Every preacher needs to be purposeful in his contacts and conversations with the lost. As preachers, Scripture admonishes us to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). We cannot have personal evangelism without personal contact. Additionally, a preacher usually speaks to the lost every Sunday because his congregation includes unbelievers. In order to speak effectively to them, he has to know the people to whom he is speaking.
How, though, can a preacher—already careful to spend his weeks in prayer, Bible study, message preparation, and church leadership—find time to spend with unbelievers? The answer is not by taking time out of your schedule, but by making this a priority within your schedule. Let me encourage you with a few suggestions:
First, invite unbelievers into your home. Don’t think that they have no desire to come. Personally, I have found that they are often eager to know what the inside of a preacher’s home looks like, as though it is different than anybody else’s! This invitation could translate into dinner or even dessert after children go to bed. The relaxed atmosphere gives you the opportunity to get to know them better and vice versa. Pray silently for an open door. If the Lord provides one, lead into a conversation about spiritual things. If not, still build a bridge that allows you to talk about spiritual things at a later date.
Second, involve them in your sports. Every preacher needs to keep in shape physically or the job will take its toll on him, affecting his energy level. I enjoy hunting, running, and water skiing. As I go after wild game with unbelievers, jog down the same trail, or sit together in a boat, they open up about spiritual things more so than they would in front of their mates and families.
One the best times I ever had water skiing was when I witnessed to my mechanic on the boat. I had a chance to explain to him God used the outdoors to bring me to my knowledge of Him, taking me from creation to the Creator to Christ. I would not have had such conversation in his shop because of the time constraints and work pressures. I could tell you about similar experiences I’ve had while jogging and hunting. Whatever your sport is, it can benefit you physically and also others spiritually.
Lastly, get involved in the community. For example, a fellow preacher of mine is a chaplain at a local hospital. You might exclaim, “But wait a minute. That is taking time out of my schedule because that’s not part of my normal activities.” However, if something such as this is not in your typical week, it needs to be. Otherwise you will only understand the people within your church, not the people outside.
Bear in mind, it does not have to be for an entire day. A few hours in the morning or afternoon can make a phenomenal difference and give you tremendous experiences with the unbelievers. Other preachers I know serve on the school board or the police department. That community involvement gives them the time and exposure they need with non-Christians.
The above three ideas are sometimes so easily overlooked. I now challenge you to invite unbelievers into your schedule. God will use you as an example before your people, you will better understand where the lost are coming from, and you will opportunities to lead someone into His Kingdom.