The work of evangelizing among religious groups must be prefaced with a few basics. It is not according to a formula, a personal projection of numbers, or a time frame. People are not seen as projects but must be seen as individuals. God wants to reach each one for His glory and for their blessing, whether they are unbelievers or already part of the body of Christ. In this way we seek to practice the commission of Matthew 28:19, 20. The work is really that of the Spirit of God working sovereignly with people, places, times, and purposes. He may just choose to use us and direct our awareness, availability, and attentiveness with the possible formation of an assembly or the addition of individuals to existing assemblies.
Awareness involves seeking divine guidance and having eyes and ears open to know where and with whom the Lord is working. Opportunities can arise in many ways, as noted below, with both believers and unbelievers in religious groups. There is a need to recognize a searching attitude (often expressed in wanting more than what one has), a teachable spirit, and an appetite for what God’s Word says.
Availability can be in the form of public venues or personal work. There is always the need for the public preaching of the gospel. For this purpose we have used the tent in the summer months and have rented premises for fall and winter outreach. Sometimes people will more readily attend a tent or a rented building that is neutral ground rather than attending what they would consider an already established church. At times this has led to further teaching meetings for believers from religious groups who desire to know more of the truth of God.
In personal work we have endeavored to visit religious groups throughout the year here in Manitoba. Our work in the distribution of gospel texts is low key. Thousands of texts supplied for us by the International Bible House in Vancouver are freely given away each year. These texts are specifically produced for the rural farming districts in which we work. With giving these texts directly to individuals we pray for guidance as to whom the Lord directs to receive them, and for the conversations that are a result of explaining the verse. One of the amazing factors in this work of distribution is that there are no refusals. Many times these visits have also been used by God for the encouragement of believers who long for Christian fellowship. We are happy to rest on the promise of God that “My Word ….shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11).
From these public or personal efforts in the gospel contacts are made which then lead to personal visitation in homes. Where there is an interest in spiritual things we ask if they would be interested in a weekly Bible study in their home. Many times we find couples who open their homes to us for this purpose. We bring along an outline of the subject for each time. This does two things. Although a variety of questions come up that need to be answered, it helps in studying the topic. Secondly, it leaves the people with an outline that they can review or pass on to others. Our first interest is to bring them the Word of God. Subject matters for these studies depend on whether such are saved or not, or where they are in their spiritual growth. These studies in homes are a long-term work, week after week and month after month. It takes time to build a relationship of care and trust. It takes patience and waiting on God. He has sovereignly blessed according to individual needs whether in salvation, obedience in baptism, increased spiritual convictions, and/or additions to various assemblies.
One work often leads to another. At times we are asked to visit relatives in the hospital. We also are told of others who are searching for truth and this prompts a phone call or a visit to their home. Then again, we are asked to visit relatives who are still bound up in religious bondage and cannot come out to hear the gospel. So we must go to them.
While we are happy to go to homes for studies, it has also been most helpful to the work to open up our own home. During one part of the work over 25 young people from a religious system came to our home every Saturday evening for over a year. With the help of other couples, it was a great delight to pour into these souls the truth of God. It pleased God, over time, that all of these were received into assembly fellowship.
Over the past years, when a few young people have left these religious systems, we have had the joy of having them for supper one evening a week followed by a couple of hours of Bible study. There are so many topics that new believers need to be taught that it may take a long time for these to be addressed in the regular assembly teaching meetings. From these home studies, convictions and a commitment to the assembly have been seen. It is delightful to see. The work is His.
Being adaptable is very necessary. For new believers coming from religious backgrounds it has also been most helpful to have, with the involvement of others in the assembly that have the same evident care and exercise, a special class for these at the same time as the Sunday school and adult Bible reading. This personalized class shows them the sincerity and welcome of the assembly as a whole.
We seek to be attentive to the Lord’s leading in the varied shifts in the work and always desire to keep up an approachable attitude to ones from religious groups. Not all public or personal work has ended up in individuals attending an assembly. Some efforts have ended because people are content in their comfort zone and do not wish to commit to the Word of God. These are deciding between what pleases self, and what pleases God. For others, there may be demands or restrictions placed on them. When this happens we acknowledge a sense of disappointment but must maintain an attitude of being approachable. Some who have initially rejected spiritual truth have later shown an interest. This can only be the work of God.
Andrew Bergsma has been a great source of help and encouragement in this effort; Ruth and I are so privileged to have him as our friend and fellow worker. As well, the consistent testimony of many believers from religious backgrounds is a wonderful aid to the furtherance of the gospel and assembly work. Please pray that we may know the Lord’s continual guidance and that He would be glorified in this area of His vineyard.