Street Witnessing Tips
By Adam Bartlett
When you hear the phrase "Street Witnessing" what do you think of? Most would think of some type of inner-city setting with hostility and danger lurking around every corner. Although this situation is very possible, there are many other areas covered in street witnessing. By picturing street witnessing in the way mentioned, there are many capable Christians that have missed out on enormous blessings by sowing seeds. Another misconception about street witnessing is that one must be called into this ministry. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, and other scriptures we are all called to do this task. One thing you must have to witness is a burden for lost souls. If you do not feel you have this burden, then you should pray and ask God to place it in your heart. There are some common fears in witnessing; rejection, not having answers, ridicule, lack of Biblical knowledge, hostility, and in some cases probably physical harm. Although these fears and others in themselves are not necessarily wrong, if they prevent you from witnessing they become stumbling blocks.
We must always remember the promises of God that: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world," and also that the Spirit will not only guide you, but will give you the words to say. You can learn a great deal from witnessing and it will cause you to grow spiritually in ways you would not expect.
There are many areas to street witnessing that you might not expect to be included. Actually you can turn almost any situation into a witnessing encounter. There are various types and locations involved ranging from malls, parks, housing areas, parking lots, and many more. I would like to list some things that I have learned over the time that I have been doing this. The following will be items you will want to try to do or to avoid. The list by no means covers every aspect on either side, but is simply a collection of things I have learned by experience, and sometimes the hard way.
Things to try to do:
Always use Biblical examples;
First and foremost always pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you and to prepare each heart so that the seed falls on good soil. One thing can be learned before ever attempting to witness to someone. We should follow the examples laid down for us in the scriptures. How could we follow any better of an example than that of Jesus? A study of Jesus in the Gospels will reveal an interesting and absolute essential in witnessing to anyone.
- Jesus always turned the conversation to spiritual matters very soon in His encounters; some examples are the woman at the well in John 4, Nicodemus in John 3, and Zacchaeus as well as others. The reason to do this is that you never know if you will ever see this person again or how much time you have right then to talk to them. You must take advantage of every minute you have when witnessing to someone. Talk as long as they will listen and you will be able to tell when you are losing them or not. You will learn to watch their body movements and their eyes and sense their attentiveness. This may be your one and only chance to get the Gospel to them so take advantage of it. Don't be pushy but don't allow them to constantly stray from the subject. It is very important to keep them on the line while you have the chance.
- Once you turn the conversation to spiritual matters, the most important thing you need to find out is their relationship to Jesus, if any. If they say they are saved, you may want to ask a few questions to be sure. One thing you might ask is for them to explain the phrase "born again." Another approach may be a situational question like this one I like to use. Ask; If you had a friend that came up to you and said, "I have been watching you and you seem to have something different about you. I know you have mentioned church and things but what do I need to do to get saved?" What would you tell them? It is amazing how many people know the phrase and believe they are saved but could not tell someone else how it happens. What does that say for that person if they can't tell someone? It would not give me much confidence if they were trying to direct me to Christ. It is also a sad commentary on the church world and how ignorant many professing Christians truly are.
- Try to relate physical situations to spiritual and stay on the spiritual issues as much as possible. To do this you may want to use Biblical stories or people to correlate to a situation being discussed. A lot of times this is good to do because it shows them that we (Christians) are going to make mistakes and people in the Bible were not perfect. It is also good to stress that point with them and that we are not perfect but we strive to be what we should.
- Try to control the conversation as much as possible without being impolite. You will find that there will be some people that will do everything possible to avoid spiritual issues, especially their own condition. Just as Jesus persisted with the woman at the well, we must also follow that example.
- Encourage fellowship with other Christians if they are a believer. Explain the importance of developing relationships with fellow believers instead of the world.
- Try to at least get them to take a tract. Sometimes you will not be able to talk to them, but they will usually take a tract. If you can not get a person to stop and talk to you then ask them to take the tract and encourage them to read it. Many people have been saved by simply reading a Christian tract. Remember that God can work in any way He chooses and this may be the way He works with this person. Always remember to put your contact information on the back of your tracts. You never want to leave a person a tract without a way for them to contact you.
- Encourage Bible reading and prayer. These are the two most important items in any Christian's life to grow spiritually. Encourage them to join a Bible study group, and if you know of any you can recommend to them do so. Offer to pray with them before you go your separate ways. Most of the time they will not accept, especially if you are in public but ALWAYS offer.
Things to Avoid
Never point an accusing finger either verbally or physically. As with the list of things to do the same applies here, the best example to follow is Jesus. When Jesus was talking to an obvious sinner (woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus, etc.) He never pointed an accusing finger (even though He of all could do so) nor had to accuse of wrong. A point to make here is that you don't know that person's heart, so you could not point your finger anyway. Jesus did know their situations and yet He still did not take that approach. Jesus had a way of turning those situations around so that they convicted themselves. One thing to remember is that in most situations people are automatically be a little defensive.
You need to do what you can early in the conversation to ease this defensiveness. Try to ensure them that you are not pointing fingers at them, but be careful also not to go too far and condone any sinful actions. One example I like to use that can apply to any issue or situation is this: I tell them this story, which was a true story; "I had a friend that ask me if smoking was a sin. I told them that a good way to judge questionable issues is to place them in this setting. Would you expect Jesus to do it? If Jesus were standing here right now would you expect to see Him light up a cigarette and smoke it? Whether it is a sin or not I don't know but if I can't imagine Jesus doing it then I don't want to do it either."
Using this approach takes the burden of judgment off of you and causes them to convict themselves or justify their actions.
Never assume someone's spiritual position. Just because a person may attend church or confess to be saved, donít suppose everything is right. If they truly are saved then they should not have a problem with what you are doing. With an issue of such great importance they should be able to understand your questioning.
Never argue or lose you temper. There will be situations that will try your patience and when they do occur you must be able to keep your composure. I witnessed someone that lost it in a situation and it was an ugly site and ruined his witness. Not only do you ruin your witness to that person but also to anyone that is around and witnesses it. Remember a "soft answer turns away wrath." Try to avoid a situation that could lead to this and if that is not possible then try to defuse it as soon as possible.
Be careful to not talk down denominations. It is easy to disagree with beliefs of various denominations, but keep in mind the main objective. Stay with Salvation and their relationship with Jesus. Jesus have us a good example of how to avoid the issue of beliefs in the story of the woman at the well in John chapter four.
Do not pressure someone that has expressed no interest. You cannot force the issue on someone who does not want to hear. I've seen this happen and it will almost always cause hostility.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful as you take on this great and noble task of witnessing. Keep in mind that it would be virtually impossible to put into writing any complete format on witnessing from start to finish. Every situation, conversation, experience, person, and response is going to be different. Most of the learning in this field will be accomplished through experience. Just as your Christian walk, you will learn with witnessing as you move deeper into it. My prayer is that God will send forth laborers into the harvest, for it is very ripe.