I were planning on going to a Bible Study with a group from my church and then going witnessing in the area. As I was getting ready the bell rang. I opened the door and three Mormon LDS missionaries were on my porch. My wife called the group and said we were not coming; God had other plans. That night led to more discussions with the missionaries in my home for two months.
There are plenty of sinners out there. Sometimes you’re just not in the area you’re supposed to be.
Leave a tract behind
If you do leave, or are walking and nothing happening, leave a tract behind for someone to see and pick up. Pray that God will put it in the hands of the right person so that their heart would read it and come to faith in Christ. Although not ideal, there have been many people through the years that got saved by a tract someone left behind.
Greg Kokul, President and founder of Stand To Reason was an atheist and did not believe in God in his younger years. It wasn’t until he found a gospel tract in a supermarket shopping cart that he read it repeatedly to disprove its writings. He was forced to reconcile his beliefs with the Bible and gave his heart to Jesus Christ.
Hudson Taylor, British Missionary who founded the China Inland Mission, which led the Gospel work in Inland China and was also saved by reading a gospel tract in his father’s library at the age of 17. After reading the simple printed tract he concluded, “If the whole work was finished on the cross of Calvary, and the whole debt of sin paid, what is there left for me to do? There was nothing to be done but to fall down on my knees and accept the Savior and His salvation and praise Him forever.” He went to faithfully serve the Lord for 51 years in China.
Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews For Jesus, was led to the Lord by a pamphlet about heaven his wife left on a table in their home. By trying to prove the pamphlet wrong, he was forced to examine his thoughts about God and to examine Christianity as truth. He went to church with his wife the next day and he proclaimed his faith in Christ Jesus.
According to Joey Hancock of the American Tract Society, he said 53% of those who come to Christ worldwide came through the use of gospel printed literature. You just never know what a little piece of paper can do.
Don’t get discouraged
Don’t let the situation discourage you to the point of not doing anything. I hope these few items would better serve you to help you refocus on the task at hand and what you have to offer for those who desperately need to hear the gospel. Please comment below about your situations God turned around to get you talking and sharing your faith.
Frank, thanks for the excellent practical encouragement! We’re not all called to be evangelists, but we’re all called to evangelize and sow the Gospel.
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Yes, for sure. Many times we beat ourselves up when our conversations go haywire or problems starting. Even when I’ve left my fishing hole, God was faithful to give me conversations when I trust Him.
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Your post encouraged me to go online and order some address labels with our new church’s address to stick on the back of tracts, something I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of months.
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