Navy 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.
- PRAY FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT THE GOSPEL
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.
- PRAY FOR CLARITY IN PRESENTING THE GOSPEL
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…
- PRAY FOR CONSISTENCY IN THE PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL
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.