by Jefferson David Tant
The day was hot, and they walked a long distance. They were passing through unfamiliar territory among people of a different culture, and some were possibly nervous. By now it was noon, and the sun was beating down. At last, a resting place ahead - a well. The group left their leader there and went into a nearby village seeking food. The leader rested but had nothing with which to draw water.
Soon a local woman approached, and He asked her to draw water for Him. She was startled, for Jews had no dealings with Samaritans, especially women, and she voiced her surprise. With that, Jesus turned the conversation to spiritual things - living water. You know the story (John 4). What an example of how natural it is to use personal contacts to interest people in spiritual matters.
This did not happen just because Jesus was God, but because He recognized and took advantage of opportunities whenever and wherever they presented themselves. And this we can all do, regardless of age, sex, occupation, or learning. Please permit a few examples from my own experiences. I do not feel I am an expert, yet I have made a conscious effort through the years to approach others and lead them into discussing things eternal.
As I was getting clothes from the cleaners on a September morn, I engaged the young clerk in conversation. After asking if she lived in the area, and where she went to school, I asked where she went to church. She looked sheepish, and I said, "You don't go, do you?" "No." "Why not?" "Well, you can't really believe the Bible. It's full of legends and fairy tales." "Really? Who told you?" She said that her Bible professor in her Methodist college so informed her.
Then I proceeded to tell her of the Bible's interesting evidence showing that man could not have written it unaided. "Would you like to study about this?" She would, and she did. Nancy was baptized in a few weeks.
While in a store one day, I talked with the three teens who worked there, and then met their parents, the owners. In the conversation, I asked about their church affiliation and learned they had none. They had become disillusioned and had little interest in religion. I gave them a tract (written by Dale Smelser) and invited them to visit with us. They said they would (you've heard that before!) We talked on occasion over the months, but no visit with us. But Roger didn't seem to shy away from our conversations.
Finally, I asked for an hour or so one evening to present a concept of simple, New Testament Christianity. (Later, he admitted he consented just to get the matter over with.) We had a good study, and Roger and Donna wanted to know more. After studying for five or six weeks, Roger and Donna were baptized. They then began to teach Bible classes, and Roger did some preaching and led singing.
Thinking back through the years, I recall so many people I have met in the common, everyday situations we all have. Some complain, "But I don't have any contacts." Are you a hermit? Consider some of those that have been baptized. My postman (then an elder in a denomination); a next-door neighbor; the bookkeeper (and owner's wife) of a local service station; two bank tellers I often talked with; the receptionist of a business I called on (who later married a gospel preacher); a drug-store clerk; a teacher in my son's grade school; two neighborhood teens who were my children's friends; a woman for whom my wife worked part-time; a hitch-hiker I picked up (carefully) one day; a young woman I met in the bus station during a bus delay; a young couple we took into our home who were out on the street with nowhere to go; and on ... Now, mind you, these did not come asking to be taught; they did not first visit our services; they were not related to Christians; nor were they referred to us. They were simply people whom we met in the normal, everyday affairs of life.
Then there was Thony Nguyen who my wife Flora and I saw limping while pushing a bicycle with a flat tire on a road miles away from any place to get help. We loaded him and his bicycle in our van and took him to a bicycle shop. He said, “I don’t have any money.” Well, I did, and a new innertube only cost $20. This encounter led to good discussions and Bible studies over the next few weeks until Thony was baptized into Christ. (And you may have guessed that he is of Vietnamese descent.)
And I can’t count the number of contacts and discussions I have had with those who served our table at restaurants. I engage them in questions about the existence of God and the truthfulness of the Bible. Invariably they trust me with their email addresses so I can send information to them.
Brethren, we all know such people, and if they are receptive to the gospel in my town, it is likely there are such in your town. The only "skills" necessary are friendliness, an interest in people, talking to them, and asking questions. I usually carry cards or tracts to hand out. As Sewell Hall has said, "It is our job to look for people who are looking" (See Matthew 9:37,38 and Ephesians 5:15,16).
I hope these words will not be taken as if I am boasting about myself. There are others who I believe are better at this than I am, but I did want to give some personal examples to show the readers that personal evangelism can be done, and it must be done if we want the Kingdom to grow.