Are You Putting Faith in Action? Lillian Torres Explains the Importance of Personal Evangelism
Story by Beth Michaels
If you’re not actively engaged in telling others about God’s love and sharing His Word, then you really can’t call yourself a Seventh-day Adventist,” warns Lillian Torres, the Pennsylvania Conference and Columbia Union Bible worker who has dedicated her life to drawing people to Christ and training others to do the same. “Our goal as Christians should be to tell every person we interact with each day about God’s love.” She further explains, “If I’m not intentionally engaged in personal evangelism, I can’t claim to be an Adventist because we believe in the second coming of Christ and proclaiming it. And, being a Christian means to believe in Christ’s teachings and gospel, and showing it in character and practice. If I’m neither, then what am I?”
Torres’ words are blunt, but she has good reason for them: the Barna Research Group recently reported that only 55 percent of born-again Christians believe it is their responsibility to share their faith. And, according to Campus Crusade for Christ, only 2 percent of Christians actively share their faith.
The Truth About Evangelism
Torres says there are 10 common reasons Adventists admit to shying away from sharing their faith, including “I might say the wrong thing” and “That’s not my spiritual gift.” However, she says, only five of the reasons go beyond poor excuses: low self-confidence, no motivation, no training, fear and it is not a priority.
“Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ This is a gift God wants to give to each of us,” she says.
What we need to realize, says Torres, is that even skeptics and atheists do not look well on Christians who don’t share their faith. She quotes a famous atheist who pointedly declared, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. … How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
She says we also need to be aware that many people who join a church cite a personal connection as the reason. In The Inviting Church, the author reports that
79 percent of those he polled said that a friend or relative’s invitation is what prompted them to visit and then join their church.
She also points out that there are tremendous blessings to be gained from sharing our faith. Lisa Arosarena, a member at Pennsylvania Conference’s Chestnut Hill church in Philadelphia, concurs and shares a few: “First, I believe that God has used it to refine my character—showing me areas where I lack faith and am still unconverted. Secondly, God has placed upon my heart, for the first time in my life, a burden to see others won to His kingdom. I still find myself struggling with boldness at times, but I have been amazed at how God has given me opportunities to witness. It has been amazing to see my small effort, and, most importantly, the Holy Ghost’s power, lead to baptism.”
Follow Christ’s Example
“Most of our members are afraid to share because they fear someone will ask them a question they do not know the answer to, or challenge them on what they believe,” says Torres. But, she notes, that’s all the more reason to be prepared—everything we do well takes practice.
So, what is the best way to prepare for sharing our faith? Our first step, says Torres, should be to understand Christ’s methods. “The goal is to model the life of Christ by studying, meditating and pondering on what He did, and how He interacted with friends and enemies,” she says. His methods are best summarized in Ministry of Healing (p. 143):
1. He mingled and became acquainted with people.
2. He showed His sympathy for them.
3. He ministered to their needs.
4. He won their confidence.
5. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”
To that end, “We cannot just hang out with Adventists,” warns Torres. “God’s love is not a secret to be kept.” If you don’t want to go door to door, she suggests starting conversations with people you encounter during errands, with parents and teachers at your child’s school or while waiting in line—anywhere!
When meeting someone, she suggests following three simple steps to lead the initial conversation:
1. Share your interests. After you swap details about what you both do for a living, the conversation usually turns to hobbies and interests. “Make sure to include one that is related to what you believe,” Torres suggests. “For instance, ‘I’m part of the Women’s Ministries at my church.’” This can stir their interest and give you a chance to share more about your faith.
2. Make religious connections. If they ask about your denomination, tell them about the four Cs—the four common beliefs Adventists share with other Christians (see the sidebar). This often gives you an opportunity to, in turn, ask what they believe and if they attend a church.
3. Leave them with material to read. If they’ve shared a genuine interest in your beliefs, always make sure to have material ready to give them, like a copy of
Steps to Christ, a GLOW tract (see glowonline.org) or Bible study request cards (like those at seminarsunlimited.org). “I think it’s even better to give them your church’s website, assuming your church offers Bible study lessons,” suggests Torres, or at least give them your phone number and offer to talk more.
Fore more ideas about personal evangelism, Torres suggests Mark Finley’s book Studying Together.
Put Fear Aside
Torres understands the fear of witnessing. “I still get butterflies in my stomach before I knock on a door or share with someone, but my love for God moves me forward and overpowers my fear,” she says. She also keeps in mind that the Lord promises His help. “Simply make yourself available and you’ll see how God can speak through you,” she suggests.
She says it’s also important to remember, “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue,” (Ministry of Healing, p. 148). In other words, Torres explains, “If you’re not imparting the truths God gives you, that truth loses its power and influence in you.”
So, get out there today, and watch the Lord use you.
Lillian’s Four Cs
Seventh-day Adventists share four common beliefs with other Christians. Be prepared to share these with those you meet, says Torres:
1 We believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
2 We believe in the cross and that we’re saved by God’s grace.
3 We believe in keeping all of God’s commandments.
4 We believe in the soon coming of Jesus Christ.
Ready to Take the Conversation Further?
When a new contact digs for deeper spiritual information, Torres says there are two diagnostic questions you should be prepared to ask. For the questions—and how to answer them—visit columbiaunion.org/evangelismquestions.
How do you share your faith? Tell us at facebook.com/columbiaunionvisitor or tweet @VisitorNews.