I never set out to win someone to Christ, even though I want to be an ambassador for Christ in every situation. You may be surprised to learn that. My goal is a different, more modest one that you may want to adopt as your own. Let me explain. It all starts with open eyes.
I think that in some circles there's pressure for Christian ambassadors to "close the sale" as soon as possible. When pressed for time, get right to the meat of the message. Get to the Gospel. If the person doesn't respond, you've still done your part. Shake the dust off your feet and move on.
A wise ambassador, though, weighs his opportunities ands adopts an appropriate strategy for each occasion. Sometimes, the simple truth of the cross is all that's needed. The fruit is ripe for harvesting. Bump it and it falls into your basket.
Usually, though, the fruit is not ripe; the nonbeliever is simply not ready. He may not even have begun to think about Christianity. Dropping a message on him that, from his point of view, is meaningless or simply unbelievable doesn't accomplish anything. In fact, it may be the worst thing you can do. He rejects a message he doesn't understand, and then he's harder to reach next time.
Now here is my own more modest goal. I want to put a stone in his shoe. All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth he can't simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.
Whether the opportunity is a short one with a transient audience or a long one with a captive audience, my goal is the same: a stone in the shoe. Let me give you an example.
When I spoke to an audience of 400 students in a ballroom in the middle of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus, most people there were not Christians. I'd heard that most of the non-believers on campus thought Christians were stupid. It was a stumbling block to Christianity for many of the students. That was my lead in.
"I understand many of you think that Christians are stupid. "Well," I admitted, "many of them are," then quickly added, "but many non-Christians are stupid too, so I don't know what that gets you. What I want to show you is that even if some Christians are stupid, Christianity is not stupid. I'm not here to convert you. I want to give you something to think about." I then talked to them about the failure of relativism. I left them with a stone in their shoe.
As it turned out, while taking questions from the audience afterwards, I was able to give more detail about Christ, but only after I laid the groundwork making the message not only coherent to them, but believable. I took one step at a time.
Some people are good "closers." They're good at getting the sale. They're gifted in evangelism, and they harvest with almost no effort. "You don't need all that fancy stuff. Just give them the simple Gospel. It always works for me."
What they don't realize is that harvesting often comes easily for them because, in God's sovereignty, many ambassadors came before them, planting, watering, and weeding, one by one tending to the plant, cultivating healthy growth until it was ripe and ready to reap.
Think of your own journey to Christ. Chances are you didn't go from a standstill to total commitment. Instead, God dealt with you over a period of time. There was a season of reflection as you sorted out the details, hobbling about on the little stones other ambassadors had dropped into your shoe. You can do the same thing for someone else.
Follow the strategy I use when God opens a door of opportunity for me. I don't know how long the door will be open, so I pray quickly for wisdom (James 1:5) then ask myself, "In this circumstance, what is one thing I can say, one question I can ask, one thought I can leave that will get him thinking?" Then I try to put a stone in his shoe.