Taking the Initiative

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Jesus was never satisfied with just news-weather-sports type relationships. His commitment to people was much deeper. He was always aware of needs – eternal needs. And as God’s Spirit works in each of our lives, these are the issues that will concern us also. Are we willing to take the initiative to meet these needs?

SPIRITUAL SHYNESS

Have you ever had an experience something like this? While you are talking with a friend, the subject of his personal needs comes up (or something else is said that could lead to an opportunity to talk about Christ), and you just stand there with your tongue tied in one big knot. You don’t know what to say. And isn’t this especially true with people you have known for a long time? You can talk about anything except …

BEING CASUAL BUT DEFINITE

In John 4 we have a vivid picture of how to take the initiative when sharing our faith. Jesus became a friend and He casually but definitely turned the attention of the Samaritan woman to her spiritual needs. At the same time Jesus was not heavy and preachy. We certainly do not need to be preachy with our friends either. We can relax. The Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of our friends and we are only His mouthpiece-His communicator. We are God’s messenger boy or girl, and as we witness in the power of the Spirit we can leave the results to God. When Jesus shared, He was casual but definite. He was relaxed and friendly, yet He had a purpose in His conversations . . . to help people know His Heavenly Father.

DUMP THE LINGO

Not only should we be casual but definite in our witness, we should also be clear in our communication. Do you use Christian lingo or God talk when you share? I have heard Christians enthusiastically try to explain spiritual truth to non-Christians by using terms and cliches such as, praise the Lord, saved, born again, God blesses you and a host of others that the non-Christian did not understand. These terms are meaningful to Christians, but are unclear to unbelievers. As good communicators we need to be fresh and creative in explaining spiritual truth. We can explain what it means to have a relationship with Christ. Then we can explain that this is what is meant by being born again. We need to translate Christian terms.

How would you freshly and creatively explain each of these terms to a non-Christian?

  • born again
  • God Blesses you
  • saved
  • sin
  • grace
  • inviting Christ into your life
  • receive Christ
  • the abundant life
  • fellowship

Talk about these and other terms with your friends.

REACTING OR RESPONDING

Relaxing and clearly communicating are important in our communication with others. But what happens if someone does not relax with us, and in fact reacts when we try to share our faith? Let’s look at our story in John 4. In verses 10-14, Jesus turns his conversation with the Samaritan woman from a request for water to an offer for living water-real satisfaction. He turned the conversation to spiritual issues. At first, the woman wanted to challenge Christ’s claim to have the answers to life (vv. 11, 12): “How can you know the truth? No one knows for sure.” This is not unusual. Some people may respond this way, even after we have established a friendship.

Has anyone ever said this to you? How would you answer in a way that would help someone rather than argue? There are three ways we could respond to someone who questions us as the Samaritan woman questioned Jesus.

  1. We could back off, retreat, and give up.
  2. We could react or argue, trying to impress people with what we know.
  3. We can respond positively.

Why do you think it is important not to argue with people when we share Christ? What do these Scripture verses tell us about attitudes as we witness? 2 Timothy 2:23-26; Galatians 5:25,26. Some people are unhappy and dissatisfied with life and they can be a little argumentative, as was the Samaritan woman. But it appears that she did not want Jesus to back off and leave her alone. People who challenge us seldom do. In fact, they are disappointed if we do retreat. “Well, I guess he’s not that convinced himself.” Jesus kept His focus on her real need, not her reactions, and it helped her trust Him.

ATTITUDES FOR TAKING THE INITIATIVE

As we wrap up, here are some suggestions that will help you take the initiative:

  1. Pray specifically for opportunities to share Christ. One of the biggest reasons we don’t share our faith is because we are not spiritually or mentally prepared. We are not really thinking about or praying for our friends.
  2. Look for opportunities. If you have asked God for an opportunity to share then expect it. Your friend may ask a question, express a personal need, or give an opinion, hoping you will respond. Be on the alert. When your opportunity comes be casual but definite. In other words, relax. God is in control. But take the initiative. Take a step of faith. Care about your friend.
  3. Create opportunities. When people were not coming to Jesus, He went to them. This is the most important and exciting part of your ministry. Create opportunities by setting up a special time to eat. Or, invite a person to a meeting or Bible study where Christ will be discussed. Have your friend over for dinner. When creating opportunities, always be very honest as to why you would like to get together. Explain that you have discovered something that has really helped the spiritual dimension of your life and you think it would interest them also.
  4. Consider the immense importance of someone knowing Christ. Don’t take other people’s salvation lightly. God doesn’t. He made the greatest sacrifice of all time-on the cross. Ask God to give you a heart of compassion. Focus your attention on what really matters-eternal values. These Scripture verses will help: Matthew 9:36-39; Romans 10:13-15; 1 Timothy 2:1-4,2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:10.
  5. Don’t be afraid of failure. It has been said, “He who never fails never does anything.”
  6. Teamwork. Try pairing up with a Christian friend to pray together for those with whom you want to share (Matthew 18:19). Create opportunities together-team evangelism (Luke 10:1).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

We have discovered that as we share our faith we should:

  • Take the initiative.
  • Be casual but definite.
  • Relax in the Spirit.
  • Be clear when we use biblical and Christian terms.
  • Do not argue.

MY ACTION

For sharing to become a way of life we need to be thinking and planning ahead, focusing our attention and concern on those around us who don’t know our Lord. The more we concern ourselves with the needs of others, the more natural it will be to share Christ.

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What they’re saying about Cru

As you prepare to go hiking, whether in the Rocky Mountains or through an Amazon jungle, you must first know where you’re headed. Without a map and a compass, your trip is doomed to aimless wandering at best, and death at worst.

As you seek to influence your campus, you will want to make sure you know the campus and its people. Otherwise, you may just run aimlessly from one activity to another without really changing things on your campus at all.

  1. You must know the basics about your school.

    You may think you already know the school very well, but there are some valuable questions you can begin to answer that will help your ministry get started in the right direction:

    • Who are some other people who know the school very well? If I didn’t know anything about the school, what would I want to learn?
    • What do other people – adults and students – think of the school?
    • Who are the most influential students?
    • What groups are most influential on the campus?
    • These are good starter questions for helping you get oriented to the school.
  2. Now that you’ve got the basics down, become an expert.

    Like a private eye or a reporter in search of a story, dig a little deeper. To truly familiarize yourself with the campus, you need to find out more about the community and the school.

    Here are some of the many things you can do to get familiar with the school:

    Look through the most recent school yearbook. Notice students who appear often. Look for those in leadership of various groups. Try to use the yearbook to get a general impression of the school.

    Next you could look through local newspapers and publications. Ask yourself, “What kind of reputation does the school seem to have? Is it mentioned often? Are the articles positive or negative?”

    Also, find out who are the most influential students and teachers. Try to determine the key Christian students on your campus. Seek to meet them as soon as possible and share with them your desire to impact the campus. Meet supportive adults in the community. Talk with teachers, coaches, and administrators. Find out what makes the campus tick. What recurring problems are mentioned? What are the strong traditions?

    Attend sporting events, plays, or other performing arts events. These are great ways to get a feel for the school and the student body.

  3. Finally, start meeting students.

    Start with known Christian students, student leaders, and athletes. Your research of the campus will help you decide which students to go to first.

So, get to know the basics about the school; then become an expert on the school; and then you’ll be ready to meet the key students. When you’ve done these initial steps, you can confidently move ahead, trusting God to bring results through your ministry.