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Evangelism - Myers Mott Maggay Linthicum                  

A Personal Testimony of Evangelism

Excerpts from Transforming Power by Robert Linthicum - www.p-u-t.org
(InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 186-8)

Faith sharing: 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 "preacher thing."

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.

As I 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.

"Well, you’re a preacher, aren't you?"


"Then 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 you care?"

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.

Involvement in 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.

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