Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The Swiss train story
The Bernina express in Switzerland
LAURENCE Singlehurst tells this story of how for many people ‘less is more’ when we seek to share the Gospel.
“I was travelling on a Swiss train and had bought a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of coffee, which had cost a small fortune. As I was recovering from this dent in my wallet, a wealthy lady from the first-class carriage came and sat next to me.
“As one does, she asked me what I did for a living, and I explained that I was a missionary. Her body language response was to turn a very ashen colour and look rather ill, which was a clear indication that this lady had had a bad experience of Christians.
“It would have been inappropriate to tell her the whole Gospel. Whenever we meet with people, the goal is to leave them positive for the next Holy Spirit encounter. My evangelism that day was to listen to her pain, empathise with her story and that little bit of gospel went over our very rickety relationship bridge.
“At the end, she turned to me and said, ‘Laurence, you’re the first nice Christian I’ve ever met.’ This means she will be positive for the next Holy Spirit encounter.”
Research has shown, Laurence says, that most people who come to know the Lord first of all need five to seven positive experiences of Christianity. Once we accept this idea, it takes all the pressure off our evangelism and everyone can feel part of the process. Many people’s personalities make them better at building relationships; through their everyday lives and the words they share, they can show the reality of their Christian experience.
They are just as important and as anointed as the more obviously evangelistic gospel words that you might use. In other words, the Holy Spirit is active through in the entire process of loving people.
Then, Laurence concludes, at the right time and the right place, we can invite our friends into a situation where they can hear more of the content of the Gospel, and have an opportunity to respond to it.
Some readers may want to exclaim: “What if we only have this one opportunity? What if they get run over tomorrow? Surely we must give the whole gospel now.” And they may quote the Scripture about God’s word not returning to Him void.
When God speaks, this will always be the case – His voice brings forth fruit. But we humans are at best fuzzy channels and because our listeners may not understand what we say – spiritual interference playing a part – it’s more a case of our words coming back to us void, because they never really penetrated minds and hearts. Perhaps they needed some further positive experiences of Christians, some further freeing from the confusion of the enemy through continual blessing in prayer.
If we have shared something appropriate for them that they are able to receive, then that’s something the Holy Spirit can continue to work with – then when the next Christian comes along, there’s a good foundation for sharing more of God’s wonderful story.
Let’s get away from dropping our package of truth on people, and take time, build the relationships and encourage people up the scale of awareness of God, praying for them and allowing the Holy Spirit to do what He does best. That is is the real evangelism.