After a long train ride up the East Coast and a day of fellowship with Crossroads Church in Brooklyn, a Summit church plant, our team of five started our week of ministry with several hours of evangelism training. The teaching was tailored to the multi-ethnic and religious communities of the New York City borough of Queens, where we’d be working each day. One of our teachers exhorted us to be bold and unashamed when explaining our purpose for being there, which completely countered my American instinct to mute my claim to Christianity for the sake of being “nice,” in order to gain conversational traction.
For the rest of the week, each day we spent more time in evangelism training and then immersed ourselves in our assigned neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens, where we engaged in the most direct form of evangelism I have ever experienced. We walked from building to building, knocking on every door on the street and offering to pray for the residents. Our conversation starter was essentially the statement, “Hello, my name is Jeremy. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, and we’d like to pray for you.” Can you imagine being that direct here, in our own neighborhoods around the Triangle? I am amazed at how well our training empowered us to be bold about our purpose and passion for being in the city. I saw all of us, from the most talkative to the most timid, grow in courage and reliance on God every day to meet strangers, reach out into their lives, ask direct questions, and clearly teach the gospel wherever we could get a metaphorical (and sometimes physical) foot in the door.
The greatest impact of this trip was seeing the look in people’s eyes when the Holy Spirit moved in their hearts and allowed them to recognize their brokenness and their need for Jesus. I expected everyone in a Muslim community to forcibly reject us, but we saw fruit in the most unexpected places: an opinionated Bengali doctor and her assistant who listened in on our conversation, a man from Yemen who had just returned home from mosque, a man who barely spoke any English but stepped outside his eye doctor’s office to investigate what we were doing, and two university students completing their senior film project in a park. I’ve never seen so clearly the power that’s present in the words of the gospel, that simply speaking about Jesus and what he did is enough for the Holy Spirit to start breaking into a closed heart.
One aspect of the trip that I did not expect to experience was the disorienting effect of living in a place where I was such a minority. I often forgot we were still in the U.S. I kept using phrases like “back in America” or “this is so different than the U.S.” because I was thoroughly convinced we had traveled somewhere new. I had to remind myself that we had the freedoms and safeties of an American citizen when witnessing in a potentially unfavorable environment. Our lives were never at risk—an amazing privilege, considering that other believers across the world do not have the same security to openly express and practice their Christianity.
I deeply miss our experience in New York, and I’m considering returning there on another short-term trip. I’m surprised to have found such a deep connection to the neighborhood and the people we met. I realize I now share some of the burden the missionaries there carry because I’ve personally experienced how many people still have never heard of Jesus.
Please pray for Mohammed and Suleman by name. These are two Muslim men I got to share with, and I believe the Holy Spirit did something tangible in their hearts. Please pray over the seeds of the gospel we sowed, that we could trust the results to God. We handed out many DVDs of The Jesus Film
as well as several Bibles, all tools for the Holy Spirit to continue using.
I realize we all have different contexts for evangelism, different strategies for how and when we share, and different personalities and giftings that God uses. But, honestly, there is no substitute for stating the simple truth that Jesus came to suffer and die for sinners so we could be set free from sin and death, reconciled to God, and resurrected to eternal life because he willingly bore the punishment we deserved. Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
When is the last time you shared unashamedly? There are lost people in our lives right now that God wants to rescue. Let’s ask him to give us boldness to be his ambassadors!
By Jeremy Doran