One of the men who influenced my life was an Irish Baptist pastor/church planter by the name of Jim Henry. He was a friend of my father who later became a friend of mine. Ours was a mutually enriching Paul/Timothy relationship. One of the things I loved about Jim was his intentionality regarding personal evangelism. He always feared the Great Commission becoming a great omission in his life. In the light of that, he made one of his goals in life “never to end the day without having had at least one meaningful conversation with someone without Christ about Christ.” For Jim Henry, not talking to a lost man or woman about Christ, on a given day, was a lost day.
I think we would all agree that is wonderful goal, but more importantly, it is a workable goal. Surely it is within the reach of each of us to seek to have a meaningful conversation with a lost person each and every day. And practically speaking it allows us to eat the elephant of world missions one bite at a time (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Everybody this side of heaven ought to be concerned about everybody this side of hell.
To that end we would do well to understand and implement the words of the apostle Paul to the Colossians as he teaches them how to have a meaningful conversation with someone about Christ (Colossians 4:5-6). The fact that Paul was is in prison, writing about further opportunities for gospel preaching, had to have been contagious to his readers (Col. 4:2-4). Paul was not looking for freedom, as much as he was looking for another way to preach Christ to a lost world.
Having asked for prayer regarding his public preaching, and boldness to speak the gospel, Paul pivoted to personal evangelism, and the obligation of the Colossians to share the gospel as opportunities arose. The contrast between how Paul is to speak and how the Colossians are to answer is telling (Col. 4:4, 6). By implication these verses commend a responsive rather than a direct mode of evangelism. While some within the church, like Paul, are called to direct public proclamation, the best chance at evangelism for most Christians will come through answering the queries of the world which are provoked by everyday discipleship. As Christians walk wisely before the outside world, hopefully the way they live, labor, love and laugh will initiate the interest of the unbeliever, and with that an opportunity to explain Christianity. This is not forced or manipulative evangelism, but gospel impact in the course of everyday conversation and discipleship. This pattern of responsive evangelism is reasonable, authentic, effective, and stands the best chance of penetrating an entrenched culture.
By way of qualification, waiting to respond to questions is not a call to passivity. We must be eager to respond; and we must buy up evangelistic moments as they appear (Col. 4:5). We need to be looking every day for the gospel opportunities our lives are creating, and the providence God is providing. God may not have called us to prepare and preach a sermon, but He has called us to live a sermon, and be ready with an answer to those who ask us about the hope we have found in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
Be ready with an answer!