For several years of my Christian life, I wrestled with what God would have me to do concerning reaching others. I had heard sermons and read material teaching that I should be a witness for Him, and that if I really loved Him as I should, I would be eager to talk to folks about their eternal souls. I wasn’t. I was chicken. I was downright petrified. I was fearful that I would offend and possibly lose a friendship that I valued. Because of my work, I knew many different kinds of people, and my family members were pretty much like me and not into church things. Not being reared in a Christian home with strong moral values, I did not feel I was insulated and protected from the world in which I lived, and I knew that the folks I knew best were not going to be eager to hear the gospel — especially from me.
I remember once after a powerful, butt-kicking revival message given with the fire and brimstone effect that was so often the ticket in those days of evangelism, I declared to God and man that I would attend church sponsored visitation and go out and knock on doors to try to reach men, women, boys and girls with the gospel message. That sounded and felt good as long as I was safe in the beautiful church building or riding along in my automobile. But when I parked that car and my partner and I got out to knock on that first door, I was petrified. Who could know what was behind that door and who would answer or the mood they would be in when they did? I did not know the person I was assigned to visit with, and she did not know me. The streets of Atlanta, Ga., were mean and busy and it was getting dark.This is probably not very spiritual to some of you godly souls, but I prayed fervently all the way to the address. I wasn’t praying for a successful visit or that souls would come to know Christ. I was praying no one would answer the door, that the house would be dark, and we would find no need to continue on this adventure. I knew very little about the power of the Holy Spirit of God going before, with and after you. I had very little Bible memorized and stored in my heart in those days. I did have zeal, but it was waning low on this cloudy, stormy night in Georgia. Sure enough, as we located the house number and got out of our car, we could not see a light in sight. The door was closed firmly and no one was home. I breathed a huge sigh of relief – as did my partner, I believe – and we headed to the local Dairy Queen to get something to drink and eat. My first soul-winning adventure came to a close as a dismal failure, in my book.
Years later, and after much study and some prayer, I felt more comfortable in speaking to folks or, more often, listening to their problems and burdens. Of all the things I desired most, being sincere and genuine in my love and approach topped the list. I have always loved people in general and found it easy to get to know most folks. Much of the time, the listening ear and compassionate heart do more good for Christ than a lengthy sermon or sin-condemning monolog. I continued to attend the church sponsored visitation and made a variety of friends among both those who went out and those we met. Some people chose to trust Christ and many others agreed to visit a church to hear more about the gospel message we attempted to share.
One thing stuck out in my mind about Christ. He went where the people were, and He wasn’t frightened about talking to anyone He met. There are many instances recorded in Scripture where Christ spoke one-on-one with sinners, people unlike Himself, and folks who needed a change of life. One of the stories I love best is where Jesus went out of His way to speak to the woman at the well in John 4:6-13. We learn that it was about noon and the disciples were getting hungry, so Jesus told them to go to the nearby city to buy meat. Jesus went to Jacob’s well and sat resting about the sixth hour. The Jewish women usually drew water in the late afternoon when the sun had lowered. However, on this day, as Jesus sat resting, a lone woman came to draw water. She was a woman of Samaria, and in this day and age, the Jews and Samaritans did not fellowship together. Jesus knew this woman and simply said, “Will you give me a drink of water?” He met her at the well, on her home turf.
The woman asked Him why he would ask her for water since He was a Jew and she was clearly a Samaritan. Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God, and would drink from this well, you would never be thirsty again.” Jesus went on to tell her about her own life, but He was not unkind, critical or judgmental. She was amazed and trusted Him for her own salvation there at the well.
How many people do we each meet that we could influence positively if our attitudes, compassion and concern were only for others? Can we learn to cross lines, boundaries, and bridges to reach those unlike ourselves? Can we go to their home fields and let our testimony and our speech reflect Christ so that they will desire to have what we profess to have in our lives? The true Christian life is lived every day, and not just on Sundays in the church house.
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.