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Hail Marys vs. First Downs in evangelism


January 30, 2017
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The feedback from our students was unanimous. They knew how to share the gospel in a formal way—at a one-on-one meeting or with an acquaintance. But they didn’t know how to get into gospel conversations with their friends in everyday, casual life.

One of our students, Laurel Sitton, compared leading someone to Christ with scoring a touchdown in football:

“When the offense goes out to try to score a touchdown, sometimes they’re 90 yards away. They might be able to throw a 90-yard pass and score a touchdown. That’s great, and everyone celebrates, but that doesn’t happen very often. That’s kind of what it’s like to get to share the gospel and see someone come to Christ in the first conversation.”

Steady, consistent evangelism is more effective overall than flashy and quick conversions.

She’s right. A Hail Mary, or an all out effort for the end zone regardless of distance, is much more exciting to watch. But what is far more common to see is the offensive team slowly march their way down the field, first down by first down. Laurel continues,

“So in one conversation you might be 70 yards or 50 yards from getting to share the gospel with your friend, but all you’re looking for is a first down, not a Hail Mary.”

Steady, consistent evangelism is more effective overall than flashy and quick conversions.

Plus One

We developed a system here that we call Plus One which helps students and leaders do consistent evangelism well. The point is to move people one step closer to Jesus.

We first rolled Plus One at Fall Retreat, though it could be done anytime.

Our hope was that all 200 students would jump into the mission of God on campus and have an easy, appropriate next step into evangelism. We wanted them to feel like anyone can do it. Anyone can take a baby step in evangelism.

So on the last day of the retreat we challenged everyone to write down five names of non-Christian friends to pray for. We then gave them four tasks to help move those friends one step (Plus One) closer to Jesus:

  1. Pray – for your five non-Christian friends
  2. Befriend – your first step might be just to get to know them better. Ask them about their weekend. Invite them to watch football or go to a movie with you and some friends.
  3. Ask Spiritual Questions – often the easiest line of questions are, “What’s your story? Where are you coming from spiritually? Did you grow up going to church? What did you think? How do you identify now with regard to religion?”
  4. Share the Gospel

We created a private +1 Facebook group and asked everyone to join. It encouraged us to watch students taking steps of faith and sharing/spurring each other on as they shared how their Plus One tasks went that day.

Plus One has proved to be a great way to celebrate the little first down conversations and not just touchdowns.

We want to celebrate students’ faith that moves their friends one step closer to seeing Christ.

We’ve found that if students equate “success in evangelism” to “fully sharing the gospel and leading someone to Christ” then they will often bypass opportunities like a four minute walk from class to the Union or the five minutes before class.

In the small moments, because they can’t share the full gospel, they don’t do anything at all.

We need to help students learn how to incrementally move conversations and friendships toward Christ.

Ask students you disciple the following questions to find out where they may be struggling the most:

  • Are you praying for your friends?
  • Do you know any non-Christians well enough to talk about real life?
  • Do you know how to get into spiritual conversations? What questions could you ask?
  • Do you know how to share the gospel?
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thess. 2:8

Originally published at cru.org

  • Great illustration! Thanks for sharing. And it’s so true that when you only celebrate the “touchdowns” some people tend to shut down. Finding ways to celebrate every step of faith within the journey of leading people to see and receive Jesus is key.