One of the most under-estimated benefits of outdoor ministry is the amount of time for relational evangelism with your participants–to sow seeds of the Gospel and water those seeds well. There are many styles of evangelism, none of which is the “right way”. But one thing is for certain… in wilderness ministry you never have to resort to a hit-and-run style of evangelism. You have plenty of time to ask questions, get to know other people’s views, and then take opportunities to share your own testimony after you have won the right to be heard.
In a world of pluralism and relativism, we have to learn how to relate with people who adhere to different sources of wisdom than what the Bible espouses. It is also important for leaders to be mature enough to recognize that because of common grace, there may be sources of wisdom that people have learned that do not contradict what the Bible teaches but yet do not lead a person to faith in Christ. That is where we have to focus our energy to help them sort out the claims of Jesus and the narrow path of salvation through him alone.
Christian outdoor leaders get to engage their culture in a twofold strategy: First seek to introduce people to Jesus by respecting the beauty you see in them as they are created in his image, then 2) Stand against wrong ideas or beliefs which deny Jesus as the only Way, Truth, and Life. And we need to do all of this tactfully… remembering that we have plenty of time to default toward dialogue and not dogmatism.
Evangelism is an Art of Persuasion
The Apostle Paul time and again talks about the need to “persuade” men to Jesus Christ. In an effort to seek common ground and build a bridge of understanding in Athens one day,
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17:22-23).
And in his letter to the Colossians he wrote:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (Col.4:5).
As an outdoor leader you are going to have significant amounts of time for dialogue with participants during your camp or journey. As a result people are going to naturally ask you why you believe what you do. To prepare for this, ask yourself the question, “Why do the claims of Jesus Christ make sense to me?” Answering this question will get you further along in effective relational evangelism than just about anything.
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