What I Learned from Being Witnessed to Twice at Wal-Mart
A few weeks ago I was witnessed to twice in one trip to Wal-Mart.
I worked right next to one and was simply making a quick stop to grab a couple things before heading home. Unfortunately, it wasn't that quick.
I had my headphones in, as I always do. (By the way, the new AirPods are fantastic.) I was looking for some tape, and heard the faint voice of someone trying to get my attention. So I took out one of the earpieces and looked over at the guy.
He asked me if I went to church. I told him I did. Realizing I was getting witnessed to, I was expecting this to be pretty quick. I'd tell him I knew Jesus (I even have a degree in theology!) and we'd be on our way.*
The problem was, the next question wasn't what I expected, "Did you know the second coming of Christ already happened?"
Huh, that's news to me...
Being a little caught off guard, I responded with a simple "no."
He then went on to talk about how Jesus returned to Earth in Korea in 1948. He also mentioned "God the Mother" a couple times.
He didn't seem interested in a conversation, he just wanted me to check out his church's app and invite me to a Bible study to talk more. He gave me his info and went on his way. I popped my earpiece back in and continued my shopping.
I made it out of Wal-Mart and got into my car. I buckled my seatbelt, pushed play on the podcast I was listening to, and put the car in reverse.
And then, I see a Wal-Mart employee coming up to my window. I rolled it down, curious to see what he needed.
He then asks me his question, "Do you know Jesus as your personal savior?"
When somebody says something like this, my mind gets a bit clogged with the influx of questions, responses, and endless qualifications I have a habit of including in my speech.
Attempting to push those aside and give him a simple answer, I say "Uh, yea. I do..."
He won't take yes for an answer and jumps into his pitch anyway.
I said approximately five words of more substance than "yep" or "mm hmm" over the next 15 minutes. He was a super nice guy, and had some good things to say, but after 15 minutes of hearing him preach, I told him I needed to get home for dinner. We said our farewells and I drove away.
This experience, while humorous, led me to a few thoughts about witnessing.
1. Sharing the Gospel should happen in conversation.
Neither of these guys really wanted to have a conversation, they simply wanted to tell me what they thought. They wanted to check me off their religious to-do list.
This method rarely, if ever, works. The sales pitch Gospel does not display the character and love of Christ. The truth should always be presented with love, which includes treating others like thinking humans — welcoming their thoughts, their questions, and walking through them together.
2. Sharing the Gospel should happen in a relationship.
While I won't disregard all instances of Gospel sharing with strangers, this method will most often push someone away, rather than lead them to Christ. The Wal-Mart parking lot is not the place to discuss the big questions of life. You'll get the best response, make the most impact, and be able to love someone most effectively, when you're sharing the Gospel through a relationship.
3. Sharing the Gospel should not be a formula.
As Christians, we believe humans are created in the image of God. Part of that is the reality that we are creative beings, built with personality. Each and every one of us is unique. This means no instance of evangelism should be the same.
Every person has different needs and concerns, and if we're not taking them into account, we're not actually communicating. Formulas don't work because humans are not machines.
4. Sharing the Gospel should happen with love.
Ultimately, these two guys didn't love me. Yes, they can be commended for being brave enough to walk up to a stranger and tell them about Christ. That does take courage. But what matters more than courage is true care for the individual. If they really cared about me as a human, they would have tried to get to know me. They would have catered their approach to my concerns. They would have asked me if I even had the time to talk.
They would have had empathy — they would have tried to think from my perspective, so they could serve me best.
This was Jesus' approach, it should be ours as well.
Our approach to sharing the Gospel should resemble the Gospel itself. We aren't being true to our message if it's coming in an unloving way. And love doesn't simply mean kindness. It means thinking about the needs and desires of the other person, and sharing the Gospel in a way that satisfies them.
Nobody likes being ambushed in the Wal-Mart parking lot for a sales pitch. Presenting the Gospel in that way does it a grievous injustice, to say the least.
*Although, if I’m feeling up to it, I like to pretend I’m an atheist and see what happens. I did this once when I was on the receiving end of a wrong number text of “God’s not dead!”