Supply and Demand: An Encouragement to Share Jesus with Others
by Gary Stidham, UTA BSM Director and First Baptist Member
by Gary Stidham, UTA BSM Director and First Baptist Member
Supply and demand. Have you ever studied economics? One of the most basic principles is supply and demand. This principle applies to personal evangelism, but maybe not in the way we’d expect. Here’s the truth: There are far more people ready to hear the gospel than there are Christians ready to share the gospel. It is a simple case of supply and demand. They’re ready, but we’re not always willing. Non-Christians may not often show up to churches, but our neighbors, coworkers, and families are often open to the gospel when we go to them. Don’t believe me? How about Jesus? In John 4:35, when the unlikely-to-believe Samaritans were streaming from town to meet him, Jesus says to his disciples, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” And it’s just as true today as then. It’s just as true in Arlington as anywhere.
My little BSM missionary team at UT Arlington isn’t doing anything innovative or revolutionary. They’re simply sharing the gospel with non-Christians. While some people expect college students to be apathetic about faith, we meet non-Christians who are searching for a relationship with God every week. They’re not typically showing up at church. But when a Christian student lovingly explains the gospel to them, they are interested. And almost every week for ten years, we have seen a student profess faith in Christ, over 300 students in the last decade.
You don’t have to share the gospel. That’s because “have to” implies that evangelism is a duty or obligation. But it’s so much more! Evangelism is a privilege and an honor, not merely an obligation. I don’t say, “I have to eat ice cream,” or “I have to go on a fantastic vacation.” We GET to do those things! We GET to worship God. We GET to go to heaven. We GET to share the most beautiful message ever with this hurting world. Imagine if every FBC Arlington member saw evangelism as a privilege and saw themselves as ambassadors of Christ. Imagine if hundreds of ordinary Christians took the time to lovingly share Christ with friends and neighbors. That would be a powerful missionary force!
Ask before you tell. Every person’s favorite topic of conversation is themselves. So if you want to have a spiritual conversation, the best way is simply to ask thoughtful questions at an appropriate time. Remember, we never try and force someone into a conversation; we ask permission. Here are my favorite questions. “Hey, I’ve never asked you this, but what is your spiritual background? What did that look like growing up? What does it look like now? What is most important to you in life? What do you believe it takes to have a relationship with God? To go to heaven? How sure are you on a scale of 1-10 that you’ll go to heaven? Suppose you were to stand before God today, and he asked, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” Some people – especially young people – have never been asked these kinds of questions and appreciate someone showing interest. Just like a doctor has to ask questions and make a diagnosis before she writes a prescription, good evangelism begins with genuine curiosity in another person’s spiritual condition.
Many “Christians” are not Christians. Many people have a Christian background but don’t understand the gospel and haven’t surrendered to Jesus as Lord. I’ve learned at UTA never to simply move on when somebody tells me that they are a Christian. I inquire about their spiritual background and ask to hear their testimony. Over the years, we’ve seen Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists follow Jesus. But also a lot of professed Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics. Plus, it’s both insightful and fun to have a deeper conversation.
Look for openness. One common mistake in evangelism is focusing all our attention on one or two people who are closed off to the gospel. Maybe, it’s a friend or loved one who is antagonistic towards faith. But rather than trying to MAKE someone open to the gospel, in Luke 10:5-7, Jesus instructs us to share with those who are ALREADY open. In Luke 10:5-7, Jesus tells his disciples to share with “people of peace” who are open. The Holy Spirit is already working within many people, and they are exactly the ones we want to share with! So certainly, we should pray that God would transform our heard-hearted loved ones. But we share with those who are open. And the best way to know if someone is open is to ask. The more people you ask, the more you’ll get to share! And don’t forget: God saves people; we don’t save people. This means we GET to share, but we HAVE to pray. Prayer is the most important work of evangelism.
What is the best evangelism method? It’s the one you actually use! Some Christians learn lots of ways to share but don’t often use any of them. I’ve fallen into this trap too. At UTA, we’ve emphasized one method over and over until students actually become confident using it. There are lots of ways to have a gospel conversation. My favorite is the S.A.L.T.Y. method, where we simply have a direct conversation with someone about their beliefs and then ask permission to share the gospel. There are also lots of ways to share the gospel simply. These include the 3 Circles, the Bridge illustration, and the Roman Road. Some people “sort of” know several presentations but don’t feel confident in any of them. Just pick one and practice it! Watch a YouTube video of your preferred method over and over, then try to duplicate it exactly. The more repetition you get, the more confidence you’ll have and the more likely you’ll be to share it! Also, by incorporating a few simple habits into your lifestyle, you’ll get even more opportunities to share.
Sadly, fewer and fewer churches and Christians are engaging in evangelism. There are increasingly fewer spring and fall revivals, fewer door-to-door visitation efforts, fewer evangelism training seminars, and fewer evangelistic crusades. While these may not all be the most effective methods today, they’re not being replaced with updated efforts. But the harvest is still plentiful! I’m praying for First Baptist Arlington to seize upon the most effective evangelistic strategy there is: ordinary Christians lovingly sharing the gospel with their friends, family, and neighbors in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the kind of evangelism God can use to save the lost and breathe powerful life into a church!
Gary Stidham, Director
Baptist Student Ministry at UT Arlington