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Why Air travel makes evangelism easy! (And how to turn conversations onto spiritual things seamlessly)!

7 April 2011 3 Comments

On the 3rd of April, I had the most amazing flight from Auckland to Dubai. I have got to say that flying provides THE best opportunities to ‘love people’ with the gospel i.e. for evangelism.

Just think for a moment how air travel is fertile ground for evangelism.  We need to know this, because nearly everyone travels by air.

First, there are physical considerations. Passengers do a lot of waiting around in airports and they are generally bored.  They have time to listen to an eleven-minute gospel presentation.

Furthermore, at airports, people are scattered all around, and some will be sitting on their own, away from others.  When people are on their own, you can have a private conversation with them without anyone else listening.  This eliminates any embarrassment factor for them, and makes it a whole lot easier for you.

Apart from the periodic announcements over the intercom, airports lounges are quiet places.  Again, this helps evangelism.  Noise distractions have been eliminated.

Once on the plane they can’t go anywhere. They are sitting right next to you, sometimes for hours.  Many are literallylooking for someone to talk to about anything interesting.  Why do you think airlines go to such lengths to provide movies and ‘entertainment’? The reason is obvious – there is nothing else to do! For this reason air travel and movies make perfect partners.

And here’s another thought – because there is a person sitting next to you for hours, there is not need to rush into giving the gospel. I always start conversations by talking about ‘the natural’ with the person next to me.

First comes introducing myself, asking their name.

Next, I ask them what they do for a job, and maybe why they are travelling.  People love talking about themselves, so asking simple questions will ‘plough’ the ground for the seed of the gospel later on.  Don’t get me wrong here – I am genuinely interested in people and enjoy hearing their stories. Most of us like hearing other’s stories.

But here’s the thing – our conversations should have a motive, an underlying reason. This reason is love.  The most loving thing you can do for another human being is share the love of Christ by giving them the gospel.  You can feed the hungry, clothe the naked and so on, and these things are to be commended. In doing them you are eliminating temporal suffering.  But giving the gospel attempts to eliminate eternal suffering.   Both are Biblical commands, but one is far more important than the other. This is why all scholars cite evangelism as the Biblical priority.

Anyway, back to the plane trip.  If you are don’t like talking with people, then ask God to help you become interested in other people.  Having general conversations with people and taking an interest in them is an EXREMELY powerful ploughing tool.  Try to keep the conversation light and breezy.

After letting the person next to you on the flight talk about themself, and after you have taken genuine interest in them, they will often ask the question “And what do you do?”

This is your opportunity to turn the conversation from the natural to the supernatural. This is the critical moment, so you need to be ready.  I say something like ‘I write resources for mainstream churches.  How about you? Have you had any church background?’ or ‘I am an author. I write books for Christians.  How about you? Do you have an interesting in spiritual things?’ or ‘I help people in churches connect with people who don’t go to church. How about you? Have you ever been to church?’ etc.

Whatever you say, make sure that you say something about church, or Christianity and turn the conversation back to them with the question ‘How about you? Have you ever had a church background?’

Again, keep it light and breezy.  You might say something like ‘I am accountant by day, but my involvement with my church is pretty important to me. How about you? Have you had any church background?’’

Or ‘I am retired, but I am pretty involved with my church. How about you? Have you had any church background?’

Or ‘I am a student studying social work, but my real passion is helping out the young people at my church. How about you? Have you had any church background?’’

They will either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  If they say ‘yes.’  They will have attended some kind of denominational school, or been to Sunday school as a kid, or had a grand parent or parent involved in Christianity.  Whatever asker they give, explore it further. Ask them questions like ‘What kind of church are you going to?’ or ‘What kind of church did you used to go to?’

But don’t go on for too long.   You want to get to the gospel presentation.  At some point, you’ll say something like:

“Can I show you an amazing video which summarises the whole Bible in 11 minutes?” If they have had some church background, they will usually agree to watch it immediately.

Make sure you have your iphone or ipod or mini DVD player, or lap top ready and cued at the right place, headphones ready and plugged in, with the volume setting just right.  It’s critical that the transition between your offer and their acceptance happens quickly.  Get them going and watch the presentation with them.  Try to avoid looking around or doing other things. This will help them stay focused. In your mind, you could be praying for the Holy Spirit to do His convicting and convincing work.

I talk about what to do when they get to the end of the video in a moment.

What happens when the person you are talking to has had no church background?

This is easy. You ask a question that creates intellectual interest.

For example you just say “Can I ask you a question? What’s the best selling book in the world?” They won’t know, so you’ll say, “It’s the Bible.  And do you know how old it is? It’s 4000 years old.  I have a video on my iphone which summarises the whole book in 11 minutes. It’s amazing. Here, have a listen. Just don’t steal my iphone.’

The critical thing here is to be gracious, smiling, and loving.

99% of the time, I don’t even ask the person I am talking to if they want to watch it. I just presume they have said ‘yes.’  Truly, 90% will enthusiastically just take your iphone that you are handing to them and just start watching.   This is not being pushy or forcing it on people. It just seems to be the approach which God is blessing.

Let me say it again – the key to all this is to be loving and gracious, and ‘light.’  Keep a smile on your face.

What about the 10 % who say ‘no thanks.’  I say ‘No worries. Here is a card where you can see it on line. You’ll love it! Hey, it’s been great talking wit you. Have a great day.’

Then proceed to hand them a www.biblein11.com business card with the web address on it.

When people get to the end, I ask 12 simple questions.

Here they are.

  1. What did you think?
  2. Can I ask you a few questions about the video? (they always agree)
  3. Have you ever told a lie in your life? (they’ll say yes of course)
  4. So what does that make you? A liar, right? Same as me.
  5. Have you ever taken something which was not your own?
  6. So what does that make you? A thief, right? Same as me. Bill, by your own confession, you thieving liar.  It doesn’t sound nice, but it the truth. And Bill, I am the same as you.
  7. Unfortunately, it get’s worse. Have you ever been hated someone, even just for a moment? (they will say ‘yes’) Me too. So what does that make you? A murderer. Same as me. Jesus said that if we have hated someone in our heart, we have murdered them in our heart.
  8. Now Bill, do you think God is going to let a couple of thieving lying murderers like you and me into heaven when we die?
  9. He won’t, right?

10. Bill, if you died tonight, where would you go? (nearly everyone confesses hell at this point)

11. Bill, is there any reason why you shouldn’t turn and surrender to Jesus and be forgiven right now? (usually they will say ‘no, there is no reason.’

12. Would you like to do this, right now?’

If they agree, then lead them in a simple salvation prayer.  Explain that you will pray this prayer, and ask them to repeat it after you, one sentence at a time. I always tell the person I am talking to that this prayer we are about to pray is personal between them and Jesus. E.g. ‘As you pray this prayer Bill, let it come from your heart.  Through this prayer we are about to pray, you are praying directly to Jesus.”

The pray goes something like this:

“Dear Jesus, by faith I believe You died on the cross to take my punishment for Your laws which I have broken. For the sake of justice, I admit I deserve to go to hell. I want to turn away from the things I know are sinful. I want to put You in the centre of my life. I surrender to You and invite You to form Your character within me. Please forgive me, and give me Your perfect record. Amen.”

You should conclude your prayer by asking God to come into Bill’s life and to fill him with His Holy Spirit. Explain to Bill that the Holy Spirit will help him to live to the fullest the new life he has chosen. Here is a suggested way to do this. “Holy Spirit, I invite You to come into my life, to fill me and empower me to live for God and His purposes on the earth! Thank you, in the name of Jesus, Amen.”

Always give away the follow up booklet ‘How to be sure of going to heaven when you die.’

What I have described above might seem scripted and canned, but God seems to be blessing this approach in a remarkable way.  Having explained all the above, I offer a couple of considerations.

Be open to the Holy Spirit guiding and directing the conversations, even giving words of knowledge about the person you are talking to.  So it might not happen exactly as I have described above.  What I have written above are prescriptions, not rules.

Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men.”  So expect Jesus to teach you how to evangelise.   He may show you ways of evangelizing which are unique to you and your particular personality.   Find out what works for you.  You’ll only be able to do this as you get out and have a go.  Jesus can’t make you a fisher of men unless you go fishing.  This is obvious. And remember, evangelism is not to be defined as the winning of souls. To evangelise is to proclaim the gospel.

When I first became a Christian 29 years ago, I was terrified of talking to strangers about my faith.  I didn’t know what to say, or even how to say it. It was SO daunting. But Jesus has taught me. If he can teach me, He’ll teach you.  This is His promise.

You just have to be willing! You have to start. There will be many bumps and bruises. Just keep going until you find your feet.

And consider this also.

Jesus said in Mark 16 ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel and signs and wonders will follow.’  Sometimes I ask the person at the very end if there is something I can pray for them for. E.g. a sickness or a condition they have.   Preaching the gospel opens the door to miracles, so be open and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in this respect.

Now, back to what’s good about air travel for evangelism.

And what about the mental state of the passengers? How does this aid evangelism?  When people travel, their minds are often free from the clutter of their home situations.  They seem to me to be more open to new ideas and world views. Perhaps this has to do with travel being an adventure.  Yes, they are actually looking for new experiences and exciting encounters.

What better situation for evangelism?

I have a friend travelling with me who is not at the stage of presenting the gospel through an iphone.

He is an introvert.

Making the initial connection scares him to death.  He doesn’t know what to say to start off the conversation or how to finish it.  He is more comfortable just leaving gospel booklets in strategic places around airports.  This is completely OK! At least he is participating in the Great Commission. He is being obedient to the command of Jesus to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’ (Mark 16:15).  He might not be preaching it yet, but he is spreading it via booklets. According to the scholars, this constitutes evangelism.

If we are not regularly preaching it or spreading it, we are being disobedient to the command of Jesus.  When evangelism is viewed in this way, how can anyone be justified not doing it?  Now, there’s a challenging thought.

Evangelism is about starting where you’re comfortable and being determined to pick up more skills and abilities as you go.  One day, my friend on this trip will acquire the confidence and skills to give present the gospel on his iphone. By the way, if this is the first blog you have read, ‘the gospel’ message we are delivering via iphone can be viewed at www.biblein11.com.

So, what happened on this flight from Auckland to Dubai?

The first leg was from Auckland to Melbourne.

I sat next to the fitness coach of New Zealand’s top provincial rugby sevens province. His name was Michael. The conversation went exactly as I have described in detail above.

At the end of the presentation of the gospel, I asked him if he would like to be forgiven right there and then, but he wanted to think about it, so I gave him the follow up booklet called ‘How to be sure of going to heaven when we die.’  This is a truly fantastic little booklet to give to people to explain what Christianity is all about and what a Christian is and is not.  I think it’s amazing. And here is the thing – it’s based on 29 years of experience reaching non-Christians with the gospel.  So it scratches where they itch. It asks and answers many of the questions non-Christians have.  I urge you to buy a packet  ($25 for a packet of 20 plus courier), and see for yourself. You can order them from www.esisite.com

The point to always remember is this – Michael has heard the gospel and the supernatural seed has been planted in the soil of his heart. I can trust the Holy Spirit to grow that seed (Mark 4:26-29).

That was Auckland to Melbourne.

The next leg was Melbourne to Dubai which is 16 hours.

We had one hour in transit in Melbourne.

During this hour, I tried my best to get an exit row seat so I could stretch my 6’ 4” frame a bit and get some sleep. The Emirates ground grew told me the flight was completely full, and I would have the same seat as the Auckland to Melbourne leg, which was in the middle of a row of three.

I remember thinking (not even a prayer) in the Melbourne airport lounge as we waited that the Lord couldn’t help me because there were no seats available and no one would want to give up an exit row seat, so I just resigned myself to a terrible flight to Dubai sitting next to Michael who had already heard the gospel.

I confess, I felt not a small touch doomy and gloomy. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t mind sitting next to Michael. We were like friends by now, talking about all kinds of things. It’s the seat configuration that I detested.

Just before we boarded, I went to the supervisor of the ground crew and asked her one more time if there had been any changes. She said there had!  It wasn’t an exit row seat but an aisle seat in a row of three. I took it.

When I went to this seat (I was nearly the last to board the plane), it was beside a well dressed businessman.  As I put my bags into the overhead locker, I noticed there was a row of three seats on my immediate right which were empty.  So Iquickly sat in the aisle seat of these three, quietly claiming them by faith! My faith began to rise.

Could it be that God had worked a miracle and I had three seats all to myself and I could lie down!?  Had He acted in spite of my complete unbelief and lack of faith in the airport lounge!?  I was right down the back of the plane.

Quietly confident and feeling a little more excited as the minutes ticked by, I looked believingly down the long aisle to the front of the plane, hoping the passengers who had these seats would not turn up.

Then came an announcement from the captain – “Ladies and gentleman, we hope to close the doors in a few minutes. We are just trying to locate 5 passengers who haven’t turned up. We should be underway soon. Thank you.”

It’s moments like these that evil prayers come forth! (Genesis 6:5-6). I was praying these 5 wouldn’t turn up.

As the seconds ticked on, the miracle looked more and more likely. Suddenly, in the distance, five people bag laidened people suddenly appeared, sweaty and bedraggled, hustling and bustling their way in my direction. Sigh.

Oh, well, it wasn’t to be, so I moved over to sit next to my well dressed businessman.

Instantly, we clicked, and I could extend one leg into the aisle so I was happy.  I gave the gospel to this lovely man, who said he went to church. At the end, he confessed that if he died tonight, he would go straight to hell.  He was shocked.  He didn’t want convert right there and then, but he gave me his business card so I could email him a PDF file of the follow up booklet.

It turned out he was the general manager of one of Australia’s biggest universities. Wow!  I had a strong sense the change of seat was not for me, but for him.  The plane was by this time in full flight.

Within one minute of finishing with this dear man, the steward came to me and asked if I wanted an exit row seat! I couldn’t believe it.

This next bit is bizarre.

The steward asked me to get up out of my seat and move to the galley.  Here a stewardess gave me some celery and carrot sticks on a nice platter with a selection of dips. What on earth was going on?  Oh well, whatever it was, I was enjoying the moment!

When the steward returned, he explained that they was a very fat man in one of the exit row seats, and they couldn’t have an unfit overweight person in an exit row, for safety reasons.  But this big guy needed two seats to accommodate his bottom – so I was discretely told by the steward.   The steward said he was having to figure out how to give the big guy two seats on a full flight.

Well, to cut a long story short it was like this.  The seat I vacated next to Michael and my introverted friend (remember mine was the middle of three) was now vacant.

The steward, not knowing where I had been seated on the flight from Auckland to Melbourne (a different crew boarded in Melbourne), noticed my vacant seat, the one I had used between Auckland and Melbourne.

He asked Michael my fitness friend to move next to my manager of the university friend.  This left two seats next to my introverted travelling companion free for the guy with the big bottom.

My travelling companion wasn’t too happy, but I explained as any evangelist would, that the Lord works in mysterious ways.   With that, and glancing across at the big guy, my friend promptly took a sleeping pill.

And I took the exit row seat.  I prayed my extroverted friend was able to give the gospel to the man with the big bottom (before the pill took effect), and my fitness friend and my university manager (the only two people on the whole plan who had heard my gospel presentation) were able to swop notes about the same.

I was given the window seat in a row of three exit rows seats, and the people beside me couldn’t speak a word of English! Through broken sign language, I invited them to join me eating the carrot and celery platter with dips, but they didn’t partake.

After polishing off the platter, I fell asleep.

When I woke, I went down the back of the plane, and talked to the crew about the natural. The conversation soon switched to the supernatural, two of the crew heard the gospel through my ihpone.

The two ladies in the photo converted to Christ on the spot.  It was a divine appointment, no question.  They gave me their email addresses so I could send them a PDF file of the follow up booklet and I gave them a biblein11 business card so they could see the presentation on line again.

Wow! What a flight to Dubai.  Sure beats watching movies.

P.S when I last looked, my introverted travelling companion was fast asleep, leaning his head on the shoulder of the big guy.   I can’t wait to see what happens when the sleeping pill wears off!  For safety reasons, I don’t recommend taking sleeping pills on long flights, unless you can be sure you are OK cuddling up to the person next to you!  I have just witnessed first hand the side effects of these pills.  They make one quite affectionate with anyone within a two-meter radius!

All glory to Jesus for getting me the exit row seat.

For those of you who are praying – thank you. It’s making a big difference.

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  • Bruce McIntyre says:

    What a testimony of GODs guidance!
    I would like tosay I have had an experience like that, but alas poor Brucie.
    However, the 11 minute GOSPEL video I have on my IPOD has opened doors in our local community.
    We are having a combined youth service this Sunday at 4PM at the local Vision Church, and I have made some leaflets to distribute around to the youth after school.
    The response has been really positive. Quite a few of the young adults no us through singing on the streets and Iknow some have seen the video.
    So I am expecting a good follow up from the outreach both the work done ( Sewing seed and tilling the ground) and the Vision youth combining the youth groups from the combined assemblies in Tokoroa.
    GOD is on the move here, but it does take work and commitment from those willing to Evangelise ( Proclaim the full GOSPEL).

  • admin says:

    Hi Bruce,
    I continue to pray for you each day down there and thank God for your faithfulness and commitment to the great Cause! You are such a wonderful example brother!
    Keep up the great work down there in Tokoroa. It’s inspirational.

    Bless you
    Julian

  • Brenda Batchelor says:

    Great words you write Julian.Its awesome what you are doing and keep safe wherever you go.We want you back safely brother in law.
    Love you heaps Brenda :)

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