Testimony of Evangelism
Transforming Power by Robert Linthicum - www.p-u-t.org
(InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 186-8)
People in Faith United (PIFU) is a church-based community
organization on the east side of Detroit. It is in one of the
poorest neighborhoods of Detroit, where, twenty years ago, there was
over 76 percent unemployment and only 2 percent of homes were owner
occupied. When I was providing leadership to PIFU from 1979 through
1985, it consisted of thirteen churches, several community
groups and a large number of community residents. Because of this
mixture of active participants, the organization was not solely
Christian. I participated both as an organizer and as the pastor of
a church in a nearby community
As a Christian I
have always been concerned about sharing my faith. People would
expect me to share that faith in "appropriate" settings,
such as worship services, funerals or counseling situations. But I
soon discovered that when I shared my faith in settings where one
would not reasonably expect the preacher to share (a barber shop, a
community committee meeting, a social gathering), people~ eyes
glazed over as they patiently waited for me to finish my
Then one day
it dawned on me. It takes two people to do the work of evangelism.
It takes one person to share the gospel, but it takes another
person to hear that gospel! I had placed all my emphasis on
how I could more effectively share the good news. But I never
thought about what I should do to motivate a person to want to
hear that good news.
reflected on that insight, I asked myself what would cause a person
to want to listen. And I decided it would have to be trust.
What causes me to listen seriously to another person is that
I take that person seriously—I trust what he or she has to say I
will listen to a medical doctor telling me what I should do to treat
my health problem far more than I will listen to a layperson. Why?
Simply because I trust the doctor level of expertise. So a person
will listen to you sharing your faith if they have a relationship
with you tat causes them to trust you. I found, therefore, that the
sharing of my faith could most effectively occur in those
relationships where I had really connected with people around
commonly identified issues and in which we had built, owned and
articulated common relational values together
I had the
opportunity to practice my newfound insight with Martin, one of the
neighborhood participants in PIFU. Martin was a young African
American living in that poor community who was attracted to our
organizing effort. His life had little meaning before participation
in PIFU. He was a fairly typical young adult without much purpose or
direction, with a limited education and with a fair share of trouble
with the authorities while growing up. He came into our organizing
effort because I held an individual meeting with him and then
invited him to a house meeting. For the first time, Martin began to
believe he could have some measure of influence over the shaping of
his own destiny He found that organizing effort lifegiving; it gave
him purpose and direction. He became increasingly involved and
active in it.
I began to realize
that Martin had solid leadership potential, even though he was only
in his twenties, sol began to mentor him, He and I spent a great
amount of time together, sharing in the planning of actions and
research actions, standing side by side in confrontations, eating
meals together, reflecting on the effectiveness of his leadership,
and consuming vast amounts of coffee in restaurants as we would
evaluate actions. The issues and concerns of Martin’s life became
very important to me, and mine to him, as our relationship grew and
our bonds strengthened—even though we were separated by
twenty-five years of age, different skin colors, different
educational levels and different cultures.
One night, when we
were debriefing a meeting together over coffee, Martin asked me,
"Bob, why do you do this work?"
"What do you
mean, Martin?" I responded.
a preacher, aren't you?"
why do you take such an interest in me? You could be just like any
other preacher, studying in your office, preaching on Sundays,
minding your church. And instead, you spend all kinds of time with
me and lots of other people like me. Why do you do it? Why do
So it was that I
shared with Martin about Someone who cared enough about me to give
his life for me and to rise again that I might have new life. And
Martin listened intently as I shared my own testimony As a result he
asked me if he could receive this same Christ, "because if he
means so much to you, I know he’ll mean as much to me!"
Because of the
relationship of trust and respect I had built with Martin, he asked
me to share my faith. What an opportunity! I wasn’t trying to
"sell Jesus" to him. He wanted to know about Christ, and
he wanted to know because of the relationship I had fostered with
him. He had become a person who wanted to hear the gospel.
empowerment ministries provides three foundations for sharing faith:
the opportunity to build significant relationships with people based
on individual and house meetings; the common ground of shared
victories and defeats as you learn to exercise relational power
together through actions and research actions; the identification,
ownership and articulation of common values of a just, equitable and
relational culture forged in living out the Iron Rule together Those
three foundations create a base upon which faith can be powerfully
shared with people who are wide open to it being shared.