It has been nearly three months now since our small group of women began visiting a couple of the red-light districts in our city to share the Gospel. In that time we’ve experienced heartbreak, elation, discouragement and promise. A month ago a woman, whom I’ll call Sunny, prayed to receive Christ – the first of this new ministry. A week ago with a friend, her boss and a woman I’ll call Marge looking on, she told two of my colleagues that she could no longer be Christian. She must be Buddhist instead.
Two nights ago, my friend, Janet, and I visited these women again, and Marge was there. Marge, who has some exposure to Christianity, is very smart, well-educated and quite strong in her Buddhist beliefs.
While Janet talked with Sunny and her friend, I sat down beside Marge. While I intended to share at the first opportunity that Jesus was the reason for our coming, I also planned to do a lot of listening. We already suspected that Marge had significant influence over our new friends and may have been pressuring them. I wanted to find out why … but carefully.
So as we talked about her life and I was learning about her background, including her exposure to Christianity, I was praying for a bridge to talk about Jesus. I didn’t have to wait long.
“I believe that everyone must have a point to their life,” Marge said. “As long as every person follows their religion and does good, the world will be a better place.”
Ok. There’s an opening. I’ve been reading David Platt’s “Radical” and decided to respond with an illustration from his book.
“So it is safe to say that in your mind God sits at the top of a mountain and all the different religions of the world are taking a different path up the mountain to get to him?”
“Yes,” she said.
“What if I were to tell you that God has come down the mountain and lived among us to show us how to get to Him?”
In Platt’s book, the Hindu and Muslim religious leaders in India with whom Platt shared this illustration exclaimed, “Oh! That would be wonderful! Please tell us more!”
Obviously, Marge had not read the script. Instead she said, “Many people come to Thailand to enjoy the mountains.”
I backed up, explained that I was speaking figuratively and talked about being part of God’s family. As we talked more, Marge told me that she has talked with many Christians over the years. “You cannot change my mind by talking,” she said.
I assured her that I was well aware that nothing I said would change her mind. “But,” I said, “I want to be your friend. I want you to help me understand Thai Buddhism. And if we are friends, I will talk about Jesus because He is so much a part of my life that I’ll talk about Him just like I talk about my husband and my kids. Is that ok?”
“Yes, of course,” she said. “You listen and understand me. I will recommend that Sunny and her friend talk directly to you. Would that be ok?”
Oh, yes. I think so.
So this is the lesson I’m learning: “Canned” evangelism doesn’t work.
Ok, I knew this already, but I was reminded of it in my conversation with Marge. Yes, it is useful to familiarize ourselves with one or two simple evangelistic presentations to give us a starting point, but we can’t expect those who’ve never read “our script” to follow it.
Evangelism is as much about listening as it is about sharing. Yes, we need to share Jesus at every opportunity, but we also need to be willing to listen – really listen – to what the other person is saying with their mouths, their eyes and their hearts.
One thing I never want to do is to see these women as our “pet project.” They have been treated as “objects” for far too long and the last thing I want to do is to make them “objects of evangelism.”
I’m learning a couple of other lessons this week that I’ll share in later posts. For now, please pray for Marge, Sunny and all the women we are meeting in these areas. Pray that we will become true friends. Pray that as we share Jesus with them that God will work in their hearts. Francis Chan reminds us that we can’t make anyone fall in love with Jesus, but we can fall on our knees on their behalf.
Thank you for praying with and for us.