When I read stories like the one we talked about on Sunday--Philip walking up to the Ethiopian guy and being able to just jump right in and say all the right things so that he was immediately ready to follow Jesus--well, it feels a little bit intimidating. Of course someone who walked and talked with Jesus, who ate with him and watched him talking to thousands of people, who could ask him all the questions that I always have rolling around in my head--of course Philip would know what to say. But faith feels so different when it's not based on that kind of tangible interaction.
But over the years that I've been hanging out with people who are not yet following Jesus, I have learned that there are a whole lot of things I can do to prepare for the opportunities I might have. In fact, if I'm really paying attention to what my friends are doing and what they're experiencing, I can often prepare ahead of time for conversations that may come up.
For example, I think that there are certain times in a person's life when he or she might become more spiritually sensitive--like the birth of a child or a marriage or a death. If I see that coming on the horizon, I can begin praying weeks and even months ahead of time (1) that the Spirit would be working in that time to draw the person to Jesus, (2) that the Spirit will show me the questions of the heart that my friend might be asking, and (3) that the Spirit would show me what stories from Scripture or from my own life might connect to those questions my friend might have. So when I get to the actual conversation, I've been thinking and praying for weeks and months about what I might say.
So much of evangelism, at a practical level, is about being watchful and prayerful. It's about looking for what God is already doing in the hearts of the people around you. It's about being willing to say something when the time is right. It's about praying for wisdom and God's leading so that you say something that will help rather than hurt.
Here's a link to a page of questions that you can prayerfully think through as it relates the friend or friends that you're praying for right now. I hope you'll take some time this week to begin the process of preparing to be there, at the right place and the right time with the right heart.