When starting a conversation, I ask a few simple questions and try to be personal without prying. Most customers are tourists, so I ask them where they are from and if they are having fun. God gives me a sense of who is receptive to the Gospel. Some people sit down on the steps and tell me about their problems, which is an opportunity to counsel them in a godly way and talk about Jesus. Through the years, 13 people have accepted Jesus right there in the store.
The most dramatic conversion was when a 55-year-old man named Andy came down and leaned against the pole in front of my little workbench. He was really down. The Holy Spirit was making it obvious that Andy had lost hope.
“Andy,” I said, “something’s the matter, isn’t it?”
“My son was murdered three months ago,” Andy answered. His son had been robbed and thrown from the fifth level of a parking deck. There were no clues to the murder and Andy’s heart was broken. During our conversation, I presented the Gospel to him.
“I would like to know this Christ,” Andy said when I had finished. He prayed with me to receive Jesus. Today he is actively serving the Lord at his church.
How can we prepare to witness to people like Andy? First, be willing to be used by God. Second, pray about it. Each morning I ask God to help me be a witness and an encouragement to somebody. Third, listen for God’s voice. It might not be an audible voice, but He will usually show us when it is the right time to inject something into a conversation that could prompt a spiritual decision.
Often, I try to move the conversation to a spiritual topic by asking people, “Do you go to church?” and if they say no, that provides an opportunity to dig a little deeper. Eventually I ask, “Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” I try to make it as urgent as I can, because this decision can’t wait. Most of the employees and customers of the gift shop probably do not go to a church. This may be my only shot.
Although these are some practical ideas for steering a conversation toward Christ, I don’t look at it as a method. We can become so mechanical in our approach to people that they don’t think we’re sincere. If our hearts aren’t broken over their lostness, our witness is not going to have much urgency. Our motivation should be to see people’s lives changed–not for our glory, but for the glory of Jesus Christ. We need to remember what He has done for us through His death. Just think about what God must have felt while His Son was hanging on the cross with the sins of the world on His shoulders. If we can sense just a little bit of that, we will realize how crucial it is to share the Gospel. And if we have a heart for the lost, we can trust that God will give us the ability to do the work.
Eddy Barton is a pastor of Georgetown Baptist Church, in Georgetown, S.C.