This week, you helped me spend time with Operation Mobilization Panamá, teaching in their school of missions at their base in Volcán.
It was 7 hours on an overnight bus that got me there just in time to start teaching.
Missionaries from Columbia, Salvador, and Switzerland are in a short term study to develop their sense of call towards missions.
At the beginning of the class, they each shared some of their fears about personal evangelism
- Beginning conversations about Jesus
- Finding ways to steer a conversation.
- Preaching in the parks at crowds.
- Diagnosing spiritual condition in relationship with Christ
- Appearing judgmental
However, as missionaries, they recognize the responsibility of personal evangelism and part of their work in their mission is open air contact evangelism.
What is contact evangelism?
Contact evangelism is sharing your faith upon first contact with a person. It usually involves strangers, and an often scripted conversation.
This approach and style works well for some people, but not for everyone. Yet, in this mission, contact evangelism is a regular format of proclaiming the gospel.
How can these students overcome their fears about this form of evangelism and find a way to share their faith?
The big obstacle is fear.
Rather than diagnose the different fears, these students learn that people can overcome their evangelism fears by focusing on
- the sovereignty of God (the key to timing)
- how to listen for spiritual thirst (the open door to normal conversation)
- simple conversational skills centered around your own journey to faith.
- simple gospel presentations.
I spent the first day with these students looking over this theology and skill.
Going to the streets in the big city
After some class time, the team took their dramas and preaching to the street.
For the first location, we visited a AIDS treatment clinic, where the team visited with patients receiving treatment and then shared the good news of the gospel via drama and conversation.
This clinic is in partnership with a local church, so there is a great place for new people to start connecting. There, they can explore their faith for the first time, or seek answers to their question, or start their work of discipleship.
Because this was held outdoors on a busy street corner, a few people from the neighborhood dropped by to see what all the noise and commotion was about.
At the end of the dramas, a short message from one of the students led to an invitation to further conversation.
Right after that short preaching, nearly every team member was engaged in 1-1 conversation with people who were very willing to talk.
Second stop: the park
Our next stop was the town square in the center of a busy city. The team added more dramas to the mix and it didn’t take long before a crowd of up to 50 people had stopped to watch.
Then the team told the redemption story through a drama called “Light and Darkness.”
One of the students then gave a short message that invited further 1-1 conversation with those who wanted to learn more.
The conversations are important
The spiritual conversations that followed are the key to effective open air evangelism in the way we practice it.
It gives us a chance to listen to the spiritual needs of people who are willing to engage us in conversation.
We are not manipulating the conversation, but looking for the advance work of God in preparing hearts for such a conversation.
Those who are not ready for conversations leave, but those who are at a place to talk seek us out.
This is where the students saw that knowing the principles of spiritual thirst and God’s sovereignty there is little need for fear.
They were looking for spiritual thirst, they could see where God was working, and each conversation was fruitful conversation around spiritual need, rather than argumentative debates over apologetics.
People came to faith
The exciting outcome is that these students saw that some people were ready to committ their lives to Christ. They were at the harvest point in the process of evangelism.
Others were not yet there, but left with some gospel information and seeds that the Lord could use to further help people along in their process to faith.
Some of the team members had the joy of leading new people to Christ.
My great joy
When it was all over, I rejoice that there were total strangers who willingly placed their faith in Christ that day.
On top of that, the students had the following feedback to give me:
- You helped take the fear out of evangelism.
- Once I learned about spiritual thirst, I started knowing what to look for in a conversations.
- I didn’t feel like I had to steer a conversation. The door was already open.
- I was able to relax during this outreach and not stress over people’s lack of response.
- This is a less aggressive form of evangelism that respects the dignity of the other person.
That evening, I took the 7 hour bus-ride home.
Is 14 hours in a bus worth the 2 days of teaching? You bet.
Support this work
If you’d like to become a financial partner in this ministry, read here. You can make monthly automatic contributions, or one time donations.
Your gifts will enable future mission training events like this one in Latin America.
I’ve got four more events scheduled this month of March alone.