Imagine that someone from another country meets you at school or work today. He finds you during your lunch break and immediately starts talking to you. His English isn’t great, but you eventually figure out that he’s trying to tell you about Jesus and that you need forgiveness for your sins. …All while you’re eating a turkey sandwich. Most awkward lunch break ever?
Sometimes this is what evangelism feels like to locals when we’re on our mission trip. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Follow these practical steps and you will not only avoid an awkward situation, but you will also be more likely to see your evangelism efforts pay off.
1) Lead with your actions
The first step in practical evangelism is to focus on your team’s work project. Whether it’s painting a schoolhouse, digging a well, rebuilding an orphanage, or something else, leading with your actions shows the locals that you care.
There’s an old saying that’s especially true for evangelism: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When it comes to mission trips, we need to lead with actions, not our mouths. This shows the locals how much we care about them.
2) Start a relationship
You’ve been working hard rebuilding an orphanage all morning, and now it’s time to take a break and hang out with some locals. But wait! Don’t spill your faith guts out yet. Just start a friendship. Find a local (maybe someone that looks close to you in age) and get to know him or her.
Remember, life-changing conversations rarely happen right after, “Hey, what’s your name?” So, don’t feel bad if the conversation is surface-level at this point.
3) Ask real questions
Maybe you’re a few days into your mission trip and you’re getting to know a few locals pretty well. Now, it’s time to spill your faith guts! Just kidding. But it is time to dive a little deeper. What’s their family life like? What personal challenges are they facing? What do they hope for their future? The goal is to feel comfortable asking “real” questions after hanging out with him or her for a couple of days.
4) Offer to pray
After you’ve had a more “real” conversation, a great next step is to offer to pray. Maybe they are going through a tough family situation. Maybe they are concerned about a drought that is killing their crops. Whatever it is, offering to pray over the situation is usually an easy way to share your faith without feeling awkward or being confrontational.
5) Hang out often
Continue to hang out with the locals you have connected with throughout the trip. Continue to ask real questions, offer to pray, and if it feels appropriate, share your testimony. The more you hang out, the more likely you will be to find yourself in a situation to genuinely (not awkwardly) share your faith.
6) Have realistic expectations
You may not see a local’s spiritual life completely change during the week you’re abroad. Is it possible for a local turn their life to Christ after just one conversation with you? Absolutely! However, it’s more likely that the conversations you have will be “seeds”that God will grow slowly over time.
It’s really personal
Each step in this evangelism process is really personal. That’s because talking about faith and choosing to follow Christ is the most personal thing a person will ever do. Because it’s so personal, your evangelism is more likely to have an impact if you focus on having these conversations with just a couple of people, not 200 people.
If you follow these six steps, you will be on your way to having effective (not awkward) conversations about Jesus with others.