I was halfway into my Americano as I sat across the table from Bill, a ministry mentor, when he asked me this left-field question: “David, when do you feel most alive?” There was a prolonged silence as I considered this, and then I said “Well, I guess it’s when I’m spending time with my son — and when I’m preaching.”
The first part of my answer wasn’t a revelation to me, but the latter part was. I was new to ministry and had never thought about it before, but it was true. There are very few things in my life that bring a greater sense of “feeling alive” than having the opportunity to open the Bible and communicate its truths. To have a part in God using the “foolishness of preaching,” to reach someone far from Him and to witness the Gospel supernaturally transform a heart right before my eyes invariably ignites mine.
I was an evangelist, so I believed.
Several years later, I was sitting across another table from my direct report, Mike. We were going through my annual performance evaluation (Disclosure: I feel “less alive” in these moments). As we got into my evaluation, my public communication skills came up. Mike said, “David, there’s no doubt you’re a gifted communicator.” I nodded, with just enough humility as to not be seen as arrogant. His next statement, though, shattered any pride I was trying to mask. Mike continued, “…and while your evangelistic capabilities aren’t in question, why is it I never hear any stories of you leading people to Christ in your personal life?”
In that moment, I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to kick him in the face for questioning my heart for evangelism, or to simply say, “Okay, you got me.”
I chose the latter.
I then began to justify my lack of personal evangelism by saying, “Well, Mike I’m an introvert, and it’s just really not my ‘wiring’ to engage people one on one.” He sat there and stared, allowing my words to hang in the air. He didn’t need to respond because I proved his point: there was a gospel integrity gap in me. I was saddened and convicted.
Somewhere along the way, I had become convinced that my “style” of evangelism only required that I hold a microphone when doing it. On the other hand, I felt it was perfectly reasonable to challenge others to “walk across the room and share Christ” with people they didn’t know. Without realizing it, I somehow felt exempt from the challenges I gave.
After my evaluation, I was now left with the task of figuring out how to evangelize to those who would never walk through a door to hear me “communicate.”
So, I went to the hospital.
I started going to the sub-level 2 waiting room of Methodist Hospital, once a month, at 6:30 a.m., armed with a jug of Starbucks coffee in one hand and healthy dose of fear in the other. I would nervously ask those waiting, as their loved ones underwent life-threatening surgeries, if they wanted coffee.
Of course they were puzzled by the offer and most of the time, they asked, “Why are you doing this?” I would explain that I knew what it felt like to sit in those chairs and the emotions that can come in life’s darker and uncertain moments. This opened the door for me to share what I look to when I’m faced with life’s uncertainties: Jesus.
Each month as I did this, I had the chance to pray with many, engage in spiritual conversations with some and lead a couple to Christ. Something else started to happen as well: I began to look for opportunities to evangelize beyond a stage or a hospital waiting room.
I was hooked! It seemed that my opportunities to share Christ grew in direct proportion to my willingness to pursue those opportunities. Since that challenge from Mike, I think about how I got the chance to lead Skylar to Christ at the Alamo; or Kim, a Hindu lady from Nepal; or sharing Christ with Joe on my flight as I, ironically, was traveling back from speaking at an evangelism conference.
The whole time, the issue wasn’t my inability to share the Gospel but my lack of willingness and conviction to personally do so.
When it comes to evangelism, my friend, Ed Lewis says, “I like the way I share the Gospel better than the way you’re not. Just pick a way and do it!”
I’ve discovered that evangelism isn’t as much about methodology as it is intentionality.
No microphone required.