As a student I joined a group called Christian Union at the University of Canterbury. There I was sharpened in many skills, including evangelism.
We were encouraged to read a gospel (particularly Mark's gospel) with a friend who didn't know Jesus, as well as walk up to strangers and share the gospel with them. Both of these were quite scary, although I preferred the idea of reading a gospel with a friend to walk up evangelism.
Some non-Christian friends of mine had shared with me how much they detested walk up evangelists, because their personal space was invaded. I didn't want to be hated and so never did it.
Now that I have gone back to university to work with Christian Union as a staff member I am no longer afraid. I am happy walking up to strangers and talking to them (I have yet to practise walk up evangelism, but I would be happy to do it). I will readily read gospels with friends who want to.
So what has changed?
I'm older; I was formerly a teacher and was meeting hundreds of new people each year and sharing with them something they didn't want to hear about (Mathematics!). Being exposed to this has possibly allowed me to become used to meeting and talking to strangers.
I've also learnt that there is never a 'one size fits all.' Every person is unique and therefore every relationship is going to be unique. This means the way we share the gospel is going to change every time, while the content remains the same.
For some reason this took the pressure off. Sometimes it may be a short sentence that you share. Other times it may be a long conversation about an aspect of life. All those things are sharing the gospel in a small, but significant way.
So, how have I shared the gospel with others?
We say, 'God is in control,' but the litmus test as to whether we believe this is how we pray. This is not a guilt trip, but we can't expect people to turn to Christ if we are not praying for them.
I have learnt that the phrase 'You are trying to convert me' is utterly false. From a human perspective you can only convert yourself, no one else. From God's perspective only He calls people to follow Him. The idea that I could 'convert' someone is so very far from the truth.
This should cause us to pray, as the idea that God converts people is utterly true.
While God is in control, we are still called to do work. God has given us brains, not to sit there idly, but to use them. This applies to sharing the gospel. How can we expect to share the gospel using engaging words and illustrations if we have never practised?
A classical musician doesn't get on stage having never played their solo before. In the same way we shouldn't be virgins to sharing the gospel. We can practise! And who better to practise on than each other?
When I began going out with my future husband, James, I asked him to explain the gospel to me. I wanted to make sure the man I was spending time with knew his stuff! He wasn't perfect, and neither was I. This led to us practising on each other, which has helped us have the right words at the right times when opportunities do come along.
Another reason practising on each other is helpful, is that we are all unique and therefore will have different ways of phrasing concepts and emphasising different aspects of the gospel.
For example when James first shared the gospel with me, he very strongly emphasised our human awfulness. This has led me to see the deep gravity of our sin more clearly. In return I would emphasise the resurrection of Jesus, because this is what my hope is based on. No resurrection means no salvation.
The great thing is there will be times when it will be better to emphasise sin and other times to emphasise the resurrection. As stated, each person, relationship and situation will be unique and being flexible is important.
Reading the Bible with non-Christians is my favourite way of sharing the gospel with others. The pressure is off me and on God quite visibly to do the work. I'm just facilitating that conversation.
Something I found of great use was picking key passages (actually having passages picked for me) that trace the main threads of the gospel, while not reading the whole book. This has meant we actually get through the whole story!
I didn't do this at the beginning, and we never got to the end, as she lost interest and time was too short. Being able to get through the whole story in one hour a week for six weeks makes it manageable and means you get to the end.
Hearing the end is where people either reject or accept the truth. It's up to God there again, not you!
There are times when it is OK to stay silent. Sharing the gospel with people who do not want to hear the gospel can damage rather than advance the gospel. You are not failing at evangelism if you do not mention Jesus in every conversation.
God will use you in other ways and it may be 30 years down the track that the person remembers you, your joy, hope and love, and gets in touch with another Christian.
An example which beautifully illustrates this is something that happened to me at the beginning of this year. At a welcome barbecue I was explaining what my job would look like for the year, particularly reading the Bible with others. A girl next to me asks, 'Do you read the Bible with non-Christians?' I replied, 'Yes,' and she responded by saying 'I'm a non-Christian. Would you read the Bible with me?'
Sharing the gospel might not always be that easy, and I have been blessed by her friendship in many ways since then! And what prompted her to ask? Her mum is a Buddhist and her dad is a Christian. Did I have any control over her father's faith? No. That was God's doing. Because he had come to faith and she had seen parts of his life she became interested. From what she tells me he doesn't even know she's meeting to read the Bible with me!
Now, passing is not an excuse to never share the gospel, but being tactful and gentle instead of being a bull in a china shop is necessary.
I hope you are encouraged that evangelism is perhaps easier than you think. It is up to God a lot of the time. May we, as his people, be praying that he would give us the strength to use opportunities wisely when they come our way.
Rachel Bartlett lives in Christchurch, New Zealand with her husband James and her puppy Pip.
Rachel Bartlett's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Rachel-Bartlett.html