The Way to Sustain Evangelism

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More information about Just Walk Across the Room During the span of my adult life, I’ve witnessed dozens of evangelistic fads. Perhaps you can remember some of the eras I’ve seen rise and fall. Let’s see, there was the Tract Era. The Televangelist Era. The Bus Ministry Era. There were eras revolving around saving professionals, saving women, saving men, saving the rich, the poor, homemakers, movie stars, you name it.

And to the extent that any of these approaches brought people to Christ, I am genuinely grateful.

But each time a new approach surfaced, I secretly wondered how long the wave would last, how long the movement could possibly be sustained. Sure, even I hopped on a few of them, but I knew they all lacked longevity.

In the next few decades, I’m quite certain there will be even more “new and exciting” approaches to evangelism. And I’ll say it again: If people find faith as a result of them, who am I to criticize? But as far as I’m concerned, there is only one paradigm that will not wear thin with the passing of time. These days, I’m more convinced than ever that the absolute highest value in personal evangelism is staying attuned to and cooperative with the Holy Spirit.

You read it right. The only thing you need in order to sustain an effective approach to evangelism year after year after year is an ear fine-tuned to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Finding words to adequately define the promptings of the Holy Spirit is no easy feat. Promptings are mystical. They are phenomenal. They are intangible. And they’re real. In fact, promptings have been present in the lives of Christ-followers since Jesus left his bodily form on earth and ascended to heaven. Remember? That was the day when he sent the Spirit of God to take up residence in the heart of every believer. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” he said. (It should clue us into the challenging nature of our mission that Christ would need to send a permanent source of supernatural power to assist us.)

But what exactly was this power all about? The rest of the story from Acts 1:8 explains that Christ-followers have a mission while here on earth. They are to be Christ’s witnesses all over this planet. It’s as if Christ said, “Think you’re missing the book smarts, the street smarts, the looks, the talent, or the speaking ability to accomplish this mission? Don’t be concerned with those things, because you have my mountain-moving, life-transforming, death-defying power on your side.”

In Galatians 5:25, Paul encourages Christ-followers to “keep in step with the Spirit.” In other words, the Galatian believers should consider tapping into the power of God that is living right inside of them. This concept applies to you and me as well. If we have access to the vast power of the Spirit living inside of us, then why would we neglect to act on the guidance, motivation, and inspiration he offers?

I don’t know about you, but when I am relating in a healthy manner with Jesus, there’s vitality and openness in my spirit to the promptings of his Spirit. Staying attuned to the Spirit means I have a heightened awareness of the things going on around me. In the midst of a Circle of Comfort, I find myself able to keep one eye open and roving to watch for someone I’m supposed to see. I’m able to keep one ear open for the Spirit’s whisper. Even though my spiritual senses are far from perfect, in those “attuned” moments, I am incredibly alert to God pointing me toward someone across a room, his gentle voice saying, “Just walk…”

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Every time I hear those two words, I’m reminded of what it’s like to excuse myself from a Circle of Comfort. Of how electrifying it feels to make that turn and begin to walk, imploring God with every step for his intervention, his words, and his wisdom. Of the sensation of entering the zone of the unknown, each time as if in slow motion, putting my hand out there, and offering a few words of profundity: “Hi. I’m Bill. What’s your name?”

And then of the sheer elation of watching God open a door in the other person’s heart as the conversation meanders to spiritual matters.

Friends, although I have experienced a lot in life, been a lot of places, and engaged in my share of excitement, having a front-row seat when a person’s heart gets transformed is what life in all its fullness looks like to me. To this day, when I am prompted to walk across a room, explore this Zone of the Unknown, and enter into these initial conversations with someone whose eternity is hanging in the balance, I experience a buzz that never, ever grows old.

On the day of my conversion more than three decades ago, I was filled with an overwhelming hunger to share God’s redemptive story with people who had never heard it. Unfortunately, I was committed to doing so with or without the accompanying direction and power of the Holy Spirit. (Details, details.)

But over the years, I trust that my increasing maturity has factored a little discernment into the equation. These days, I try to wake up each morning declaring, “My life is in your hands, God. Use me to point someone toward you today — I promise to cooperate in any way I can. If you want me to say a word for you today, I’ll do that. If you want me to keep quiet but demonstrate love and servanthood, by your Spirit’s power I will. I’m fully available to you today, so guide me by your Spirit.”

Sometimes, the end result of praying this prayer is that the Spirit allows me to have a spiritual conversation that tells of a loving and righteous God who created all things, who has a purpose in mind for all people, and who is actually hoping to relate with them as they walk through life. Other times, the Spirit simply prompts me to serve and love and listen to the needs of those who are far from God. The key is this: my objective is not to contrive ways to “get someone saved”; rather, my objective is to walk when he prompts me to walk, talk when he says to talk, fall silent when I’m at risk of saying too much, and stay put when he leads me to stay put. If I can lay my head on the pillow at night knowing that I have cooperated with the promptings of the Spirit that day, I sleep like a baby.

If I’m serious about being transformed by God’s Spirit, then I can’t shy away from the discomfort and awkwardness and ambiguity that exist when I abandon my safe circle of comfort. The upside is too great to do that, because when I feel a Spirit-led prompting to walk across a room for the first time, it’s like live voltage coursing through my veins. As I put one foot in front of the other to reach out to someone who may be twenty feet away from me but who’s living light-years away from God, I’m part of something immeasurably greater than myself.

This is what it’s like to experience God’s supernatural power at work in an otherwise ordinary day. And the Bible says that this is what real living is all about — walking through every moment plugged into the HolySpirit.

From Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels

Copyright © 2006 by Bill Hybels,  published by Zondervan, used with permission.

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