Personal Evangelism; July 31, 2019

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Virtually every verse of this Psalm is underlined, in both languages, in my bilingual Bible. I could write on any part of it! It strikes me that this Psalm is a personal testimony of David. The preface indicates that he wrote it after the Lord gave him the wisdom to escape a potentially very dangerous situation. Rather than take credit for that escape, David praises God and recommends Him to all who will listen. That is the essence of personal evangelism. There are all sorts of “canned presentations” for evangelism out there, but none are very effective even in countries with a Christianized culture, and far less so in places like Japan. Every believer needs to grow past the point in their faith of what’s in it for me, but in all honesty, that’s how most people make the first step. David is saying, “Have a taste. God is the best thing ever!” Actually, David used a specific framework for this testimony, starting each verse with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet, so that shows us the utility that things like The 4 Spiritual Laws tract can have. However, the framework by itself is nowhere near as effective as when it is backed up by personal experience. “God met my need, and He’ll meet yours too, if you will let Him.”

I well remember my frustration in Personal Evangelism class in seminary, realizing how ineffective what I was being taught would be in Japan. The professor was a marvelous man and a very effective evangelist in the American context, but I knew his techniques wouldn’t make the transition to the Japanese context. When we finally got to Omura, after graduation and serving in a church in Virginia for two years, I told people I wasn’t here to teach a religion, but to introduce a Savior. (There’s a pun in that in Japanese.) I grasped the reality that nothing would be as effective as sharing what God had done for me, but my background was totally different from those I was speaking to, despite my having been born and raised in Japan. Not only was I from a strongly Christian family, my schooling was American, having attended the dependents school of Itazuke Air Force Base. After seeing my own daughters’ experiences in Japanese schools, I have come to the conclusion that the major purpose of Japanese schools is to make people Japanese, instilling culture and even thought patterns into them. (America would be a more effective “melting pot” if US schools did more of that, but that’s a different discussion.) On top of that, I am Caucasian, which automatically makes me “other” to practically everyone I meet, so they don’t see my experiences with God as having any relationship to them. That makes me a far more effective Bible teacher than evangelist, which itself is fine with me, but I need to inspire the Japanese believers to share Christ with their family and friends, since they don’t have the barriers I do. That’s not easy either, because I can’t really teach by example. However, people do get saved, and it’s almost always from their seeing someone who is living out their faith in a personal relationship with their Lord. That is something to rejoice over!

Father, thank You for this reminder. I do pray for the sister who will be here next week from America, desiring to win her parents and sister to Christ while she is here. Thank You for the openness her mother has expressed. I pray that Your Holy Spirit would have free rein, that we may see a marvelous harvest in Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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