John’s neighbor, Adam, was a bartender at a nightclub. John had been reaching out to Adam for years, having him over for dinner, inviting him to functions at his church, and even trying to be a servant-model by helping him with yard and home projects from time to time. Even with all his efforts, Adam was still not interested in what Christ could do in his life. John was frustrated.
A few days later while John was praying, the Lord began to speak to his heart. He did not hear an audible voice, but the revelation was clear. “John, you need to help Adam see what his life would look like in the Kingdom.”
The following Saturday, John was taking a rest from mowing his lawn when he saw Adam grilling in his backyard. He walked over and greeted Adam with the typical “how are you” greeting, “Adam, how was your week?” Adam responded with a tired reply that reeked of increasing hopelessness, “I feel like a psychologist sometimes. Customers step up to the bar, get their drink, and tell me all their problems. And most of our customers seem like they are lonely or something. Sometimes I wonder if this is where I am supposed to be.” John responded, “Adam, all day you serve people’s needs. You are obviously a good listener. They confide in you. You bring comfort to people in their daily struggles.”
Adam’s interest was piqued and he looked at John with even more intent, as if he were thinking “is this Christian guy commending me for working in a bar and serving alcohol? What?!” John continued, “Adam, if you were to let Jesus have control of your life you would be amazed how things would look differently in the Kingdom. People would flock to you as you are a good listener. They would seek counsel and comfort from you, but in a different way. Instead of alcohol, you would serve them with the eternal comfort of the Holy Spirit! If you want to get out of the bar scene, just ask Him. Give him your life and He will redirect your steps and open new doors for you!” Adam’s interest was now transformed into hope and great anticipation. He hung on every sentence John offered as if he did not want John to stop painting this wonderful picture of a new life in Christ!
Sometimes our best evangelical efforts come across to lost people as mere compliance to “our” lifestyle. We are well-intentioned, but they often hear “be like me, do this, don’t do that and God will then let you into heaven.” So why did John suddenly connect with Adam? John stopped trying to woo Adam to his life, his church, and his story, and instead cast a vision for Adam by listening patiently for Adam’s God-given interests and abilities and then re-casting them in the context of Kingdom life.
One advantage we often forget in our evangelization efforts is that the people we are trying to win were actually created by our Father God. Therefore, within them somewhere is a God-ordained destiny and purpose. No matter how sinful and far from God their life may look at the time, we can always find some evidence of that redemptive destiny. We simply ask God to help us rewind the movie of their life, start over, and replay it back to them as a follower of Jesus. This is why suddenly the “lights come on” once we begin to speak forth the new vision for their life.
A few cautions are in order. Don’t be tempted to make this a formula. For example, don’t go up to a stranger, ask them to list their interests, then you simply repeat it back to them in a church-life context. Our Father cares about all of us and wants to relate to us in a personal way. He wants to use YOU to help personalize the vision for a new life in Christ to your lost friends. Therefore, an established relationship with a lost person (with some level of established trust) must be the foundation. And from that foundation, God will give you the perfect timing and setting to cast this new vision. Don’t make it a formula. Don’t make it just about information. Be sensitive to each and every step.
Who is the “Adam” in your missional community? What is God showing you about them and how different would their life look in the Kingdom? He will give the revelation you need and the timing/context to share with them! Get ready!