We often talk about how God has a plan for our individual lives, and that’s true. But there’s a larger truth at work: God has a plan for the whole world. Our lives fit into that larger plan.
A famous theologian of a prior generation, John Stott of England, was well-known for declaring, “Our God is a missionary God.” That is, God Himself is taking the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. And he wants to use us, His servants, in the process.
Again, how? How does He use us? One of the main ways is by sharing our faith with others.
In my role as a campus ministry staff member, I was approached by a student who was struggling with the idea of sharing his faith. He didn’t want to impose his beliefs on other people, certainly not his fellow students. He had a very negative idea of the word “evangelism.” Andrew looked at me skeptically one day and asked, “What do you mean when you talk about evangelism?”
I replied that evangelism is actually God’s business. He’s out there ahead of us, doing His work in the lives of those who do not yet know Him. He’s introducing Himself to them. Our job in evangelism is to discover what He’s already doing, then enter the conversation.
I pointed to Paul’s statement in Colossians 4:3 (NIV): “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message.”
God is the one who paves the way for our witness. We don’t sell the gospel or impose our beliefs on others. We simply follow God’s carved out path.
Andrew was visibly stressed out by my words. Somehow my answer had made things harder for him. Had I said, for example, that evangelism meant running around campus, knocking on people’s doors, and asking if they’d been saved, and if not, could we show them how?—that would have been easier for Andrew because he could have dismissed it all as crazy talk.
Or, if I’d described evangelism as standing on a street corner, yelling at people, and condemning their sinful behavior—that, too, would have been simple to reject.
But if evangelism is basically joining a divine conversation already in progress, that’s different. Andrew looked at me hard and said, “Your idea of evangelism—it’s not what I thought you were going to say.” He seemed oddly disappointed that evangelism could be so centered in God (rather than in us), that it could make so much sense.
Schooled by a Lamb
While Andrew headed off to class, another student, Elizabeth, sat down at my table for a noon appointment. The student center where I was located was now buzzing with noisy talking, laughter, and eating. Some folks were even studying. There was barely an empty seat in the place, and Elizabeth blended in perfectly with the crowd.
Me? I didn’t exactly blend in. I’m an old guy with gray hair, a dinosaur sitting among lambs. Elizabeth knew this about me and nevertheless had the brilliant idea that the two of us should go around sharing.
So we prayed that God would open a door for witness. And I secretly prayed that I would survive the next 30 minutes of my life.
Elizabeth led the way. She approached a female student sitting alone at a table, and with a kindly smile asked if we could sit for a moment and talk about religion. The young woman introduced herself as Ashley, and soon the two students were comparing notes about various classes and professors, while the dinosaur listened in.
At some point, Elizabeth changed the subject, smoothly, to religion. We found out that Ashley had grown up in a church but was currently not active in her faith. Elizabeth asked if she could share a summary of the Bible’s message about Christ and his gift of salvation and, having secured Ashley’s consent, did so.
I was impressed – and humbled. A half hour earlier I’d been confident in telling Andrew that “God goes before us,” and we should not think of evangelism as selling Jesus or forcing the gospel on anyone.
And now I’d been schooled in the art of witness by a 21-year-old who’d put all our great evangelism theory to the test. We had asked God for an open door for the gospel, and Elizabeth stepped out in faith. I was along for the ride. And sure enough, God opened a door for witness. He went before us and prepared Ashley’s heart for a conversation about Jesus with a fellow lamb and a watchful older T. rex.
Your Place in the Mission
Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” and “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” The greatest joy we can have in this life is to love the Lord and share him with others. It’s part of his master plan. We are part of his master plan to reconcile the world to himself, to connect people back to their loving Creator.
Are you ready to join God’s mission today?