I stood chatting with the lady working at the JoAnn fabric store cutting counter a few days ago. One of the kids eagerly chimed into the conversation, “We’re moving to a new house soon!” Much to my surprise, the lady working next to her turned and said, “Oh, sad! I’ll miss seeing you. I have watched these kids grow up!”
I’ll admit I go to the fabric store often—probably close to once a week—and have for the past 3 years. It just never occurred to me that the employees would pay such close attention to us. It is a bit difficult to blend in with the typical shopper when I have 2 children in the cart, 2 tagging along behind making up adventure stories in loud voices, and a baby strapped to my back. I’m not surprised she recognized me, but the realization that she had been observing us since we first started shopping there was unexpected.
After leaving, I began to wonder how many other store employees recognize us when we are out running our regular errands. I’m usually so very focused on the errand and the children that I forget to notice the other people. There are the obvious ones that draw attention to themselves when they comment on the number of children we have or how I must be so busy, but I generally ignore people unless they speak directly to me. And when they do speak to me, I give the shortest polite answer and continue on my way.
I know that people notice our family (I hear them whispering when they think I can’t hear them anymore…), but I pray that they are noticing more than just the number of children. I pray that they see the love of Christ in our interaction with one another and with them.
It’s something that I often say to the children before we get out of the van. “Let’s remember to obey and treat one another with love. The people here may not know Jesus and when we treat each other in an unloving way, we do not display the love of God. Jesus said that people would know we are Christians by our love for one another. Let’s love one another as God as loved us.” (John 13:34-35)
So, why then, do I avoid talking to people? Now that I think about it, my reasoning makes no sense. People can still see me even when I ignore them. It’s like a toddler that thinks you can’t see them because they are covering their own eyes. I could blame it on shyness, but the truth is it is sin. I don’t want to be bothered with another conversation about how many children I have, but I am really missing an opportunity to encourage people and share God’s love with them.
People will see and be drawn to the love of God reflected in godly relationships, however, they will probably not understand what they are seeing unless someone tells them! Evangelism is more than just living a holy life in front of people—they must also hear the word of God! (Romans 10:17)
This is challenging for me. I make excuses. I don’t like to be the center of attention and I do not have great confidence in my speaking abilities.
But that still makes it about me.
The goal is to take the opportunities God puts before me and draw attention to Him!
Living in obedience to the Lord requires that I not only live a life that is set apart for the Lord, but also that I live prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have. (1 Pet. 3:15) Our love for one another is evidence of our faith in Christ, and I should be prepared to talk about it with anyone that God puts in my life—including the lady who cuts my fabric!
So why step out of my comfort zone and risk talking to people? Mark Dever says it well in “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism”.
“God is glorified in being known…The call to evangelism is a call to turn our lives outward from focusing on ourselves and our needs to focusing on God and on others made in his image who are still at enmity with him, alienated from him, and in need of salvation from sin and guilt. We bring God glory as we speak truth about him to his creation.”
I have been amazed at how God can use a simple conversation to draw people’s hearts to himself. It is a gift to be able to share God’s grace in our lives with people who need his grace in their lives. Yes, it requires sacrifice on my part—sacrifice of my time, my comfort, and my privacy—but it should be sacrifice with great joy as gratefulness for God’s grace in my life overflows out of my mouth. Dever’s conclusion:
“We do not fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not subsequently converted; we fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all.”