January 25, 2016

St Paul and the SEALs: An Alternative to HALO Evangelism

by Clint Archer

seals jumpingNavy SEALs and other elite military units are experts in a death-defying insertion maneuver known as HALO, or High Altitude Low Opening parachute deployment. From oxygen starved altitudes of 30,000 ft, where the temperature is -45C/ -50F, out of the range of surface to air missiles, the troops free fall at terminal velocity, and deploy their chutes just in time to land on earth alive.

The effect on an unsuspecting enemy is undeniable. One moment you are casually plotting the demise of democracy (or whatever villains do nowadays) and the next moment you are inundated with a disorientating shock-and-awe rapid-fire invasion.

It’s not only SEAL teams who are trained for this style of descent. We learned to do this in seminary.

Well, that’s how it felt to me. Our Apologetics and Evangelism professor had us do every kind of evangelistic technique known to man. I suppose the purpose was to equip us for whatever our future ministries needed, but to me the HALO-style campus evangelism was the hardest to do.

I could preach to a hostile crowd, or craft a written apologetic argument, or even approach an unbelieving friend with a face to face gospel discussion. But what terrified me was being dropped off at the local secular college campus armed with a Bible, a fistful of cheesy tracts, and a brown paper bag for my hyperventilation.

I was expected to accost total strangers with a gospel presentation they had neither invited nor expected. I can’t tell who was more uncomfortable, me or the single guy eating his lunch in peace until he made eye contact with me, which activated my jelly-legs to carry me over to sit next to him.

It was a rewarding exercise, which made me really admire Christians who are gifted at that kind of cold turkey evangelism. Countless souls have been won to Christ through such bold efforts. But there are also other ways to evangelize.

The Apostle Paul—not known to need much prodding toward evangelizing!—wrote to the Colossians, with a surprising prayer request…

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time (Col 4:2-5)

Here we find three items you can pray for to make you more effective in sharing your faith and winning souls to Christ.halo


The first step in evangelism is the opportunity. Paul calls it “an open door for the word.”

We all want souls to be saved, so why don’t we evangelize? One of the reasons is because we don’t know how to start. HALO-style evangelism isn’t the only method we have. If you want an opportunity, a door that swings open so you don’t have to bust it down, then pray for that. Paul did.

You’d be surprised how many times simply having a Bible with you on the bus or plane sparks conversation that can easily be transitioned into an amicable gospel conversation. So ask God to open a door, and then keep your eyes peeled for anyone whose interest might be ajar. Just remember that once the door is open you still need to go through it.


St Francis of Assisi famously said “Always preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” Well, it is always necessary to use words. People don’t think “What a nice Christian man doing nice Christian things” and get saved. They need content in order to believe. (Rom 10:14 …And how are they to hear without someone preaching?)

Maybe you don’t evangelize because you don’t know any techniques, or you’re not very eloquent, or you feel that you don’t know enough theology. But it’s not the technique or the articulation of deep theology that saves. It’s the gospel.

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel has inherent power. Your job is to get it out there and step back to watch it work. I don’t know the chemistry behind how chlorine makes my green pool turn blue. I just know that when I dump in what the pool guy tells me to, it works. You might not have got your infralapsarian ducks in a row yet, but if you know enough to be saved, you know enough to save others. Just be faithful with all the parts, even the scary parts about Hell and sin and repentance. Your job is just to be clear. So pray for clarity. Paul did.

But there is another aspect of your gospel presentation that is critical and needs prayer…


There is a bucket of mud that will douse any gospel flame you kindle in someone’s soul: the dirt of hypocrisy.

You need to pray for opportunities, and clarity in your words, but a crucial part of your gospel presentation is the consistency of your life. It’s said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all know…everybody does. Everybody judges the truth of the gospel you present by the cover of your life.

Would you hire a personal trainer to help you get a six pack if he has a beer belly? Why not, if what he says is still right? Let’s face it, when the guy telling you how to diet and work out has a six pack himself, you’re just more likely to accept what he says than the guy who has to wear elastic in his pants.

I hope this infuses your prayer life with some passion for soul winning. If you pray for opportunities, clarity, and consistency of life, you will get to be on the frontlines of God’s kingdom expansion work. And what’s the worst that can happen, some hyperventilation? Just remember all this happens under the parachute of God’s saving grace.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • 4Commencefiring4

    Strangers are one thing; you’re in and out of their lives in a moment, so any flubbing of presentation is soon history. You’re not going to see them again.

    But family is quite another. Why is it that family represents the market most difficult to penetrate? Is it because they knew you before your own conversion and will always see you as you used to be? And any witnessing you do with them is going to be that awkward elephant in the room during the next holiday get-together.

    My (presumably unsaved) siblings are older than me, and it distresses me that they could predecease me. And while I pray for them regularly, still I have never been able to sit them down and say what needs to be said. They know I am a christian (whatever that means to them) and they were of course at our mother’s funeral when I made some prepared remarks about the hope of the resurrection at the end of the age, remarks that were meant to get them to think about their own destiny.

    But they go about their lives quite unattached from any real sense of eternity. They’re more concerned with living out their retirement years, traveling, playing golf, etc. Christ? Yes, yes…they remember the church we all attended as a children. Say, how ’bout them Broncos? And that’s about where it remains.

    It just doesn’t move off the dime. I’m thinking it would be better if they all outlived me and had to attend MY funeral. Perhaps then they would get the message.

    • John 7:5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

      John 4:44 For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.

    • Charity

      4Commencefiring4 – I’m by no mean the most faithful or effective witness but some thoughts and suggestions.

      First, my personal conviction is that the best thing I can do for my witness is to grow the depth of my intimacy with God. When someone is “in love” and rambling about their beloved we may smile and not take them overly seriously, but we listen and we are not offended. That is my goal, to share Jesus like a teenager who has been bitten by the love bug and just cannot keep it inside, but to do that I have to be “in love” with my Savior to the point that it just comes bubbling out uncontrollably. Too often our witness is stilted because we are speaking more out of obligation than love.

      This may be self-evident, but it helps to focus on the need of our loved one and not on our fear of rejection. The analogy may be trite, but it is true that if they were in a burning building we would not concern ourselves with how they might be offended when we did whatever was necessary to get them to safety. However, that does not mean we should not be wise in our presentation, only fearless.

      Lastly, this is a thought I had only today while reading this post, but would it work if we asked our sister or brother to have lunch with us as a gift to us (maybe for our birthday or Christmas) and listen to us share our hearts just for thirty minutes. I think I will try that myself.

      Sometimes writing a letter is effective too, especially when people are at a distance or in a Christmas letter.
      As for the awkward elephant in the room when next we meet at a family gathering we could circumvent that by telling them this is a subject we want to discuss only one-on-one and then intentionally entering into conversations on “other topics” when together as a group. As for you past life/sin, make that part of your testimony and put that baby to bed. What Christ redeemed us from is not a hindrance to the gospel my friend but the whole point.

      • Chris Nelson

        but we must offend, or the gospel is never shared. We must fear God, not man. Yet far too often, I fear man and do not trust that God can use the offense of His gospel to turn the stony heart to flesh.

  • tovlogos

    If people actually did what you advise in this post, they would get results.
    Let’s face it, seminary is invaluable; yet, one of the best pieces advice in the Bible can be found in Ephesians 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” — this facilitates the optimization of all that study.
    As drunkenness is on going, continuously, being filled with the Spirit should be in it’s place.
    We can’t help but notice in the book of Acts the combination of “prayer and fasting”; Although that was a special time in history, the Spirit continued His work in us. Just as Stephen couldn’t have so gracefully endured his martyrdom (Acts 7), without the Spirit, we are limp without Him. Prayer accompanied with fasting is amazing. I happen to believe a person should eat two meals a day; and should space an interval of 8 hours between them. It facilitates good prayer habits.

    “You’d be surprised how many times simply having a Bible with you on the bus or plane sparks conversation that can easily be transitioned into an amicable gospel conversation.”

    That has been my method from the beginning; and very often works on the Lord’s behalf. However, I didn’t carry the Bible for that reason — b/c time is so precious, I carried it because it was better to have something to read in case I had to stay on a long line, for example. The Spirit, no doubt, always has His own agenda.

    • Good points. BTW I recommend John Piper’s book Hunger for God as the best work I’ve read on the theology and practice of fasting.

      • tovlogos

        Thanks Clint

        • Chris Nelson

          There are far, far better and more reliable folks than Piper, he is causing so much apostasy with his wicked teachings lately, please find any of a number of great resources other than Piper, please.

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