I’m an introvert. This comes as no surprise to those of you who really know me. However, it may surprise some of you who don’t because I’ve learned to be outgoing in certain situations … but it doesn’t come naturally. You probably know this, but according to Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, an introvert is someone who “gains energy from being alone,” whereas an extrovert “gains energy from people.” In actuality most people are somewhere between the two extremes of extroversion and introversion.
The author, Mike Bechtle, who has a seminary degree from Talbot and a doctorate in higher and adult education from Arizona State, is also an introvert. In the past, Bechtle struggled with evangelism because he believed he had to do it like the extroverts do it, and they’re the ones who write most of the books on personal evangelism. He admitted that in the past he evangelized mostly out of guilt. (Many of us do!) However, he eventually came to understand that God in His sovereignty makes us different in personality, and the best way to do evangelism is in accordance with our God-given personality.
Trying to do it like others only wears us down and usually produces no fruit anyway. Betchle believes that “we’ll find our greatest fulfillment and joy in doing things God designed us to do and the greatest frustration when we work outside our unique, God-given design.” For example, the author is gifted in writing so he’s learned to share his faith through emails and other written forms. This is enjoyable to him and fits his personality. It has also produced fruit. In Evangelism for the Rest of Us Bechtle encourages each person to develop his or her own style of evangelism according to his own design.
I won’t give away everything Bechtle writes about evangelism in this practical and easy to read 153-page book because I want you to read it, especially if you’re an introvert. However, let me share a few additional insights.
The author makes a strong distinction between form and function. Function is what God wants us to do; form refers to the various ways to do it. Unfortunately, we often confuse the two. We can infer from the gospels that Jesus wants us to impact people’s lives eternally, but not that we have to do it using certain forms.
From the example of Jesus in the gospels we can learn three important functions:
- Jesus ministered to people He encountered while going about daily life.
- He met people where they were and moved them one step closer to God.
- He prayed for God to minister through Him.
What would Jesus do today in the twenty-first century?
- He would pray.
- He would ask the Father to bring the right people into His life, and then He would respond to them. He would love people.
- He would be intentional but patient about guiding people toward faith.
- He would take time with people to explore their needs.
- He would communicate with people.
- He would be himself.
- He would look at people through God’s eyes.
- He would allow God to work through Him.
- He would listen.
Should we do any less? The author has found that really listening to people opens doors.
He has seen that careful listening accomplishes three things:
- It puts his focus on the other person instead of him.
- It builds trust with the other person, since he or she knows he’s not just pushing the gospel, but he’s genuinely interested in his or her situation.
- It helps him learn where God is working in that person’s life, so he can join God in moving that person to the next level.
Here are few of the practical suggestions the author gives that can help move your evangelism “from sales to customer service.”
- Read the front page of each section of the newspaper each day. It won’t take long, but you’ll be able to participate in discussions about the day’s current topics.
- Observe the details of the environment around you in order to know how to get into a conversation with a person you find yourself with.
- Ask people about their families.
- Everyone knows something you don’t know. Explore a little, and then ask for their perspective.
- Make sure you have one or two hobbies, areas of interest or expertise, or organizations you participate in. Learn them well. It will provide a launching pad for numerous areas of common ground with others.
- Listen. A lot. Don’t feel pressured to respond. Just listen.
- Practice being confident with who you are.
- Realize the value of eye contact, not just when you listen, but when you speak.
- Ask open-ended questions to allow others more time to talk and to give you more time to listen.
- Normally you would not steer the first conversation toward faith. Make the first encounter one of relationship building and finding common ground. That will set the stage for faith conversations in the future. (Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.)
- Be ready to be intentional in sharing your faith when the opportunity arises. The author calls these “divine encounters.” Sometimes it’s good to have rehearsed “an elevator speech” as it gives you more confidence to get started when this happens.
A great verse to remember is Colossians 4:6: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”