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Reaching your neighbours

1 July 2010 | by Giles Coughlan

Reaching your neighbours

Want to reach your neighbours, but don’t know how? Would love to share the gospel with those living around you but find yourself tongue-tied and afraid? Then this article is for you! I have deliberately avoided telling you ‘how to’ evangelise, instead I hope to help you develop your own approach with the following top ten tips.

  1. Be joyful
    Sharing the gospel is the best news you could ever share with someone. You don’t need to earn the right to share the good news with someone. You are temporary trustees of eternal life. Pass it on joyfully and freely. The Holy Spirit is inviting people to come to God, Revelation 22:17:

    The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

  2. Set your motives right
    When talking to your friends about the gospel it is very important that you are doing it for the right reasons. Are you seeking to win people for Christ out of love for Him? Spend time praying to God asking Him to help you if you have any impure motives.
  3. Decide on a plan
    You need to a) Have a plan and b) Implement your plan. So to seriously reach your neighbours pray to the Lord about what you can do to win friends and neighbours .God will help you decide how to go about it. Then, implement that plan. ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed’ (Prov. 16:3).
  4. Expect to be afraid
    Sharing the gospel will affect your relationships with others positively and negatively. It is normal to be afraid so ask God to strengthen you help you with any fear of man you may have. Remember Paul who actually physically trembled as he shared the gospel with the Corinthians, ‘I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words’ (1 Cor. 2:3-4a). Consider that it is normal to be afraid before sharing the gospel with people. I regularly feel apprehensive before the actual moment of sharing the gospel. On one occasion I remember my legs shaking with the surge of adrenaline running through my body. Nerves are a normal part of evangelism!
  5. Don’t limit your options before you start
    Friends and relatives are great people to share the gospel with, but what about those you bump into day to day? The man at the bus stop, your hairdresser or the new family who have just moved into your road? Too often evangelicalism assumes that friends, family and close work colleagues are the only people to share the gospel with. They are a great group, but not the only group. Also, sharing the gospel with this group of people is, in many ways the hardest group to share with! Why? Simply because you have the most to lose with the relationship. Why not try and share the gospel with a stranger you meet today? If you do, I’m sure you’ll be surprised!
    On a practical note, every day businesses up and down the nation seek to engage people with their services. On the streets Oxfam, Christian Aid and NSPCC regularly approach strangers to ask them to donate money. Why is it so strange to approach strangers to give them the words of eternal life? Sky television and personal injury lawyers will approach people publicly to see if they are interested in their services. Why is it so strange to have a public gospel presence? Clearly it is not. It is culturally appropriate to approach people publicly. Why not set up a Christian book table in your local village, town or city? You’ll be amazed at the public response.
  6. Practise a simple gospel outline
    Remember, it may be far more practical for you to share the gospel with a colleague at work over coffee than it would be to invite him to church to hear the gospel. After all, many people would never come to church so being able to share the gospel with them personally may be a first step for them wanting to know the God you have told them about.
  7. Don’t worry if it goes wrong
    If your words get muddled because you’re scared or if you feel sick before you speak to a friend, that’s fine. It’s normal to get it ‘wrong’. Oftentimes, people can simply be struck because they see your sincerity. That alone may make them ask you more questions.
  8. Know when to speak and when to keep quiet
    I hesitated to put this in as a point because I have only ever met a few of Christians who might be considered over bearing in sharing the gospel with people. Interestingly, I have found unbelievers quite forgiving of this fault anyway. They seem to understand the significance of the message so if someone harps on a bit it is understandable, especially if that person is sincere in his manner. People will often give you a hearing simply because of the way you share the gospel.
  9. Never manipulate people in order to share the gospel
    This is important. The way this works would be that a Christian (let’s call him Tom) decides he wants to share the gospel with someone so he ‘befriends’ a work colleague (let’s call him Simon). Simon is quiet, unattractive and lonely. Slowly Tom ‘befriends’ Simon, who is delighted with his new friend as Tom has shown genuine interest in him. They go out together to the cinema enjoying a shared interest or hobby. Tom then asks Simon to go to church with him as there is a special meeting on. Simon goes, of course he does – he likes and respects Tom. Months pass and the friendship develops. Simon is very happy. Then Tom asks Simon if he has ever considered becoming a Christian. Simon explains that he does not want to become a Christian as he does not believe the message. Tom slowly cools off his friendship with Simon as Simon is no longer interested in the gospel. Simon is deeply hurt having been emotionally manipulated in the hope he would accept the gospel so he retreats back to his lonely life, licking the fresh wounds imposed on him by an insincere Christian.
    Be genuine. If you are friendly to someone make sure it is genuine. By all means share the gospel with your friends. By all means be friendly – of course. But never, ever manipulate people to share the gospel. You don’t have to be ‘best pals’ with someone to share the gospel with him.
  10. Expect a harvest
    When you sow God’s word to those around you it will be used by God for judgement or salvation. One day that gospel seed you planted in the man’s heart on the train may well bear fruit. God has decided that His gospel will be believed by some. Sow widely and you will reap richly. Want a good harvest? Then go and sow! Ecclesiastes 11:6:

    Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

Giles Coughlan is an evangelist, currently studying at WEST.