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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- When planting a church on Chicago's North Shore, we hosted a variety of short-term mission teams who joined us in a range of outreach efforts, all with a Gospel witness -- from door-to-door surveys to concerts in the park to bottled water handouts along pedestrian and bike paths.
One approach we used repeatedly involved cash handouts to the volunteers. We'd give them $5 or $10 and send them into the community to buy things and to strike up spiritual conversations in the process. They wouldn't be interrupting business but, rather, piggybacking on it.
The results were gratifying. It gave our workers focus and accountability, knowing we'd all report back in short order. It planted Gospel seeds and surfaced prospects. And despite what you might think, it didn't cost that much when compared to other projects, where we rented generators and sound systems, printed special T-shirts, and such.
A couple of weeks ago, I tried it with my personal evangelism class at Southern Seminary's northwest Arkansas extension, and the guys came through. They'd submitted weekly witness reports throughout the semester (with, for instance, Dallas Auslam of Sulphur City Baptist Church in Elkins seeing several conversions and baptisms).
But this time they had an hour and a half rather than seven days to lift up the Lord in conversation.
As for the reports, I'll let two of the students speak for themselves. First, Corbin Hobbs of First Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark.:
"As I walked out of the classroom, I had no idea where I was going or who I was going to talk to. So, naturally, I climbed into my little Honda Civic, began driving and praying that God would show me who I needed to share the Gospel with.
"After driving for about 10 minutes, I saw a couple walking on the side of the road who looked as though they were in their late forties. I put my flashers on and picked them up. Rick and Jackie needed a ride to the Northwest Arkansas Mall. So, I drove them there.
"As we pulled in the parking lot, I offered to walk in with them and buy them breakfast at the Chick-fil-A in the food court. They seemed excited at the offer and gladly accepted. Upon buying their meal with the $10 that I was given, I asked if I could sit with them for a little while.
"As we sat in the food court of the mall, I was able to share with them how God had changed my life through a relationship with His Son. I asked them what they thought it meant to have a relationship with God that would lead to eternal life. They explained that a person must go to church, read their Bible and pray.
"I explained that although these are all good things, they are not what qualify us for a relationship with God. For the next few minutes, we talked through Ephesians 2. We focused in on verses 8-9 and talked about the grace of God and faith.
"Although neither Rick nor Jackie were saved that day, I was able to interject truth into their lives. After discussing the Gospel over their chicken biscuits, I prayed for them. I prayed for Jackie's job and Rick's struggle with alcohol. It is incredible to see how God can use you to bless people with a simple breakfast as you share the Gospel with them."
And then Chad Plummer of First Baptist Church in Bentonville:
"Greg Luka [of Northwest Community Church in Bella Vista] and I headed to the mall to seek out a way to spend our $10.
"Unfortunately we arrived at 9, and the stores didn't open till 10. Elderly people were walking and exercising, and there were a few mall workers getting their stores ready for the day. Greg and I split up, and I began to walk around the mall looking for an opportunity to spend our $10.
"Since none of the stores were open yet, I decided to take a different approach. I spotted a young college student on a bench and decided to offer him the $10 if he would listen to me for a few minutes.
"I explained who I was and what I was doing and then began sharing the Gospel with him. He had just finished his freshman year at the University of Arkansas and was waiting on [a particular store] to open so that he could turn in some paperwork for his new job there. He said that he believed he had made a commitment to Christ and was actively involved in a Bible study.
"I walked him through the Roman Road and asked if he knew that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. He replied yes and that God was using people in his life to draw him deeper into a relationship. Shawn had not grown up in a Christian home and seemed to me to be a baby Christian but was really pursing God on his own while he was at school. I offered to pray with Shawn and then gave him the $10."
Chad added, "$10 evangelism has helped me get over my initial fear and apprehension about sharing my faith. My only regret is that Dr. Coppenger didn't have us do this at the beginning of the semester."
Indeed, I wish I had.
Mark Coppenger is director of the Nashville extension center and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).