I can still remember how I felt that day. The anticipation in my heart. The apprehension as I looked at my friend’s face. The fear of rejection creeping up in my mind. It was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t get my mouth to form the words. But then in a moment of either extreme courage or just dumb luck, I finally asked the question, “Anand, do you believe in Jesus?”
As an eleven-year-old kid, I couldn’t think of a scarier question to ask my friend as we sat on the swingset in my backyard that day. Thankfully, he took it in stride and answered as he kept on swinging – “No, I don’t believe in Jesus. I believe in other gods.” Anand was a Hindu, and while I knew that at the time, I don’t think I really understood what that meant practically. So, like any good Christian boy would do, I ran in and grabbed my Bible and tried as hard as I could to get him to believe in Jesus. While I wish I could say that conversation was “successful,” after a few minutes he just looked at me and said, “That’s cool, can we keep playing now?” And that was that.
In many ways, this moment defined how I approach opportunities to share the Gospel with others. More often than not, I can’t muster up enough courage to even start up a conversation with someone about their personal beliefs, let alone my own belief in Jesus. Some of it stems from fear, some from awkwardness and nervousness. I’ve never wanted to be THAT guy. But the closer I get to Jesus, the more I start to see that being THAT guy isn’t so bad. In fact, that’s really what Jesus has called us to.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, taking Jesus at His word here doesn’t necessarily mean we stop by everyone’s table at Starbucks and read out all 28 chapters of Matthew. That doesn’t seem effective. But if each one of us went out into our own “backyards,” to our families, our friends, our co-workers and wider circles of influence, then maybe we can make an impact for the Kingdom. Here are a few things we can do to make these moments count:
In our day-to-day lives, there usually isn’t a lack of opportunities where we can speak into somebody’s life. The key is being aware of those chances. Has your co-worker talked about issues they’re having in the workplace? Ask how you can pray for that. Is one of your family members going through a difficult personal struggle? Bring up the hope they can have in Jesus. Does your waitress seem to be having a rough day? Offer up some encouragement (and maybe a generous tip). Every moment like this might not be the best time to jump into a Gospel presentation, but sharing the love and hope of Jesus wherever you go opens up your life to the possibility of impacting someone else’s eternity.
As you open up your life, you don’t want to be caught unprepared when the opportunity to share the Gospel does come your way. Make sure that you know the basics of the Gospel story, and tie that together with the impact it has had on you personally. You know how your own story has been impacted by what Jesus has done for you, so practice telling that story to someone else. Write it out or say it out loud, familiarize yourself with the “major points,” and then use that as a springboard for sharing the Gospel with the people around you. “Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you…” (1 Peter 3:15).
The hardest part of in all of this, at least in my own life, is getting over the initial fear. The fear of rejection, of not having all the answers, of saying the wrong thing, of being inadequate and imperfect. But the beauty of it all is that we have the Holy Spirit, and He specializes in using imperfect people to bring about His perfect plan. He hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), He calls us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9), He will bring what we’ve learned to our remembrance (John 14:26), and He helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26) because His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Preparation is still important, but never discount the importance of dependence on the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask Him to move in your own heart as well as in the hearts of those around you.
Are you ready to take the Gospel to your backyard?