Sidewalk Evangelism


It’s difficult to share the Gospel with a dude zipping by on a skateboard. It’s hard to speak the Truth to the woman with the headphones who won’t look up at you. But it’s perfectly natural to tell the story of Jesus when the young athlete, the theater major, or the fashionista stops for a brief moment after you say, “Good morning, do you have a second for me to tell you some Good News?”

Jacob K. of http://www.fivesolasoutreachministry.com/ invited me to UNC Pembroke to participate in one of his outreach events. The campus provides a designated free-speech zone and college students have thoughtful questions and are eager for answers. We met up with four others who specialize in this sort of thing. They’re evangelists from all over and they take part in open-air preaching; handing out small cards with Scripture passages or phrases printed on them.

I found it to be very uncomfortable but also very fulfilling. There is a certain safety to Sunday Morning for this here “preacher.”  For me to be out on a sidewalk handing out cards was a big stretch. I recalled the legalists who shouted down on me at a rock-concert a few years ago or
the street preacher I heard once who condemned everyone he saw without any mention of Grace or Forgiveness. Was I now one of those guys?

Each conversation began with a variation of “I’m here today sharing Jesus’ Good News and asking people: ‘If you had to stand before God right now, what would He see when He looked at you?’”

One student said, “He’d tell me to study harder.” Most said something like “Well, hopefully He’d see me as a good person.” With that we’d have a short conversation, learning to see that in Christ there’s no need for “hopefully.”  In Christ it’s a “definitely” or a “certainly!” I’d mention 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I pointed out that He is the one doing the forgiving and cleansing-- not our own goodness or works.

We’ve all shared the Gospel with friends over the years. Speaking to strangers is a very different experience. Social conventions are stripped away and it’s as if you have permission to be immediately upfront and honest. You’re expected to get right to the point. Responses vary. A few came back to talk more. A few said “I never thought of it that way.” Some asked pointed questions but no one was angry or antagonistic.

No one got down on their knees or prayed a sinner’s prayer. No one asked for directions to our church! But everyone we spoke to heard the Truth of Jesus presented in a clear, understandable, and loving way. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Some days we’re like a Paul, other days we’re like Apollos. But every day God is God!

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