Reaching Out in 2009: What Does a Point Guard Have in Common with a Christian?

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I’m always looking for creative ways to do evangelism, recognizing, of course, that evangelism is like dribbling a basketball. That is, it’s great to be able to go around the back, through the legs, and so forth, but those things can only be done if you have mastered the fundamental control of the ball as it bounces from the floor to your hand. For those who can really handle the basketball, the ball has become an extension of their hand.

This happens for people who deliberately set out to improve their skills. They do dribble drills. They consciously and diligently stretch and test their abilities with a ferocious tenacity to be the best, to be one who will not lose control of the basketball, one from whom the ball will not be taken. They dribble the basketball constantly. A day does not go by that they don’t do their drills. It’s like an addiction, but it’s driven by a commitment that continues even when you don’t feel like doing it.

The equivalent for those of us who would do evangelism is that we (1) know and understand the gospel–we have to know by heart key gospel verses (e.g., Rom 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-10; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24, etc.)–and (2) that we “dribble” the gospel the way an aspiring point guard dribbles the basketball. As the basketball is always at the tip of his fingers, the gospel is always on the tip of our tongues. Just as the point guard is always looking for a chance to practice, we’re always looking for a chance to tell someone the good news.

It used to be that Baptist churches did “visitation” every Tuesday night. That’s commendable for its consistency–is your church that consistent? My fear is that there are very few Baptist churches today who have set out to train their members to share the gospel, and then have diligently pursued ways to set people up to share the gospel. Sort of like a basketball coach who hasn’t bothered to teach his players any dribble drills, hasn’t challenged them to devote themselves to daily practice, and then shakes his head in frustration every time the team turns the ball over during the game.

If you’re a pastor, are you leading the flock on this one? What if you add a Sunday School class (or whatever you call them) open to anyone in the church who wants to learn to communicate the gospel? What if you then set a goal to have one overtly evangelistic opportunity for the church per month in 2009? It doesn’t have to be a huge event. You could pick a Saturday when you’ll canvass the neighborhood of the church, the next month you could invite the congregation to join you at a place where people are hanging out–whether a mall or an open air venue such as a town square. I know of churches that have arranged to have apologetics talks given at busy Starbucks locations.

Some people say that knocking on doors “doesn’t work” anymore, but I think there’s still a place for it. One of the most helpful things I’ve seen for helping others to start evangelistic conversations in a place where people have gathered to hang out is to have someone do some open air preaching–as much for the opportunities it gives for the Christians who have shown up with the preacher as for the open proclamation. Open air preaching doesn’t have to be done in a way that is offensive. If a gregarious person can gather a crowd, the other Christians who have come with him can then start up conversations with folks in that crowd. Then there are places that people go where they find themselves sitting and waiting, such as a bus stop, and while they wait for the bus they’re generally open to conversation.

What evangelistic “dribble drills” have you found to be most effective? What have you found to be effective ways to get conversations going, to build relationships with unbelievers, or to help someone feel the need for the gospel?

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.