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Using coffee, conversation as evangelism tools in Portugal

LISBON, Portugal (BP)–What do missionaries do when serving in a self-reliant urban location where the residents have little patience for gospel tracts, EvangeCubes and other traditional forms of evangelism?

They find the nearest café, order espresso and a pastry, and spend time getting to know one of the locals. Ideally, the small talk turns to spiritual matters and presents an opportunity to share a personal testimony or even the plan of salvation. But perhaps the conversation simply opens the door to a deeper friendship, growing trust and future occasions to share the Word of God.

A team of 14 LifeWay Christian Resources employees received a crash course in this type of relational evangelism during a LifeWay-sponsored mission trip to Lisbon, Portugal in June.

“It isn’t traditional evangelism -– it’s just life,” said Scott George, team leader for the International Mission Board’s Young Lisbon ministry and contact for the LifeWay team. “Our bread and butter is the relationship and reaching the people that the church doesn’t reach.”

Lisbonites, he added, take part in an average of 68 positive spiritual conversations before they come to a relationship with Christ.

“There are only so many of us,” he added, referring to the IMB team based in Lisbon. “We can’t get to everyone.”

With a goal of collecting 1,000 contacts with which the permanent Lisbon missionaries could follow up, LifeWay team members spent nine days pounding cobblestone city blocks, engaging locals in conversations. The goal was to establish future relationships and seek opportunities to share the plan of salvation with anyone willing to listen.

Team member Emily Cole said the trip allowed her the opportunity to learn about her personal evangelism responsibility and to develop her ability to see others through God’s eyes.

“I’m going to come back different,” she said. “I’ll be more focused on my day-to-day evangelism.”

George acknowledged that many teams who conduct short-term missions in Western Europe struggle with how difficult sharing God’s Word can be in a location generally unfamiliar with Christ beyond the connection to the many elegant Catholic cathedrals throughout the city.

“I just tell teams to remember that God’s Word does not return void,” George said, adding that the short-term missionaries with whom he works often tell him their time in Lisbon encourages them to conduct relational evangelism in their daily lives in the United States. “When you ask people about God, they can’t help but think about Him –- that’s human nature.

“We recognize that this is a process and God is working through that. We don’t know where we are in the process, but we’re being obedient to take part in it.”

After spending a day working to develop one-on-one relationships, the team gathered in strategic locations throughout Lisbon with guitars, percussion instruments and a flute in hand to hold a public worship service.

Each night, choruses of “In Christ Alone,” “How Great is Our God” and other songs filled busy city parks and public areas as Lisbonites went about their evening business. Several stopped to listen, others pointedly ignored the sounds, but countless people heard.

“The highlight of the trip has been worshipping God outdoors at night and seeing people stop by to listen,” said Adam Dark, manager of the Springfield, Mo., LifeWay Christian Store and djembe (drum) player for the team.

The trip was one of several that LifeWay sponsors throughout the year for its employees. The next mission trip will be to St. John’s, Newfoundland, later this month.

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  • Brooklyn Noel