Difficulty Starting?

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.

Just leave

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.

Garage Sale Evangelism

For the past several years (with the exception of 2020) I have had garage sales at my home. I actually revel in it even as an introvert. For some reason I receive a great deal of satisfaction talking with people, joking around, and just being my goofy self. Last year a friend pulled a metal gas can out of the garbage and challenged me to sell it. I actually sold it for $5.00 and got a picture with the guy I sold it to. This led to a few conversations about the gospel and things that I do.

Freebees and giveaways

Every year though, I try to give things away. Tracts are very hard to give out at a garage sale, at least for me. I had some ESV give-away New Testaments left over from last year; but thanks to Pastor Kevin Wilson of Calvary Chapel Ames, this year I had two cases of free books to give away called, What Time Is Purple, by Tom Hammond. It is a fascinating very short read that uses humor, the Bible, and science to get through the post-modern mindset. I have given these to college students, Doctors, and even a man with a PhD in Marine Biology. I encourage everyone to check it out and at least download a copy of it from their website.

I had a few conversations and gave away at least 80 to 100 books (I don’t keep track because I’m not a numbers guy). But one conversation was with an older gal who is a Christian and was looking for books to give to her grandkids and children about Jesus. Well, she came to the right place. About an hour later she had a box of books, new tracts to give away, and about 12 copies of What Time Is Purple. It’s important to encourage believers to share the gospel because they can reach people I cannot. There has only been a handful of exceptions where I can share Christ with children. But this grandmother can, and in greater numbers.

Changes for next year

As the weekend went on, and the amount of people dwindled, I mused over what I could have done differently. Not in a self-condemning way, but to make next year better.

I really liked the free purple booklets, so I would like to do that again. I think they were a hit with most of the crowd, and very few people rejected them. I think most were intrigued by the title and back cover. Some who did reject them at first came back and received one later wishing they would have taken one in the first place.

Next year I will order a large amount of business cards with my eBay store and a short gospel message with something about myself. I will probably use the store logo, so it will be fairly easy. Another thing I would have done differently is to decorate my driveway with sidewalk chalk; maybe with a gospel message or link to the 180movie.com website to share the movie about the evils of abortion. I like those word clouds similar to this one from Blue Letter Bible graphics, and that could be a possible idea as well.

Good Friday Evangelism

On Good Friday I decided to go out with a pack of Easter Million Dollar Bills and hit the streets to try to get into a conversation with a stranger to ask about what Good Friday and Easter mean to them.

To be honest, the entire day was somewhat uneventful. It was cold outside and not many people out. Those that were out were either jogging, listening to their headphones, or both. The malls in the area were about dead — as much as the actual malls were. Several that I went to many stores were closed; others were completely out of business.

For the people that were out, I tried to get into conversations, but no one would stick around for a conversation. I first went to the Gray’s Lake Walk Bridge overlooking Des Moines. The great part of this bridge is that it is littered with donation plaques that say things like, “In memory of…” As I was walking on the bridge I stopped a woman and gave her a tract. She laughed: not at the clever way I presented the gospel on such a timely day as this, but at me calling me an idiot for believing in such foolishness. As she walked away, I was able to ask her, “Why do they call it Good Friday? What makes it good? Not only that, but what about all the people who’s plates are on this bridge saying, ‘in memory of…’ Was it good for them?” I knew she heard what I said, acknowledging me with her one finger salute, and wasn’t pointing to God to give Him glory either.

It’s important to use your surroundings as a springboard to use to start a spiritual conversation. Like this bridge, while walking on it there is a constant reminder that their life will end at some point as it happened with many who’s memories are remembered on the plaques that litter the bridge. I was also able to combine that with Good Friday to make it more impactful.

But even if you are the most eloquent speaker with a list of funny anecdotes; without the Holy Spirit sowing the ground of their hearts and drawing them to Himself, they will never hear, understand, and receive the gospel (John 6:44, 65). We as Christians committed to sharing the gospel should not take rejection personally, but should use it to give us thick skin in the sight of adversity.

2022 Des Moines St. Patrick’s Day Outreach

Finally back after two seasons that were cancelled, we were finally back with our annual season opener. Of course evangelism is always open season here in Des Moines, but we like to celebrate and stretch out our witnessing muscles on events like the St. Paddy’s Day parade.

We started the day off meeting at Calvary Chapel Des Moines for prayer, direction, and a time of evangelism training with Eddie Roman, Producer/director of Way of the Master television program, on Zoom. It was a great teaching for those who have never shared their faith, and also a good refresher for us veterans too.

A few weeks before we were worried that we didn’t have enough tracts, but as you can see, the Lord provides. After training we carpooled up to the parade. It wasn’t as busy as it normally was, and I was actually surprised that there were less people even with the chance of rain. Most of us, including me, didn’t have the conversations we were hoping for, but then again with all the people we had only a small window to hand out as many tracts as possible with the amount of workers we had.

There were a few times that I was able to give out Lucky Bucks from Tract Planet. I like tracts from Tract Planet because they have a QR code on the back that people can scan with their smartphone and takes them to http://www.thegoodtest.net — a YouTube video that shares the entire gospel at their convenience. It is perfect when I am running out of time, it takes me less than 15 seconds to explain the code and where it points too. People were very receptive this year and I only had 2 people reject taking anything or talking to me.

The coolest thing that happened during the outreach was at one point we were handing out tracts and the people already had them. None of us were in the area yet and thought it was odd. Then I heard my name and looked down and it was Mike Demastus, Pastor of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ tying his shoe with our same tracts in his hands. I introduced him to Jon and Peg, and had a nice chat before going back at it. Seeing other churches and especially Pastors sharing the gospel really warms my heart.

When we got done around 1pm, we headed to Hy-Vee on Court Avenue for lunch and talk about our experiences. Peg, one of the ladies from my church, said she had a great time, and wants to come out with us again in the future. This was a great start to a great year and encouraged us to keep going.

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