Betty Scott Stam, a young wife and mother serving as a missionary to China in the 1930s, didn’t just know the gospel in theory. It was her life. And it ended up costing everything. She and her husband, John, were martyred as a result of their witness for Christ. Years before this happened, she wrote,
“Nobody can force a single soul to turn to Christ. All that the followers of Jesus have to do, all they can do, is to lift up Christ before the world, bring Him into dingy corners and dark places of the earth where He is unknown, introduce Him to strangers, talk about Him to everybody and live so closely with and in Him that others may see that there really is such a person as Jesus.” *
What Betty understood is something that each of us is called to. We are ambassadors for Christ. This is not a part-time job that we somehow “fit in” to our busy schedules. All believers are given the biblical mandate to live a lifelong lifestyle of being ready to share the gospel at a moment’s notice.
This sharing does not happen by accident. It is a choice. It starts with us cultivating a deliberate lifestyle of being ready so that when God puts into our lives the opportunity to share, we won’t miss it.
Few of us will be called to make the kind of ultimate sacrifice John and Betty Stam did, and most of us are not career missionaries serving on foreign fields. But there are myriad opportunities right on our doorstep to reach into the lives of friends, family, co-workers, neighbours and complete strangers with the good news of Jesus.
As we enter 2016, we want to encourage you to see this new year as coming with new opportunities—new opportunities to be used by God and to see the power of the gospel at work. There are three specific areas in which we can ready ourselves for those opportunities:
Spend time in prayer this year on how God wants you to respond to the many opportunities that will present themselves. Allow God to prepare you, soften you and give you his perspective on evangelism.
Prayer is the first critical step to being an effective ambassador. Pray for your unsaved friends, co-workers, family members and neighbours. Pray for the strangers who pass you on the road or who sit beside you on the bus or plane. Pray for the delivery man, the cashier, the police officer, the refugee—whoever it is that you may see or interact with. Pray that God would be drawing them to himself and preparing their hearts to receive his truth.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2 NIV)
Jesus says that without his enabling presence and grace, we are useless, unable to produce any fruit (John 15:5). We must be fully dependent on him, recognizing our inability and trusting in his strength.
Without prayer, we’ll be spinning our wheels in our evangelism efforts. Only God can bring life.
Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7 ESV)
Make the most of the opportunities God will give you this year by preparing yourself practically for them. Make sure you know the gospel well enough to be able to explain it clearly. Reading By This Name, our premier tool, for yourself would be an excellent start. Or consider attending a TERM Seminar for an immersion experience in evangelism and discipleship training.
Don’t wait until there is a God-given opportunity to share and then scramble for resources. Have yourself and your resources ready beforehand.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
We’ve written before about preparing a “Be Ready Box.” This is a box or bag in which you keep a selection of resources you can hand out at a moment’s notice. Giving away the gospel is doable for anyone in any situation. Over the years, many have found that giving a person a book, audiobook or DVD is the simplest way to give someone the gospel. In under a minute, we can give someone a well-developed tool that will explain the gospel, step-by-step, story-by-story, to a person with absolutely no understanding or knowledge of the Bible.
For more ideas on how you can prepare your own “Be Ready Box,” check out the following blog articles:
Determine to position yourself strategically this year. This means to be both available and active, intentionally being in places or situations with potential opportunities for sharing the gospel. Jesus said go (Matthew 28:19). For some of us, this might mean across the street; for others, across the town and still others, across the seas.
Regardless of the venue, being available and readied is not complicated. Here are five ways it can practically play out in our day-to-day lives, along with a few real-life testimonies of how it has been done by others.
A. Get involved
Look for ways to get involved in your community and neighbourhood. Volunteer for ministries that allow you to meet and interact with unbelievers (pregnancy care centres, boys’ and girls’ clubs, refugee ministries, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.).
James and Shelly reached out to refugees with What Are Christmas and Easter All About?: Refugees on Christmas Island
Belinda shared hope with a dying woman in a nursing home: This one makes sense!
Girls at a summer Bible camp heard and were changed by the Bible’s story: Don’t stop! We want to hear more!
B. Make friendships
It takes a conscious effort to get out of our own small world and enter into the worlds of others. Proactively build friendships with your neighbours and co-workers, whether going out for coffee or helping them out in practical ways.
Bob and Martha reached into the life of their neighbour Jessica: Friendship with neighbours blossoms into opportunities
A youth group leader took time for one troubled teenager: A pint of frozen custard
Kathy came to understand and believe the gospel through two strangers and her daughter’s coworker: Please don’t go to the Bible study!
C. Foster trust
Trust is often a missing ingredient in our relationships with those we interact with. If we expect them to listen to us about eternal, life-changing matters, it only makes sense that they will need to see us as trustworthy first. Gaining trust may take time and sacrifice, but it is critical. Win the right to speak into a person’s life by sincere care, interest and availability. Remember that faith in Jesus is all about trust. We need to trust in the reputation and work of Jesus on the cross. Similarly, before someone will listen to our message, they need to trust us as well.
Ian turned to Dennis for help in his suicidal despair: Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t put a bullet in my head
Forgiveness paved the way for Pastor Sam to help the town drunk understand the gospel: Preacher, can you help me?
Renee faithfully and gently pointed her friend Candice to hope and truth: Just throw me down the stairs
D. Share in their lives
We live in a very self-absorbed culture. Smart phones have made socializing an isolated experience of looking at a screen while the world passes around us. Position yourself to be involved in the lives of others, whether it is their joys and struggles, life events or crises.
Kyle took time to build relationships with his Hispanic coworkers: Salvation at a meat plant
The battle against cancer became the springboard for Bill and Peter’s friendship: Making the most of every opportunity
A young Chinese lady is brought to salvation through the gift of a book: No one has ever given me a gift before!
E. Share the gospel
This is where it all comes back to: actually leading someone to understand the gospel for themselves. Whether it is giving a book or guiding a course, choose to actively share the gospel in the circles and situations the Lord has placed you in. He will give the needed creativity and wisdom if we are available and ready.
A hairstylist made meaningful connections with her clients, which led to Bible studies in her home: The ladies’ tea and book club
Bryan is ready for any opportunity to share the gospel as he cleans the carpets of his customers: The well-equipped carpet cleaner
Jason handed out translations of GoodSeed books in his neighbourhood: Me no English!
We are ambassadors. We carry an incredible message of redemption and life to a confused and hurting world. And it is our job description and privilege to share it. Let us, like Betty Stam articulated, live in such a way that the world will know that there is such a person as Jesus. The opportunities to share his salvation are endless. Let us be ready—immersed in prayer, fully prepared, and in position—to meet the opportunities this year.
*Mrs. Howard Taylor, The Triumph of John and Betty Stam (Philadelphia: China Inland Mission, 1935), 126