A major component of the November evangelistic venture My Hope With Billy Graham is reaching out and telling friends and family about Jesus. To provide practical tips on evangelism, Decision talked with three Christians—all mentored by the discipleship ministry The Navigators—about their own evangelism efforts. Three words stand out: intentional, respectful and prayerful.
Just two weeks in the United States, Shilin was ready to talk. And Kevin Galloway, having just sat down in the same graduate student lounge, was ready to listen.
Shilin had arrived at the University of Maryland from a sensitive country in Asia and didn’t know a soul. Kevin walked in that evening and instead of reading a book while eating dinner, he struck up a conversation with Shilin. That encounter didn’t just open a conversation floodgate, it started a budding friendship between the two graduate students.
Kevin invited Shilin on a nighttime tour of Washington, D.C., an event sponsored by several area churches. Soon after, Shilin joined Kevin for a dinner and game night with some of Kevin’s friends, who often open their home to nonbelievers who know little about Jesus.
As the two spent more time together in the ensuing months, Kevin shared with Shilin that he was a Christian and, while Shilin graciously respected Kevin’s faith, he didn’t indicate he wanted to pursue that dimension much further. But Kevin yearned to.
What Kevin didn’t expect was the sudden news that Shilin would be switching doctoral programs and transferring to Stanford University. That announcement served as a wake-up call to Kevin, now gripped by an urgency to talk more in-depth with his friend.
“I thought I had a lot more time with Shilin, but I would be saying goodbye in just a few weeks, and I wanted to present the Good News of Jesus Christ to him,” Kevin remembers. “So I became more intentional and prayed that God would open the door to a deeper spiritual conversation and allow me to share the Gospel.”
The two friends went to dinner and during the course of the meal, Kevin sensed an opening and inquired whether Shilin knew the main message of the Bible. He did not. Kevin asked if he could share that with him, and Shilin warmly said yes.
Kevin explained that all people are sinners, separated from God, but that God loved Shilin and sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for his sins so he could be forgiven and have a personal relationship with God through Christ—if he would only confess his sins and receive Christ into his heart by faith. Shilin asked thoughtful questions and thanked Kevin but didn’t make any decision that evening.
Kevin purchased a Bible in Shilin’s language and gave it to his friend. At semester’s end, Shilin departed for California.
Three weeks later, Kevin emailed Shilin, asking how his trip went. His response warmed Kevin’s heart. “He said he wanted me to know that he was now a Christian, had been baptized and was involved with a Christian group,” Kevin recalls. “He then said what I shared with him at dinner had played a key part in his coming to Christ.”
Kevin also left Maryland, moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., where he holds a post-doctoral research position in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan. He will soon join the faculty at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he studied as an undergraduate. He’s still befriending non-Christians and praying for opportunities to tell them about Jesus and how they can faithfully walk with Him.
“When I think of friendship evangelism, there’s a tendency to either make it mostly about friendship and never quite get around to talking about Christ, or going to the other extreme where it’s mostly about evangelism but they’re more of a project than a friend,” Kevin explains. “God commands us to witness but in a spirit of Christlike love.”
Melissa Sutton (a pseudonym) also exudes passion about communicating the love of Jesus. She asked Decision for anonymity because she lives in a city and culture that can be antagonistic to the Gospel, and she wants the continued freedom to reach out to her non-Christian friends. Melissa works in a nonprofit organization that helps serve public schools, and she’s also in graduate school.
Melissa purposefully arranges her schedule to spend time with her colleagues outside of work and with fellow graduate students outside of class. “I enjoy being with my nonbelieving friends because that’s what Jesus did, and I want to be like Him,” she says. “Jesus said the crowds were harassed and helpless and like sheep without a shepherd, and I want to introduce my friends to Jesus as the Good Shepherd.”
Meals at her home definitely attract Melissa’s friends. They feel comfortable around her and her husband, Randy (also a pseudonym)—who don’t focus on religion, nor debate issues, but rather gauge where their friends are on their spiritual journey.
“Sometimes there’s a fear of bringing faith and Jesus into the conversation, but I’ve had so many rewarding occurrences, I’m not super scared of it anymore,” she said. “I think you just have to do it.”
As she and Randy did with one of Melissa’s best friends and her boyfriend, for whom they’ve been praying for well over two years. The four went on a weekend trip together, which spurred an “awesome” spiritual conversation.
“They told us about their experiences with church, and we shared how we’re really excited about knowing Jesus and how He’s changed our lives and why we love Him and His Word,” Melissa says. “We’re planning to ask them to read the Gospel of John with us, and we’re praying for the chance to explain the Gospel to them. We’re on this long walk with them and will stick with them.”
Elizabeth Huber is also committed to her non-Christian friends. Elizabeth is a captain in the U.S. Marine Reserves, having left active duty last August. Her husband, Justin—soon to be home from Afghanistan—has been in the Marines for 11 years. The two will be transferring from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., to an assignment in Buffalo, N.Y.
Much of Elizabeth’s ministry revolves around her neighborhood. “People can be intimidated to invite neighbors over to their house, but I’ve found that they’ll welcome an invitation,” she says.
Elizabeth has also found that she can connect with dog-loving neighbors by asking them to join her and her new black Labrador Retriever puppy, Bella, on a leisurely—well, spirited—walk. Those have led to nonthreatening spiritual conversations.
Friends come to know what Elizabeth believes and where she stands. “If I really believe the Bible and am basing my life on Jesus and loving and living for Him, then how sad it would be to let a relationship go by where people have to wonder if I’m a Christian,” she says.
God recently gave Elizabeth a golden opportunity to convey the Gospel to the wife of a Marine, whom she met a few months ago. “Her life is so stressful, and she feels tossed about,” Elizabeth explains. “I shared with her that God holds our lives in His hands, and He has a plan, though sometimes we can’t see it, but that we can trust Him.”
That led to question after question, and Elizabeth sketched out the plan of salvation on a scrap of paper. No decision yet, but a genuine openness.
Elizabeth invited her friend to church the next Sunday, and she enjoyed Elizabeth’s small group and fellowship meal afterward. “I continue to pray for her, and she knows that I care for her and her husband,” she says. “God’s timing is always perfect.”
Learn how to share your faith with your friends. Go to MyHopeWithBillyGraham.org (in Canada, MyHopeWithBillyGraham.ca), sign up and find a training session near you. Or, go through the training online.