Leading with Intentional Engagement

Reaching out to others about Jesus Christ requires learning about them, their perspective, and the place that they are coming from. Most important, it requires intention. Read an excerpt from Faith That Engages the Culture by Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa below to see how important intentional engagement is when witnessing to others.

The First Intentional Move

Rev. Mark Jasa has met astounding success engaging those without faith in Christ by being both intentional (looking for opportunities to engage) and noninvasive. This approach to engagement puts the Christian in the best position to connect with people. But do your eyes deceive you? Did you just read the word intentional?!

Intentional engagement is assuredly the single most terrifying potential activity on the face of the planet! Isn’t it well known that if any Christian does this, they might melt or spontaneously combust? By recommending intentional engagement, have we just effectively eliminated all introverted, shy, tired, bashful, busy, inconsiderate, and, oh yeah, still confessing-their-sin Christians from the possibility of engagement? Pastor Jasa warns, however, that if we insist that engagement will not occur until the unbeliever makes the first move or asks us about the faith, then we might be waiting for the rest of our lives. But how can we be intentional—and feel good about it—without feeling like we’re trying to sell something, pressure someone, or acting like a religious fanatic?

The key here is that Christians are not trying to foist their agenda, but rather, they are trying to love people: notice, greet, smile, be kind, and be ready to help! Who knows, you might find yourself talking to someone face-to-face (and live)! Don’t worry! God has given His baptized people His Spirit. He intends to work through those in Christ, through their holding to His Word and by emulating His love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Stepping Out, Even through Fear

Still, some Christians will start to sweat at the prospect of intentional engagement. Let’s try to nip this in the bud: my wife, Traci, and I have been blessed over the years to serve children in various capacities (e.g., foster care). Once, we were matched with children who came from a very isolated part of the state and for various reasons were hardly ever taken out. They had, for example, never been to a shopping mall. Traci and I thought it would be fun to open their eyes to some new experiences.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in the mall. The children were utterly taken aback—eyes fully dilated, fight-or-flight instincts initiated—by this tall, steel contraption that was, for lack of a better description, a moving staircase. I could tell that this thing was causing all kinds of cognitive dissonance in them. After all, the steps on this thing were being swallowed up top, and when they came back down on the other side, the steps disappeared into the floor. At first, the kids were freaked out, and trust me, their first instinct was not to get on! Who could blame them? They had never done it before. Suffice it to say, however, that over time that day, they did not want to stop getting on and off! How did they go from near terror to delighted confidence? They stepped out.

I don’t see Pastor Jasa foaming at the mouth, chanting a mantra to himself “share the faith, share the faith, share the faith.” Rather, I see Pastor Jasa stepping out to be friendly, to acknowledge people, to ask how they are doing. And then, if the Lord permits a conversation to ensue, he is simply willing to share the wonderful news that God loves them and that it’s true because God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died to forgive all their sins! Pastor Jasa also relieves those he teaches in terms of the memorization of Scripture. Though memorizing Scripture is a great thing, too many Christians psych themselves out thinking that they must be able to quote Scripture left and right. Not at all. Pastor Jasa recommends we memorize one verse in particular—a short but powerful one: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). 

Blog post adapted from Faith that Engages the Culture copyright © 2020 Alfonso Espinoa. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture: ESV®.

Read more  how to reach out to others about Chrits using the engagement triangle in Faith that Engages the Culture

Learn how to engage

Picture of Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa
Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa is a graduate of Concordia University Irvine (BA) and Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (MDiv). He received an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University (2001) and a PhD in theology from the University of Birmingham (England) in 2009. He is the senior pastor at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Irvine, California, where he preaches and teaches the Word of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. His most cherished service is being husband to his wife Traci, a father, and a grandfather. He is the author of Faith That Sees Through the Culture and Faith That Engages the Culture.

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