I have no pretension of either excelling in this matter or even taking opportunities each time they present themselves. I have missed many opportunities through lack of alertness, readiness, or timidity. I will, however, try to outline some examples from Scripture and from personal experience which I pray will be some help.
Behavior Becoming the Gospel
In Acts 1:1 Luke points out that his gospel has to do with what Jesus began both to do and teach – thirty years of doing and three and one-half years of teaching! This example suggests to the writer that there is no use preaching if our life is not consistent. Instead of being a real epistle (2 Cor 3:2), we can become “junk mail” in the eyes of the potential listener.
We can learn some key points from the greatest soul-winners of all time regarding witnessing that will give us life-long help. This work has not so much to do with ability but availability, not so much with being an agent but rather an instrument in the hands of the Master, clean and available.
We should be:
Alert to Leads
Quite often a Christian can see the work of God in a person before that person has any idea. I knew a case where a couple sold some valuables and bought a Bible (the devil would never cause them to do that) and with follow-up, salvation came to that house. In another instance, the interest of an unsaved parent noticed at a Sunday School Picnic and subsequent attendance at the Sunday School led to a family’s being reached and a couple sent out in “full-time” service in the Lord’s work.
On occasion, someone who has been looking for a problem-solver in relation to a broken marriage or a brush with the law has been redirected by a soul winner to see that sin is the real problem; they have begun seeking and have found the Savior of Sinners.
All of these may be indicators of God’s working in a person’s life to bring them to Christ.
Keeping Priority in Prayer
Prayer is essential for the one carrying the message that it may be correct as to both content and manner. It is essential to have wisdom from God to know when to visit and how long to stay. Prayer is essential so the Holy Spirit is allowed to do the work which no person can do or should even try to do. Prayer is essential to be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men and women and for protection from harm physically and spiritually. If permitted, there is great value in praying with people prior to leaving their presence.
Assessing the Degree of Darkness and Concern
It seems clear from John 3 and Luke 19 that Nicodemus and Zacchaeus had more apparent initial concern than the Samaritan woman of John 4. It is also clear that Paul in Acts 9 was in great religious darkness until the light of the glorious gospel shone at midday on the road to Damascus. The soul winner should try to discern whether an interest has developed into concern, and try to determine what form of darkness is involved and to what degree that darkness pervades.
Adopting Suitable Topics
Above all, preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23); preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2). In John 3, our Lord Jesus spoke to a very knowledgeable Nicodemus about the lifting up of the serpent by Moses in the wilderness. In contrast to that, in John 4 He spoke to the woman at Sychar’s well about water and thirst being satisfied; He spoke to fishermen about becoming fishers of men. Paul dealt differently with Agrippa than he did with Felix, as recorded in Acts 26 and Acts 24. Peter spoke differently to the Jews (Acts 2:22-24) than he did to Cornelius (Acts 10).
Be Yourself – Avoid Trying to be Someone Else
When I was a young Christian I heard the late Mr. Albert Ramsey say, “Don’t try to be someone else. The listeners will detect this as unreal.” The late Mr. Stanley Simms told us he tried to preach a message of a giant of former days, a Mr. Sam McEwen. Mr. Simms told us he failed! Mr. Simms said “His bullets didn’t fit my little pistol.”
Humility in the Presence of the Listener Is Essential
A visit once with a 28-year-old fellow-workman in his home revealed he had never thought of where he would be after he died. An approach that has, at times, been used successfully in such situations, when the person knows the messenger but may not at all be concerned about where they will be when they die, is to ask them, “Could I be of any help spiritually?” This avoids, to some degree, the sense of “preaching down at them” and also channels or confines the conversation to spiritual things. During the first conversation or visit we should be careful not to overdo it both in relation to time and information. Stephen’s “Do and Die” message of Acts 7 would have taken about thirteen minutes. Some of the sweetest words a soul-winner can hear at the end of a visit are, “Come again” or “Lets talk again.” Except in emergency cases such as an apparent imminent death, after presenting a simple and clear message of salvation, it has proven best to leave them hungering so another visit in a couple of weeks would be welcome.
Avoid Improper Appearances
There was a day when, with no suspicion arising, a Christian gentleman could visit an interested unsaved lady to present the gospel. Those days are past. We should ensure both husband and wife are present or that another person accompanies us. At times, the one that occasioned the visit is not as interested as another one in the house. In the case of one couple, the wife got saved and the husband, for whom the original exercise existed, is not saved yet after many years!
Expect Discouragements – and Good Results!
We must be realistic about results; not all witnessing will be successful or even pleasant. Remember, however, the tears of the sower and the song of the reaper shall mingle together in joy by and by (Psalm 126:5,6). We can apply Galatians 6:9 as well: “We shall reap if we faint not!” May God help us and guide us to souls we can point to Christ for His eternal glory and our unspeakable joy until He comes!