You can actually turn this information into a Sabbath School program on outreach. It can also be used in your Sabbath School as an outreach planning guide, or as instructional material for an outreach-oriented class or general Sabbath School outreach initiative.
Community outreach takes many forms. Personal contact with friends, relatives, work associates, and people in general is an important form. A secret to success in this kind of witnessing is to keep it simple. The tendency is to think of witnessing as giving a series of Bible studies, or debating with someone about doctrinal understandings, or trying to convince someone about a particular Adventist belief. All these things happen and are important, but they are not the simple starting point of witnessing.
Ellen G. White has some important counsel regarding the simplicity of witnessing: “Thousands of hearts can be reached in the most simple way. The most intellectual, those who are looked upon and praised as the world’s great and gifted men and women, are often refreshed by the most humble, simple words spoken by one who loves God, who can speak of that love as naturally as worldlings can speak of those things which their minds contemplate and feed upon. Words, even if well prepared and studied, have little influence; but the true, honest work of a son or a daughter of God in words, or in a service of little things, done in natural simplicity, will unbolt the door, which has long been locked, to many souls” ( Evangelism, pp. 443, 444). “What you need is a living experience in the things of God, and simplicity in presenting the love of Christ to the lost” (Sons and Daughters of God, p. 266).
THE METHOD OF JESUS
Jesus left us a model of simple witnessing. Ellen White counsels that “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people” ( The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). His model consists of five activities that can be used one at a time or in any combination. The final step is chronological—it happens after the first four have been utilized.
Activity 1: Jesus mingled with people as one who desired their good. Mingling means doing things together. It’s more or less what young people call hanging out. This may consist of visiting, working, playing, or just talking and sitting together. By mingling, you discover people’s needs. Believe it or not, there is a hotel pub (bar) in Ireland with this motto above the entrance: “Everyone here is a friend—they just haven’t met yet.” Not bad!
Activity 2: He showed sympathy. Sympathy is an attitude of personal concern. Sympathy does not wait until the person asks for help, but it is always expressed by some kind of action that communicates an honest, unselfish concern for someone who has a need.
Activity 3: He ministered to their needs. It is vital to identify and meet the needs of people, whether they are physical, mental, or spiritual in nature. This calls for an attitude of service toward others. Real needs are not always easily recognized, so careful observation and investigation may be needed to pinpoint the real need.
Activity 4: He won their confidence. Winning people’s confidence results from meeting their needs, showing sympathy, and hanging out with them as friends. Once you win someone’s confidence, talking about the Lord and discussing biblical beliefs are easier.
Activity 5 (final step): He bade them, “Follow Me.” “Follow Me” was Christ’s appeal to everyone to model His character and lifestyle and to accept the gift of salvation. The appeal came after He met people’s needs and won their confidence. So it should be with us as we work to spread His gospel.
What do you talk about if you are just hanging out and mingling? If you are already with a group of friends or acquaintances, you just steer the conversation into religious ideas. For instance, if the conversation has to do with getting along with some really complicated personalities, you can say something such as this: “I remember that the Bible says that we are supposed to get along with people even if they seem like enemies. How could we make that work in this situation?” A simple comment such as that opens the door to further conversation about religion.
You can then add the show of sympathy by a remark such as this: “What if we invite them to go with us to (supply an appropriate suggestion)? That would give us all a chance to get better acquainted. Then they might stop saying such mean things.”
That opens the door to discovering and dealing with personal needs. “Maybe they just need some friends. I remember this guy who was really a pain, but when we invited him to hang out, he turned out to be OK. He really needed some friends.”
Once you start hanging out and mingling with these problematic people, they will probably develop a sense of personal confidence in their new group of friends. So one day these former “pains” may say, “Why do you go to church so often?”
That’s the cue to put the “follow Christ” step into action. Invite them to church, give a personal testimony, have a prayer. Say something like “Getting to know Jesus as my close personal friend has made all the difference in my life. He’s brought me such peace and happiness, and He can do the same for you! Give Him a chance, and you will be amazed!”
Simple witnessing is always effective. It’s natural, spontaneous, and mostly unrehearsed. Try this yourself!
IN A NUTSHELL
- Simple witnessing is always effective.
- Jesus Himself showed us His successful method.
- Give it a try, and see what happens.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists