“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized-whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ-but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” - 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
This is our mission as a body of believers: to become servants to reach a wide range of people in an attempt to lead them into a God-saved life. At times, it's so hard to practically figure out how to live out the mission though.
If we want to live a life on mission or a lifestyle of evangelism, I believe the only place to start is with Jesus. Walking in a lifestyle of evangelism looks a lot like the way Jesus walked in His day to day life. He went city to city, observing people, touching their lives, healing them, praying, seeking, being sought, asking questions, building relationships, sharing stories, being generous, praying and loving the lost, and ministering to their ultimate need: a God sized hole in their heart.
Below are just a couple practical steps based on how Jesus walked that we can take as Christians to live a lifestyle of evangelism:
1) See people
The first thing Jesus did when He went city to city was that He saw people. He saw crowds and had compassion on them (Matthew 9:36-38). He saw Nathanael, one of His disciples, when Nathanael asked, "how do you know about me?" (John 1:47-49). And "as Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth" (John 9:1). Jesus was a man who actually saw people. He saw and felt, he saw and asked, and he saw and recognized pain. It seems like an obvious action, but Jesus was intentional about remaining aware of who was around Him at all times.
If we want to live a life of evangelism the first thing we must do is see people. We aren't hardwired to do this. We are by default hardwired to constantly pay attention to and listen to our internal monologue of thought. To then switch that default, we must make a conscious choice to begin to pay attention to and become aware of the people around us. There has to be a shift in our mentality as Christians to see others and to truly see them. All too often we live our lives just seeing through people. Many times, I find myself passing by people just trying to get to the next thing, when the best chance for us to see people is in the in-betweens. Jesus did this. He was just walking along on His journey to the next city, and because He was aware He saw the blind man. Another thing: Jesus saw people with all their hurt, sin, pain, suffering and went towards them all the same. He saw people who were thirsty. He saw people who had questions. He saw people who needed to be healed. And He didn't shy away from them, or choose to see right through them or past them because He was so focused on the next place He was trying to get to... He saw them, stopped, and entered into a conversation with them. Just imagine if we started to really see people at bus stops, around campus, in class, or even at the store. This world is full of people who are just waiting to be seen, so let's live a life on mission to see people.
2) Get to know people
The second thing Jesus did is He got to know people. He made relationships with no agenda. He talked and shared in conversation. But two very distinct things he did were:
1. He asked a TON of questions
2. He told stories
If you skim over the gospels, you begin to realize something. Jesus asked a lot of questions. Some people have counted and said He asked more than 300 questions across the span of the four gospels. He was THE ultimate question asker. He asked people questions because he understood humans at their core. Jesus was the ultimate communicator and he asked questions because they are a highly effective way to connect. They are a way to get to know people, to understand their desires, dreams, and what do they long for. Questions are also a way to engage, to get people thinking, and to guide people into discovering answers. Naturally, we love to talk about ourselves. So next time you meet someone, start asking questions, get to know who they are and what makes them tick. You'll discover so much about a person by asking questions and listening to understand who they are.
Another thing Jesus did well to get to know people and also share Truth is that He told stories, or parables. Stories are the universal language of the world and everyone has a story to tell. Today, I can look back on my life and see the thread of the Lord in every story and piece of my life. Therefore, the stories I tell people, even without mentioning that I'm a Christian, have that underlying thread of Christ. He's been in my life and always will be, that's the underlying thread in every story I tell. So, go tell your stories, go ask people for theirs. If no one has told you yet, your story matters and it's significant in an eternal since, so please, please please tell it.
One final thought on getting to know people… another key ingredient to this is conversation. The art of conversation has slipped away a bit in our world today. We can blame things like technology, busyness, television, etc. But let's claim this right now, we will be a people of conversation. And it's time it came back. To do this, take what Jesus did, asking questions and telling stories, and use them as building blocks to grow in shaping conversation. Let's start having more conversations with our peers or neighbors. Go grab coffee with someone other than a best friend and see just where the conversation might lead.
3) Be extravagant and generous with people
"And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you" (John 13:14-15)
Here's the thing, I'm not sure how it would pass if we went around Tate offering to wash people's feet. But we can definitely offer to pay for the person behind us in the Tate Chick-fil-A line. Or offer to give someone a ride somewhere. Or give our time to serve a group or community. Despite the poor college kid stereotype that gets laid on us, we have a lot to be generous with. Besides our money, we have our time, our resources, our knowledge, and even our words are things we can be generous with. Let's be extravagant with them. With no restraints, we can live a lifestyle of evangelism by being generous and expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35).
4) Pray for people
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:2-6, NIV).
Finally, the fourth action we can take as Christians is to pray for people in our own sphere of influence. In every one of our lives, we have access to people and perspectives of them that other people do not. Because we have this particular perspective, we have the chance to bathe the people who surround us in prayer - whether they are Christians or not. When we pray for specific people in our lives and fight for them in a spiritual sense, it is our understanding that the power in living life on mission comes from the Lord and allows us to bring that power into our relationships. Praying for specific people in our lives will prepare us to be ready and enable us to see the connection between ourselves and the people we pray for. When we pray specifically for people in our lives it's like we're raising our hand in heaven saying, "Lord, with your help, I'm going after them". It is an honor to be entrusted by God with the hearts of friends, coworkers, neighbors, sorority sisters, fraternity brothers, peers, fellow committee members, teammates, and others that surround us (1 Corinthians 3:9). So, the next time we are physically in the presence of the people we're praying for, we can have confidence that because of our faithfulness in prayer for them the Lord is at work in their lives.
Author | Kristen Fikse