Luke the historian notes that Paul, while at Athens, “disputed … in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the MARKET daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:16, 17). “Marketplace witnessing” is one of a variety of methods used in communicating the gospel, as seen in the book of the Acts. In Acts 1:4, witnessing was made by public preaching; in ch 8:35 it was through personal witness. In ch 9:36 it was through practical works, while in ch 10:22 it was in a private home. Paul used the “place of concourse” as an opportunity to make contact with souls and to share with them the glorious message of salvation. The marketplace experience can be both a joyous experience, as you speak in a public setting to a wide variety of people individually, and also quite intimidating, as you never know what questions, concerns, or reaction you will face.
In 1973, brethren from the assemblies in Vancouver, were given permission to set up a 20′ by 30′ Gospel Booth at the annual Pacific National Exhibition, a 17-day family-oriented fair, situated in East Vancouver. The average daily attendance is 50,000-60,000 people. In 2003, the saints celebrated 30 years of gospel outreach at the P. N. E. In recent years a large number of believers, young and old, brethren and sisters, have given of their time and energy to serve the Lord in the Gospel Booth.
For many casual passers-by, the work at the P. N. E. is of little interest, and they pass on without stopping. There are those, however, who take the opportunity to receive gospel literature and learn something of the gospel. For others, it has become the place where they took interest in the gospel and found Christ. Some who stopped by eventually attended gospel meetings and were saved. The work in Mexico is indebted to P. N. E. Outreach work as the initial contact for the work in Puerto Vallarta was made at the Gospel Booth in 1987.
In witnessing for Christ in a marketplace setting, the first few minutes are critical.
A warm, friendly greeting will make people feel welcome, encouraging them to stop and converse. Give your first name and suggest that they feel free to look around. “If you have any questions about our displays, I’ll be happy to answer” is a good way to further the conversation. In the meantime, you can size up the measure of interest they may have. Do they seem uninterested, open to further conversation, or very interested in spiritual things? If at any time they begin to leave, be sure to give them a packet of literature.
If someone seems interested in conversation, explain briefly the various areas of interest throughout the gospel display. If they are young, show them literature appropriate for their age group. If they speak a language other than English, have literature available in that language. Mention that we are presenting God’s way of salvation through Christ, not religion.
Expect questions. There may be many! Be sensitive to where they are coming from and where you want the conversation to go. Answer in a calm manner using your Bible as your source of information and looking to the Lord for help.
If objections are raised, this affords you the opportunity to answer from the Bible. However, always seek to get to the subject of salvation and make this the emphasis of your conversation.
At this point, you will discern if a person is concerned about his soul. Present Christ to them. Go over the four “C’s” of the Bible: the challenge (John 3:3, 7), the cost (John 3:16), the choice (John 3:18), and the consequences (John 3:36). Don’t force anyone into anything. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals Christ.
Finally, let the visitor know that they can hear the gospel preached at a local Gospel Hall. If possible, try to exchange phone numbers for the purpose of follow-up. Make them welcome to return again for further conversations and conclude with appropriate literature.
Things to Avoid
Remember that first impressions are important. Be sincere, cheerful, and humble. Be yourself. Gloom and frivolity detract from the gospel.
Don’t be untidy or overdressed.
Don’t be unduly familiar. Avoid putting your hands on a person’s shoulder, as they may resent it.
Don’t monopolize the conversation. If the visitor has a lot to say, let him say it. You’ll get your opportunity.
Don’t be drawn into an argument. You may win the argument and lose the visitor. Never lose your temper!
Don’t multiply texts and illustrations. It is far better to emphasize one or two texts than to touch a dozen lightly. Present verses right from the Bible, so people can read for themselves.
Don’t be in a hurry. Be sure God’s Word is understood.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in a situation where you are not able to deal properly with an inquirer.