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That wasn’t supposed to happen

May 17, 2012

This is the first in what I hope will be an intermittent series of posts on evangelism.  Whatever your views are on the subject one thing is clearly true; the day evangelism stops is the beginning of the end for the church.  With that in mind, and with the examples from Scripture of those who dedicated themselves to the Gospel, it is a subject we all need to pay attention to.

One thing I will not be doing with these posts is presenting myself as an expert on the subject for I surely am not.  My ideas and experiences are simply given as personal observations I have picked up along life’s way.  You are free to differ or offer alternatives. 

I am also not going to present or recommend a method of evangelism.  There are a lot of good books that teach evangelism methodology and you are free to research them.  It is from a pattern I see in those books that this post is taken.  If there is a common thread weaving through these books it is that they are all filled with inspiring real-life stories of miraculous success ordinary people have in witnessing.  I have no doubt that the stories are true and I understand they are presented to motivate us, which is fine.

For me however, while at times I have seen God open witnessing doors in amazing ways, such is not the norm.  The most common reaction is polite disinterest.  This may be because I am, at the core, pretty uninteresting, but I don’t take it personally.  There have been times when the actual response could be called a colossal failure however. 

Which brings me to the question that will tell me whether this is to be series or not.  Have you ever had a time when your well-meaning attempt at witness turned into a stunning failure?  If so, what did you learn from it? 

One personal example of failure came not long ago when it appeared that the door to witness was opening with a younger co-worker.  I had just begun to share what I thought was a casual opening when I saw her face screw up in fury.  The next words out of her mouth were

“You are just like my father…” 

In the instant between that and the next word she spoke without pause I knew in a flash that I was not about to hear a warm-hearted praise and braced myself as she concluded

 “…a no good @#$@#@#x!!#@” 

Deeming it not the time to whip out the Four Spiritual Laws I apologized for offending her and tried to do some damage control.  I did learn or re-learn two things from the incident however.

For one, no witness goes into an empty receptacle.  Everyone has hurts and experiences that color how we hear things.  Even when they hear through a filter that distorts what we were trying to say all we can do is take responsibility with grace, apologize for inadvertent offense, and try and communicate care. 

Secondly, hostile reactions are not the worst thing that can happen.  In her reaction she communicated an important truth to me; she was hurting over something in her relationship with her father.  If I was to truly care about her I needed to care about that hurt.  In this case, after a lot of trial and error, I was able to understand her pain and express my concern for her.  Without her hostility that never would have happened.

What about you?  Do you have any “that wasn’t supposed to happen” experiences?  Feel free to share them, be they funny, poignant or instructive.


From → Christianity

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