Editor’s note: It can seem daunting to bring a friend or truth-seeker directly through the doors of the church. However, we can use online tools to help ease the introduction of Christianity, all accessed from the comfort and convenience of one's home.
In 2013, the General Assembly of the United States (USGA) formed the Remote Evangelism and Discipleship (RED) team to promote evangelism and discipleship, utilizing internet technologies such as voice and video conferencing, and webinars.
The RED team began hosting webinars in 2014. By God’s grace, over time, the number of participants has increased, and new features such as recordings, accessible online, were added to the resource kit. These webinars act as an evangelism tool, to which members can invite friends and family members interested in learning about Christianity and biblical truths. They are also used for internal church training, to educate and promote evangelism among the youths.
In Spring 2019, the RED team hosted a webinar “Q&A on Personal Evangelism,” led by Preacher Samuel Kuo. The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Many young people are not very receptive to reading the Scriptures. On one occasion, I tried to preach to a Catholic friend. He was not very interested, saying that he had never had a good understanding of the Bible and did not feel it was necessary. In such a scenario, what are the next steps we could take?
When we preach to Christians, we ought to tactfully remind them that the basis of their (and our) faith is the Scriptures. We can start by asking them why they believe what they believe and how they justify these beliefs. Let them examine and evaluate their faith, and reflect on whether belief in God can be sustained without trying to know the word of God. However, at the end of the day, as the saying goes, we can lead a horse to water, but we cannot make it drink.
For certain churches, there may be pastoral issues that must first be addressed because they affect the evangelistic work. For example, the members may not be very welcoming to truth-seekers or are too busy doing other church work. How can a church prioritize between pastoral work and evangelistic work? How do we find a healthy balance?
Pastoral and evangelistic work are complementary and integral to one other. If we choose only to pastor—focusing on ourselves and our deficiencies—we may be so mired in these that we would never get out of that loop and find time to do outreach. Conversely, if we are on the other extreme of the spectrum, where we only evangelize but never self-reflect, then we may not realize that our behavior is keeping people away. There must thus be a healthy balance.
Pastoral work in the form of workshops and seminars to provide fundamental training to our believers on the gospel that we are preaching is necessary. However, after a certain level of theoretical knowledge has been imparted, believers must take practical action, i.e., go out to preach the word. The process of evangelizing—meeting with naysayers or skeptics—will naturally motivate us to improve ourselves. Importantly, we will be reminded that our actions and conduct must be consistent with our preaching. For example, we cannot preach that we must observe the Sabbath if we do not practice it. Hence, as we do outreach, we will also be reflecting and improving ourselves.
Having a dedicated evangelism team is critical to this ministry. Tasks typically undertaken by this team include praying together, developing and running events, following up with truth-seekers, etc. If your church does not currently have an evangelism team, do propose starting one to the church council, and develop a plan to meet the needs of truth-seekers. Alternatively, get several active members to form a core group. Let this core group begin by praying together regularly for evangelism. Through sincere prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit, the work will naturally start to fall into place.
When we want to catch our metaphorical fish, we must cast our net—which in essence means preaching. However, if our net has a hole, we must mend the net; otherwise, all the fish we catch will naturally slip out. The church needs to fortify her faith by relying on the Holy Spirit. As fishers of men, our preaching must be coupled with our faith-building.
Sometimes, we are not entirely comfortable bringing our friends to church. It does not always feel like the most inviting place, with cliques or language barriers. What can we do individually and as a fellowship?
Each of us can do our part to shape the culture of our church. If we do see cliques or general indifference towards newcomers, we should initiate the change and influence our peers. Since we realize how difficult it is for someone to step into church, let us put our best foot forward and help these friends feel the love of Christ. Be the change we want to see. Even though it is challenging, let it start with us. Then when people see the zeal and love shining through you, they will be inspired and motivated as well. Recognizing the value of truth-seekers’ souls will increase our sense of urgency to try to make a difference.
There are a couple of success stories I have heard of:
- Members of Church X realized that friends coming to church for the first time could feel very awkward when they are led straight into the church hall. So they started an introductory fellowship to assimilate visitors into the church and to introduce the beliefs of the True Jesus Church. In this instance, the fellowship was a hiking fellowship. Since it was something casual and fun, it provided a more comfortable environment in which to speak to truth-seekers and introduce them to other members.
- Another church started assigning teams of two or three believers to greet and introduce themselves to people whom they did not know coming into church. In the beginning, the assigned teams were reluctant. However, because they were assigned, they had to do it. After five or six times, this became part of their routine; and they realized greeting strangers was not as frightening as it was before.
I believe that our general fear or reluctance to speak to strangers stems from a lack of cultivation of such social skills when we were growing up. To change this culture, we should start by encouraging our young students to practice preaching to their friends and greeting truth-seekers in church.
How do we preach to Christian friends who do not feel the need to attend church—for example, Christians who say it suffices to believe in their hearts or only attend holiday services?
Many of my neighbors are Christians, and their church attendance ranges widely between strictly religious to casual observance. What I have found to be quite useful is to understand why an individual goes to church in the first place. This understanding of what they believe in helps us see where their heart is.
You may want to ask them: “What do you seek in your faith?” If they are serious about their faith, commend them, and then dive right into the biblical text. If the individual we are speaking to already shares this common ground of faith—i.e., God—and takes the study of Scripture seriously, that is an excellent benefit for us. Turn to one key passage on the Holy Spirit or baptism, read the passage together, and ask what they think of it. Allow them some time to reflect before having another discussion. Since we already have a similar world view, our discussion may lead them to accept an invitation to our church. Once they become more familiar with the scriptural teachings—e.g., Sabbath-keeping—those teachings will resonate with them.
In general, we aim to find a common topic that stirs their desire to know more. Hopefully, as our discussion progresses, they will see God, and the truth will blossom in them.
How do you share the gospel with family and friends when they are doing better than you are, physically and financially?
Sometimes, we may feel like our friends and family members are doing well, especially when we look at their external circumstances. However, one of the treasures we have as Christians is the emotional and spiritual peace that comes with being close to God, primarily through the indwelling Holy Spirit. When we are close to God, we have something that cannot be quantified, but that others can see in us: inner peace, inner joy. Many people are looking for that. Even the super-wealthy sometimes suffer an emptiness in their hearts. When the contentment we have in God shines through, people are drawn to that. As mentioned in the Gospel of John, we have springs of living water flowing through us (Jn 4:10, 14).
Our friends and family often do not come to Christ seeking financial or physical help. Frankly speaking, some of our members are multimillionaires. But friends do not come to our church to find out the secret to their wealth. Instead, friends are more interested in the way that we pray, the truth we believe, and the joy and peace found in our church. Even if they are better off than we are, they can see much more beautiful blessings beyond these external factors.
I want to evangelize, but I just feel like there are not any opportunities to preach to others. What are some practical ways I can use to find new opportunities to evangelize?
As Christians, our faith is to be integrated with our life: life is faith, faith is life. If we are living out a true faith, sooner or later, when we talk to others about our lives, we will naturally start sharing about our faith. For example, at work, if someone were to ask us what we did over the weekend, we could tell him or her about the activities we do at church. We do not have to avoid those topics. Genuinely sharing in this way will capture the interest of our co-workers or classmates. Even the simple gesture of giving thanks before a meal may intrigue those around us sufficiently for them to ask about it. This can be a conversation-starter that allows us to share our faith.
Prayer really does work. The first time I was unemployed, I wanted to use my free time to preach more. However, I thought to myself, How could I preach to people who do not want to be bothered? Once, at the gym, I prayed in my heart, asking if God could give me an opportunity to preach. Soon after, I was forced into an awkward situation, which required me to speak to the people around me. That gave me a chance to share my faith, and one of those present came to church. He is still truth-seeking to this day.
How should we preach the gospel to people who already believe in Jesus, but who are from other churches and denominations? If they are willing to visit our church, but also invite us to their church, should we go? And after that, how do we continue preaching or clarifying our position?
The advantage of preaching to other Christians is that we already have similar worldviews, including believing in the authority of the Scriptures. Whenever we share our beliefs, we should always refer back to the Bible so that our friend knows that it is coming directly from the Scriptures. I think occasionally accepting invitations to attend their church services can be helpful because it can give us a basis for discussion. However, if we do so, it is crucial that we are already rooted in our faith and can discern adequately, otherwise it could be detrimental to our faith.
How do we balance evangelism/outreach with pastoral work and personal cultivation? Sometimes I feel stretched between all the people I want to preach to and the lost sheep I want to find, as well as taking care of my faith.
While knowing how to best balance time is a legitimate concern, I believe that evangelism and self-cultivation tend to go hand in hand. When we are reaching out to others, there tends to be an innate drive to also better ourselves, lest we be found hypocritical. For example, how can we preach about the Sabbath if we are not keeping the Sabbath? As for time management, there are no simple answers. God can give us wisdom as to what to prioritize. Evangelistic and pastoral work is a church-wide effort, so the burden is to be shared accordingly.
Any tips for preaching to other Christians who are well-versed in the Bible and have strong beliefs without getting into a debate or argument? What is a good topic to start with, and how do we guide the conversation?
When engaging in these discussions, we should keep in mind that the point of the conversation is to see what the Bible says concerning salvation. We should also keep in mind that we are not seeking to win the debate, but to win the soul—if a person can experience genuine love, it goes a long way to melting their hearts. Some common topics that we can start with are the Holy Spirit, the holy Sabbath, and water baptism.
How do we overcome the barrier of our preconception that someone is already living a good life and does not seem like they need Jesus? How do we approach someone who does not seem “poor,” either physically or spiritually speaking?
While there are those around us who may have everything they need in life (wealth, health, status), gaining these is not the reason why we believe in Jesus. Though they may not appear to suffer any lack of material or emotional fulfillment, we should still try to see if they have any spiritual needs. Sometimes, the people who have the most in the world have the least in the eyes of God.
If they seem to have a lot already materially, ask them about their spiritual fulfillment. If they seem to be happy spiritually, ask them about their beliefs, and how they feel about these beliefs. Preaching is not always about winning over someone’s heart, but simply sowing the seeds of the gospel of Christ.
What do you do when you are preaching to someone who already has a negative perception of True Jesus Church, and tells you to explore other religions?
Since they already have a bias against the True Jesus Church, any arguments or discussions would most likely prove to be more detrimental than beneficial. In these cases, it may be best to pray for them and invite them to church when the opportunity comes. A sister prayed for her friends every single day—fifteen minutes for each friend. Eventually, almost every friend she prayed for came to church. Many were even baptized and became fervent members. When a person’s heart is hardened, only God can help.
If, however, you feel that their negative perception stems from a misunderstanding or misconception, then it would be prudent to talk about it. Nurturing a culture of willingness to discuss tough topics, in church and out of church, in a loving and respectful way, could prove beneficial for members and truth-seekers alike.
How do we try to evangelize again to a person who has already rejected us? Is there a good waiting time before we ask them to come to church again? Or should we just pray for them?
It is okay to be rejected; however, if we are motivated to save their souls, we should continue to pray for them. Timing is essential, and it depends on your relationship with your friend. Push them too hard, and your friendship may become strained. As clichéd as it sounds, prayer really is the answer in these difficult cases. Try dedicating time in prayer solely for this person each day.
How do you preach to people who are not actively seeking God? How can we introduce the church to them, so they feel the need to pursue God?
There is power in vulnerability. When we share our vulnerabilities, such as our struggles, people are more willing to open their hearts to listen. People innately want to help. At this time, we can share how God has comforted or helped us in our times of need, despite the sufferings we had to endure. Everyone struggles in one way or another. If, through our stories, they can see that we could find peace in God despite our sufferings, this may prick their curiosity. Let your life be a light to the people in this world.
Are there any practical tips for making the church a more welcoming place for people of all cultures? In the US, our church comprises predominantly Chinese members, and we have had challenges with retaining visitors who are genuinely interested in seeking the complete truth, yet are ultimately put off by our "Chinese-ness."
The reality is that our members in Western countries are predominantly of Asian descent—specifically Chinese. I would say that trying to reduce or downplay their natural “Chinese-ness” is not as simple as ordering non-Asian food for lunch. Just like in the Bible, this is a struggle we need to overcome by the power of the Spirit. There are several essential principles:
Critically, the church needs to be spiritually grounded, built on the apostles and prophets as our foundation, with Christ as the cornerstone. At the same time, the church needs to develop a culture of welcoming people. I have heard of a church where most of the members could not communicate with one another because of the language barrier. However, through gestures, very rudimentary English, and actions, they showed love for one another. If we prove to be a welcoming church, truth-seekers would not feel ostracized and singled out. We can start cultivating such a culture in our church by assigning designated teams (perhaps two to three people in each team) each week to welcome truth-seekers. Parents can also encourage their children to greet them. This culture takes time to cultivate, so patience and prayer are essential as well.
We can learn how Jesus Christ preached to non-Jews: let us take the story of how Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman. He first started the conversation by bringing up a mundane, day-to-day subject: water and thirst. This means we can start having a conversation with truth-seekers by finding common ground, such as sports, games, kids, school, work, etc. Jesus Christ showed that He understood the sufferings that the Samaritan woman had to endure, having to cycle through five different husbands (there are culture and history behind this). Thus, we can also take time to understand the reason for a visitor to come to the church. We can show we are concerned about their problems. Pray with them. Then, hopefully, when a certain trust is built, we can begin discussing the spiritual teachings of our doctrines.
How do I overcome rejection?
I think one way to overcome rejection is by experiencing it more, to go through a kind of desensitization process. After being rejected a few times, you realize it is not calamitous. Moreover, the sting of the rejection is mitigated by the compassion we feel for them; they are rejecting the precious gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ, who can give them extraordinary peace and eternal life. They are not rejecting us personally.
We can also take some time to process the idea that, according to the Bible, people we see every day—who are not saved—will meet an inevitable fate of suffering in hell. As Christians, we are trying to “snatch” souls from this fate. If we have sympathy towards those suffering in developing countries, should we not also have compassion for those around us who are most likely heading toward eternal damnation? This thought may help us overcome the fear of momentary embarrassment or persecution. After all, as