Witnessing – When it doesn’t go so well

This past weekend, our youth ministry traveled to the Dare 2 Share conference.  We were challenged to share our faith in Jesus Christ with our families, friends, and even complete strangers.  The conference did a great job of energizing, equipping, and mobilizing the teenagers to evangelize!  On Saturday afternoon, we were charged with creating our own outreach experience in the Columbus area.  We traveled with several other youth groups to a local mall where our students broke up into pairs to talk to people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Truth be told, it didn’t go so well. 

Our teens tried on many occasions to strike up conversations with mall shoppers about God, and person after person turned them down on the offer.  Some politely refused, while others were pretty hostile.  One man said frankly, “You better just keep on walking”. 

At the end of the experience, one of our teens said, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

So how do we process through witnessing opportunities when they don’t go so well?

1) People will reject God.  Over and over in scripture we see this truth.  Bottom line is that there will be people whose hearts are cold towards God.  That is not to say that seeds can’t be planted, but when we share the Gospel, we need to know that there will be people who will reject God (not us).  It is our job to proclaim, and His job to provide salvation.

2) Witnessing develops boldness.  Although there were no known conversions as a result of our outreach experience, I was so proud of my teenagers.  They went WAY outside of their comfort zones and were challenged in their courage and boldness.  When we place ourselves into challenging (and even disappointing) circumstances, our character can be strongly developed.

3) Street evangelism is just hard.  It just is.  Some people have a gift for it.  Yes, the Holy Spirit can work in mighty ways through street evangelism, and yet there are non-believers that we already have relationships with!  This experience was not a complete loss, as we talked about how much easier it is to start conversations with our friends and family than it is with strangers.  Have we shared the gospel with those that we already know? 

4) We learned a lot about our culture.  One of our teens and a couple of our youth leaders did street ministry in Haiti last year, and we compared that experience to our experience in Columbus.  The American and Haitian cultures are vastly different.  Every Haitian (this is not an exaggeration) we talked to was more than willing to have a spiritual conversation.  Needless to say, this was not the case during our experience.  When debriefing our experience, we were able to expose several challenges in our culture including materialism, individualism, and the increasing hostility toward the things of God.  In many ways our country is blessed, but in other ways we are desperately broken.

I hope that as you seek to live out the call to make disciples, you will be challenged and encouraged by our experience.  May you grow in your ability to witness to those that God places in your path – even when it doesn’t go so well.

Blessings,

Josh

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