New Year’s Evangelistic Resolutions
It’s that time of year to remember why you bought that exercise bicycle, what those charts of nutritional information are doing on the backs of food packages, and where you last saw your “Read Through the Bible in a Year” chart.
It might also be a good time to rededicate your efforts to reach out to non-believers God has placed in your life. For most Christians, steadfastness in evangelism does not come easily. And guilt works as a motivator for only so long (and does so rather poorly). Here are some of my suggestions to bring outreach to the front burner for the next year.
– Don’t expect it to be easy. Evangelism is almost always a struggle for most of us. Don’t make “feeling compassion for the lost” the sole prerequisite for taking steps towards them. Take the steps first and ask God to give the compassion along the way.
– Begin with a renewed discipline of prayer for non-believers. (Note: Paul says we need to be “devoted” to prayer in Col. 4:2. If there’s the admonition to be devoted, it probably requires effort). Many people begin the new year with a new prayer journal. Make sure your new tool has a section for petitions for the lost. Brainstorm ways to make these prayers a regular part of your times with God.
– Take stock of people who are new in your life since a year ago. Thank God he has sovereignly worked to have your lives touch theirs. Add them to your prayer list.
– Brainstorm next steps. It’s easy to get stuck in a non-action rut with “outsiders.” You always wave to your neighbor (but never strike up a conversation) or you always email your unsaved friend about the same “non-spiritual” topics (but never go near the spiritual ones). A new year is a good time to change old patterns – even if it’s uncomfortable.
– Ask questions. (I once read a pretty good book on the topic). Try inquiring about their new year’s resolutions. See if any of them have put “seeking out answers to big questions” on their list. Ask what books they might have read over Christmas vacation. See if they’d be willing to read one of your suggestions.
– Read another book on evangelism. There are certain topics (prayer, basic doctrine, world vision, etc.) that require renewed input to keep the commitment front and center. Evangelism is certainly one of them. Reading another book on the topic, every year, is not a bad strategy. This year, my recommendation is Mere Apologetics by Alister McGrath. I’ll write more about it in a future blog. For now, I can say that he realizes that most Christians are not apologists or evangelists and most non-Christians are not responding to the same arguments they used to.
– It’s not too late for a belated Christmas present. In fact, now that the clamor of the “holidays” is past, they might actually have time to appreciate a gift. If you’ve had some pre-evangelistic conversations so far, perhaps a book that pushes things to the next level is in order. Or maybe any type of gift that expresses kindness (not necessarily anything to do with spiritual issues) can pave the way to deeper conversation.
Paul told a rather timid Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” Note the use of the word “work.” Like so many other tasks, the “work” of an evangelist can be tackled in small incremental steps. It’s January – a good time to take some of those first steps.