June 1, 2005 - A dynamic 58-year-old woman named Hennie taught me most of what I know about personal evangelism. Though she was dying of cancer, she was one of the most joyful and vibrant Christians that I had ever met—and she had more meaningful interactions with unbelievers in a week than I'd had in several years of ministry.
by Dale Van Dyke
Hennie visited the same restaurant several times a week primarily to establish relationships with the workers there. I can still see the glow in her eyes as she told me about the Bible study she had started with those women. Hennie's secret was simple—she was ecstatic about the Gospel and intentionally sought to share with others the glory of God's love and grace. She challenged me to do the same.
I thought of a place where I came into contact with the same people on a regular basis—a local gas station. I made a point of striking up small talk with the two cashiers who were there in the mornings. I began simply by being friendly. Over the course of a few weeks, Jim and Rhonda started greeting me by name. I began asking questions about their lives, their families and their jobs. The conversations were usually short because often other people were in line. But sometimes we could talk for several minutes. I made sure to prayerfully make the best of those times, mostly by listening—letting them know that I really care about them.
Rhonda would become teary-eyed as she told me about her estranged daughter and her ailing parents. It felt natural to ask if I could pray for her, and she readily let me. When Rhonda asked if I would marry her and her boyfriend, Phil, I had an opportunity to counsel them and to present the Gospel in a detailed way. I showed them how a relationship with God in Christ would make an impact on their marriage. When Phil ended up in the hospital, I visited him. When Rhonda's mother and then her stepfather died, I let her know that I was praying for her. I invited Rhonda to church for almost two years and kept reminding her that God has great blessings for her in a relationship with Christ. Imagine my joy when Rhonda recently walked into our church service!
But Jim, her co-worker, had a large role in that.
Jim had been coming to our church for about six months. He is in his 50s, has some health problems, lives alone and has no family to speak of. My relationship with him developed much as my relationship with Rhonda did—with simple conversations over a period of time. Jim kept saying he would come to church sometime. I never pushed it—I simply said that I'd love to see him.
One day I said, gently but firmly, "Jim, one day you are going to die, and the Bible says you are going to stand before a holy God and give an account of your life. Are you ready for that?" Jim was in church the next Sunday and has been attending regularly.
We had Jim over for supper last Christmas Eve, and beforehand my 14-year-old daughter and I had a great time buying gifts for him. When the evening came to a close, Jim thanked us and said that it was the best Christmas of his life. The deacons at our church have been able to help him to afford a surgery. Though neither Jim nor Rhonda have made a confession of faith to this point, I delight in the fact that God is the Author of their salvation, not me. That frees me to simply love them and to pray for the day that they too will experience the full glory of His love and grace.
That's how it works. Just like Hennie said.