Evangelism To Me

David S. Parsons, MD


I still think of myself as a relatively new Christian.  I was raised going to church on Sundays, but by late adolescence I had figured out that life was too complicated... and too much fun... to take the time to study this religious stuff.  Many of you have heard my story about how I became a believer. 


But after developing a close personal relationship with Christ several years ago, I decided... in my typical type A thinking pattern... that the right way to serve Christ was in a BIG way.  So I set out doing international mission work in the Third World.  It was great... and I loved most every minute of it!  We would come back from each trip pleased with the count of the number of confessions of faith... but we couldn't be part of the follow-up... we couldn't see if any of the seeds we planted blossomed into a genuine faith in Christ.  Each trip was about two weeks long, so the remainder of the year was just back to the same old thing I had been doing for the last several decades.


While I was on the faculty at the University of Missouri, I met one of the football coaches who was a man of strong faith.  He invited me to be a part of a men's ministry led by a Navigator, named Larry.  The Navigators emphasize spiritual follow-up, in contrast to what I was doing in the Third World. Over the next two years we studied ways to communicate with men... like you and me... who were struggling.  This was day-to-day followup.  Our target men often didn't even know they were struggling spiritually, but they sure knew they were struggling with life. 



Larry taught me ways to introduce spiritual topics into normal conversation without being awkward or offensive.  That is something I would never have done before, because I felt introducing such topics would either make me look like a fool, or I would fall flat on my face... and that, of course, would be a backward step for this guy's faith.  Or so I thought.


The first technique was to go beyond what Larry called "News, Weather and Sports."  You know these are the primary components of typical male conversation.  For example our conversation here might be:  "Have you heard what the president did this week?" or "Can you believe what is going on in Washington now?"  That is what he labeled as news.  Weather and sports are obviously self explanatory. 


Think about how few conversations you have with peers that ever go beyond N, W & S?  To be honest... before I met Larry... I couldn't think of very many!

To set the ground work for beginning such a conversation with a man, Larry suggested asking the 5 W's... questions like Who, What, Why, When and Where.  "Who are you?... tell me a little about yourself."  "Where are you from?"  "When did you live there?"  "What is your family like?"  And, of course, "Why?"


I decided to give it a try.  I was on a business trip to upstate New York, and was picked up at the airport by man from the company I would be visiting.  I had never met him, and would probably never see him again after the hour long drive.  During that trip, I only asked him a few questions, and he soon warmed up to telling me all about his home and family... the problems they were facing... and how spirituality fit into all this.  When we arrived at our destination, he stopped me as I was picking up my luggage, and told me he had never enjoyed an hour so much in his life.  He thought I was a great conversationalist!  I never said a word that wasn't a question!


Going back to Larry's teaching, he also pointed out that in contrast to women, most men don't have another male friend that they can truly relate to below N, W & S.  Oh, we might have a lot of good buddies... but how many real friends do we have that we can get down and dirty.  (Studies show that most men don't have such a friend.)  Women have this innate ability to get together with female friends, and immediately begin talking about those things in their lives that are really important.  I would almost never talk to a friend about the deep issues in my life that were really important. 


What does really important mean?  If you ask a male friend about how things are going at home.  Try not accepting surface answers like, "Oh, things are all right", or "She's being her usual self"  Don't be afraid to be patient and pursue the 5 W's. 


If your friend opens a little, keep after it, don't drop the thoughts that you have opened.  If you get a response like, "We had a big blow out the other night and I'm not sure I handled things right."  Pursue it by simply asking, "Do you have a little time to talk about it?"  This isn't something you are used to saying to almost anyone, is it?  How many men do you know well enough to ask things like that?


My friend Larry told me that we men all seem to have the same burning questions about our lives.  In fact, we sat down one evening and wrote down 10 questions that men seem to be facing.  These serve as great ice breakers to get into a good discussion with a friend, a fellowship group, or even a stranger.


            1) Who knows about my real problem and does anyone even care? 

            2) Is this all there is to life? 

            3) Am I giving my life to the right thing? 

            4) How can I gain acceptance for who I am rather than what I do? 

            5) How can I avoid the rat race? 

            6) Who can I talk to below News, Weather and Sports? 

            7) Why doesn't success result in significance? 

            8) Who can I trust? 

            9) Is it possible for me to be a man of integrity? 

            10) Who is God, what is He like, and how is He relevant to my life?


I'm sure each of you can relate to several of these questions.  Using these as "attention getters", he taught me little thoughts to introduce into conversation such as this one:  "Isn't it amazing how we as men can have everything looking so good on the outside of our lives... nice home, comfortable car, good job... but if anyone could just see on the inside of my life... or your life... they would see what a mess it really is." 


Well one day I had a sinus patient... Jim...  who was the competitive sinus surgeon down the road.  He was in to see me for terrible sinus problems, and he didn't want anyone in Missouri to know he was seeing me!  I had a telescope up in his nose, and since he was now a captive audience,  I gently dropped Larry's statement on him about how every thing looked so good on the outside... everyone else thinks our lives are just fine... but on the inside... in our hearts... what a mess. 


Wow!  The response was unbelievable.  He just starred at me and then said, "Man, you've hit the nail on the head.  That really describes me.


So I quickly picked up another of Larry's lines and I said, "I wish we men could be more like women and not be afraid to open up to our friends and discuss things like this."  He agreed with obvious signs that he was carrying a heavy load.  I continued, still taking lines I had been taught by Larry... "Our problem as men is that we are afraid to open up to other men... no matter how good the friendship is... because we are afraid if anyone knew what was going on inside of us... they wouldn't accept us for who we really are, or they wouldn't respect us.  And respect is such a vital thing to us guys."  (Remember Eph)


Then I gave the thrusting stab when I said:  "You know, I meet with a small group of guys and we're trying to be able to talk about those things in our lives that really are weighing us down.  Our group has a few simple rules.  We honor each other with strict confidentiality.  We commit to really listen to each other, and take seriously what each of us says."  I then told Jim, that it was amazing how this time with these other men really helped me deal with the heavy issues in my life.  As I was putting away the telescope, he asked me if we could keep this conversation going over a cup of coffee.


It was over that cup of coffee that I was able to share a little bit of my own testimony with him, of how a very proud and self-centered surgeon was brought to his knees as a result of problems in the work place.  And how when things seemed to be the very worst they could be, I came to know who Jesus Christ really was.  And then I told him about the Peace and Joy that filled my life, and how a threatened marriage was made whole again.  He really needed to hear that because that was what he was facing.


Jim opened up to me by answering that despite all the success... and all the nice material possessions he had... he had still never know a day peace in his adult life.


That was five years ago.  For the next two years, we met for breakfast every week for an hour.  For the first half hour, we'd talk about those important issues in our lives that we really didn't want to discuss with anyone else.  Many of you may being doing something like this.  It's called accountability.  Then for the remaining time, we read and really discussed Bible passages and how they affected our lives.


We started that five years ago.  Three years ago, he told me that now he truly knew what it meant to say that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior.  We had a marvelous conversation about his faith.  He is the typical skeptical professional and his questions about giving himself to Christ were all very classic for any successful executive who has placed himself and his career above everything else in life. 


As I continued to learn from Larry, he told me that a backdrop to sharing the gospel in a relevant manner is understanding that evangelism is a process of cultivating, sowing and reaping, and is not just an event.  If we see ourselves as ambassadors of Christ, then evangelism is a result of who we are not so much something that we do.  In fact, his definition of evangelism is, the process of exposing unbelievers to the gospel in a relevant, audio-visual manner.


The concept of going below News, Weather and Sports is prompted by two things.  1) Prov. 20:5 says that the plans in the heart of a man are like deep water, but a man of understanding draws them out.  If the water in a well is down 15' and I want to draw water, a 10' rope on a bucket doesn't work.  Most men have 10' ropes.  By asking the 5 w questions (who, what, when, where, why) that cannot be answered in a yes or no answer, it is possible to draw out a man on topics such as family, occupation, recreation, etc.  


2) Men want to be accepted for who they really are.  But it is really risky for a man to reveal who he really is.  Men often focus on being accepted for what they do.  So men give themselves to power, position, prestige, & possessions only to find out that these don't get them the acceptance for who they are, which is what they really desire.


Regarding the list of 10 quesions,  Larry has them on a small card and gives that card to a man when he's beginning to share with him.  In fact, I have found that those are the questions that men are asking, but they are not asking them out loud.  Thus if I show these, the men are usually willing to discuss them.


Two additional tools that clearly help.  1) Each of us keeps a short list of the people that we that we really want to come to know Him.  We call that "Who is on your heart for heaven".  That prayer often paves the way for a conversation.  Pray continuously for your man!  2) You need to put  together your personal testimony.  It takes work but really allows you confidence in being able to pull the trigger when you have opportunity to share.


Did Jim's story end there?  No, he goes to Mexico and Vietnam with me every year.  His life has straighened out to the point that he has a real understanding of Peace, Joy and Contentment.  And, his sinuses are better!


So what is Christ doing in my life?  He is teaching me and leading me in everything I do, and I really am trying hard to follow Him... everyday.  I still love going to the mission fields in Mexico and working in Vietnam.  These trips are important and significant.  But I realize now that the most important ministry I have... is how I lead my everyday life.  My ministry begins in my home, and extends first to where I spend most of my time-the work place.


Larry showed me, that the ministry that Christ called us to... begins one-on-one with those around us.  It is the example of Jesus -- Jesus loved the whole world, and he taught the multitudes... but... he imparted his life... one-on-one to 12 men. So for us... our ministry is everywhere... it never stops... we are always called to be his followers, his ambassadors, and to help reproduce the image of Christ in those around us.  But most frequently... its right in your own back yard... one-on-one.


Your platform... from which you speak... can be your position in life.  It can be your job, or even how you spend your social time.  People see you every day, and, hopefully, many want to know what makes you different.  The preparation is knowing how to introduce spiritual conversation into everyday conversation without it being awkward or intimidating.  These are Larry's teachings.  The message to give is simply the words of Jesus Christ.  And don't forget that He said, "Go therefore, into all the lands, making disciples of all nations."  and that begins... one-on-one.  Thank you!