Gentleness is an important, but often overlooked aspect of evangelism. It is displayed when we have a submissive heart toward God and a humble heart of servitude towards others. When I think of gentleness in the context of evangelism, three things come to mind.
First, gentleness begins by listening. Sometimes we think that evangelism is all about talking. Yet, some of the best evangelists I know are good listeners. Because God meets people where they are, it is important for us to listen to them and hear their experiences, their beliefs, their perspective. God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason. He wants us to listen so we can then start building a bridge to the gospel that the person to whom we are talking can understand and relate.
Second, we exhibit gentleness when we lay aside our opinions about non-essential issues in an evangelistic conversation. Our political beliefs do not matter in comparison to the importance of that person understanding who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for them. Also, our opinions about the non-essentials of Christianity such as denominations, church music, spiritual gifts, etc. can cloud the main issue of the gospel. While we may have strong beliefs on those issues, are we willing to lay them aside to keep the main thing the main thing?
Finally, gentleness does not press for results. We need to be careful that we don’t force the issue just to “seal the deal.” Only the Lord can bring someone from darkness to light, and if we treat evangelism like a salesperson in a time share presentation or a used car lot, we can do more harm than good. We can take the pressure off ourselves because we are only responsible for contact, not conversion. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. And the person we are talking to usually can discern the difference between conviction from God and prideful pressure from us.
I was reminded of the importance of gentleness last month after sharing the gospel in a local rescue mission. One of the clients came forward to share her appreciation for the worship service, which had been about forgiveness. As I talked with her, I felt that there was a deeper issue she was dealing with.
After a few questions, she revealed that she was now having to take care of her mother, but had great resentment toward her because of the abuse her mother had inflicted on her as a child. I then gently reminded her that true forgiveness is found in Christ who makes it possible to experience forgiveness from God as well as provides the power to forgive others. I was pleasantly surprised when she took the initiative, saying that she wanted to take care of both of those right then.
I tell that story as a reminder that we see many people each day. There is a story behind each face. May God give us the gentleness of Christ to engage people where they are, listen to their story, then through the Holy Spirit’s leading, share with them the greatest story every told.
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