The In-Between Times
Imagine you’re walking into the grocery store. You see a man at the entrance asking for money. As you reach out with a dollar, he receives it and says, “Thank you, God bless.” Not sure of what to say, you open your mouth, “Yeah…no problem…have a good day.”
Were you supposed to go deeper with him? Were you supposed to share the gospel? Should you feel guilty that you didn’t announce to this man that his sins could be forgiven through trusting in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection?
Sometimes, there are obvious times when you are practically sinning if you don’t share the gospel. If your uncle takes you aside after Thanksgiving and says, “I appreciated your prayer for the meal. Would you tell me why you pray 'in Jesus name'"? Or if your co-worker says, “I am really unhappy right now. Life seems so pointless. I know you’re religious…what do you think I should do?” These are moments when it’s practically a no-brainer to tell people about salvation through Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, there are times when it's inappropriate to share the gospel. Most people wouldn’t want to preach the gospel to the cop who just pulled them over for speeding, the TSA agent searching their bags at the airport, or the construction worker repairing potholes on the street. In these situations, it could be very awkward, if not dangerous, for you to invite a person to consider their eternal destiny.
Sometimes it's clear you should share the gospel; sometimes it's clear you need to hold off. But there are many times when it just isn't clear whether you should or shouldn't. These are the “in-between times”.
Can you share the gospel at Thanksgiving if your uncle just asks what's new in your life? What if you and your co-worker are sitting silently in the break room eating lunch for an hour? These are times when a normal conversation could lead to a supernatural opportunity.
What’s the right thing to do when you’re wondering if you should share the gospel in one of these in-between times?
Consider Paul’s words in Colossians, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been bound, that I may make it manifest in the way I ought to speak.” (4:2-4)
Even the apostle Paul needed to ask for God’s help to share the gospel. He needed God 1) to provide opportunities and 2) to help him speak the right way.
The point? Stop taking all the responsibility for evangelizing on yourself.
In times when you're uncertain about sharing the gospel, pray. Pray prayers like this:
“God, will you please open a door so I can share the gospel with this person?”
“God, will you please help me to speak the gospel the right way for this person?”
Finally, don’t forget to pray even after God opens the door. As you talk to someone about Jesus, consider praying something like this, “God, thanks for the open door…would you help me some more? What verse does this person need to hear? Will you please soften their heart?” This helps you depend on God as you tailor the message about Christ to the unique ears of the individual.