FOLLOWING UP ON ADULT SUNDAY SCHOOL VISITORS
Reports following the Thursday night visitation were rather routine: promised to attend Sunday School, warm reception, no one at home, and the like. Then a report made me ask God to forgive me for many visits that I had made through the years. This person visited in the home of a young couple, members of a
church in a distant city, who now looked for a church home in our city. As the visitor left, the husband said, “We want to thank you for visiting us. You are the seventh person who has visited us. But you are the first one to talk to us about our relationship with Christ and our spiritual aspirations. The others talked about the church building, the pastor, nursery facilities, youth program, and a lot of other things. They seemed not to be aware of the spiritual values that we think should be primary in our quest for a new church.”
Surely many less important concerns might be discussed when visiting for the church. Even the weather, recent football Scores, and many personal subjects are appropriate at times. Such conversations often become the basis for cultivating relationships and opening doors to a more positive and productive
witness later. We could say much in favor of cultivation witnessing. Based on years of church visitation, however, I believe that many visitors can and should be encouraged to do a more positive type of witnessing. We never should depreciate the importance of a simple invitation to “visit our church.”
Neither should we be content with that kind of an invitation if the visitor can do more.
MAKE A VISIT WARMLY AND POSITIVELY EVANGELISTIC
An evangelistic visit begins with the overflowing life of the visitor.
“‘Whether he be a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see”‘ (John 9:25, RSV). Theology, logic, and even Christ’s claims on a life may be challenged. But one cannot easily challenge a visitor’s personal experience with the Lord, when shared lovingly, humbly, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
So begin with your own testimony. What is Jesus Christ doing for you now? How are you ,experiencing His grace? How is your life joyfully different because He lives within you?
Next, what is the Lord doing in your church? What are the evidences that lives are being changed, hurts are being ministered to, and life-seekers are being affirmed and supported? Most persons are not greatly impressed with buildings, programs, and statistical data. They will be impressed when you tell them that
the Holy Spirit is at work, that Christ is being honored, that the lost are being saved, and the saved are being loved and nurtured to maturity by a spirit-filled church.
Keep the focus on Christ no matter what you say or do. Before him “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11, RSV). Let every visit you make, every witness you bear, and every prayer you pray be your way of joyfully saying, “Jesus is my Lord.”
MINISTER TO INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
Most church visits are made to lost persons or cold and indifferent church members. Most active and alive Christians find their place in a church before many visits can be made.
In the context of and beyond the personal testimony, other information needs to be shared.
The lost person needs help in recognizing his lost condition and in turning to the Lord for salvation. The indifferent church member needs to reaffirm his salvation experience and to renew his commitment to the Lord and to his church. The fact that persons have their names on a church roll somewhere does not necessarily mean that they are Christians. Sometimes such persons need an evangelistic witness.
There are many tracts and materials that can be used to assist your witness. Check your various resources and select the ones that will be of greatest assitance. Many visitors are skilled in the use of the Scriptures and in sharing their faith. They may not feel the need of such tools. Even for the skilled witness, howeever, these tracts offer values that should be considered:
* They involve both the visitor and the prospect.
* They keep the conversation focused on the need.
* They point to a personal commitment.
* They leave a printed message in the hand of the prospect after the visitor is gone.
IDENTIFY THE NEED
Most churches can and should provide information needed by a visitor before hem makes the visit. Church visitors need answers to several questions if the witness is to be effective. What is the need of this person with whom I am about to share? Is he saved? A church member but not a Christian? Christian but inactive in church and backslidden in his relationship with Christ? Is there a readiness for a sharing of the claims of Christ!? Is there a desire for a deeper life, for greater Christian fulfillment?
These questions sometimes are difficult to answer on the first visit. Usually, a good approach is to start by sharing what the Lord is doing in your own life and church. Be sure to keep the focus on Christ and his work, not on the institutional church and its program. Having done this, usually a simple question will reveal much of the individual’s need. “Now I would be interested in knowing where you are in your own spiritual quest – what is the Lord doing in your life?” Note that the question is not where is your church
membership, do you attend Sunday School, et cetera. These questions likely will not reveal the person’s real needs. You can move to these questions after you deal with the more basic question of the person’s relationship to Christ.
In this kind of back and forth sharing, the visitor usually can ascertain (if such is not known before the visit) the spiritual condition of the person being visited.
IF THE PROSPECT IS UNSAVED
If the prospect is unsaved, many visitors have great success in simply leading the prospect through the Word of God to explain to them the Lord’s plan of salvation. An excellent tool for doing this is “Into His Marvelous Light” By Al Gossen and Kirk Bates. Assuming the appropriate climate has been established in the early part of the visit, give the prospect a copy of this one lesson study and ask him or her to join you in turning through the pages while you actually read the copy. Pause to explain or discuss any points that
may need elaboration.
When you come to the conclusion don’t be reluctant to pray with them. Ask them if they have ever repented. If the prospect is not willing to pray at that time, try to conclude the visit by setting a date when you can share further in the hope that a commitment will be made then.
But most important, before you leave, suggest they take a full 10-lesson Home Bible Study. Explain how it covers the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
IF THE PROSPECT IS A CHRISTIAN BUT DOES NOT REFLECT CLOSE
RELATIONSHIP TO THELORD . . .
Begin by sharing your own testimony of what the Lord is doing for you as well as in your church. Remember most people are not greatly impressed with the theory and the philosophy of the Christian faith. They are impressed when they see and have contact with a life that has been transformed by the love and the grace of Christ.
After you share your own Christian experience and assess the prospect’s need, inquire, Would you like to know more of the abundant life that Christ came to give you? If the answer is yes, as it likely will be, suggest that the most important step is attendance to a full Bible teaching church and the fellowship of Christians of like precious faith. This would also be an excellent time to suggest a Home Bible Study also. Or if your church has a New Members class that covers the basics of Christian living, this would be an
excellent time to enroll them.
PERSONALIZE THE PROCEDURE
Each individual brings to a witnessing opportunity personal background and skills that influence the procedure that should be used. Practice the above procedure with a friend who also is interested in improving his witnessing skills. Adapt the procedure to support your own skills. You might ask the prospect to read the bookley instead of your doing it. You might use a marked Bible and present the same thoughts without reference to the bookley. Then you might leave a copy of the bookley with the prospect for further study and for sharing with a friend. Do what is necessary to feel confident and comfortable
in the procedure fol lowed.
BEFORE YOU GO
“And while staying with them he charged them not to de part from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which he said, ‘You heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit”‘ (Acts 1:4-5, RSV). Let me urge you to heed these words of our Lord.
If you do not go in the power of the Holy Spirit, your time is wasted; and even harm may be done to the prospect. The Spirit is your teacher and guide (see iohn 16:13). He is the prospect’s convincer (see John 16:8).
Review what followed the demonstration of the Spirit’s power at Pentecost. The Jerusalem multitude asked two basic questions. “What does this mean” (Acts 2:12)? and “What shall we do” (Acts 2:37)?
These questions must be asked today. Furthermore, they should be asked in that order. If the first question is not asked, the second question probably will not be asked.
The first question is provoked by the Holy Spirit working through a yielded witness. The second question is asked by one who has come under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and is open to yielding a life to Christ. This is God’s plan for spreading the truth of Christ and calling persons to the abundant life that Christ came to give.
Before you go out to share your faith and heart, regardless of the procedure you follow, ask God to condition your own heart to be used by him. Then claim his promise to give the power of the Holy Spirit
to guide your witness and the response of the person to whom you witness.
Christian Information Network