We can learn by making mistakes ourselves, or we can learn from someone else’s mistakes. When it comes to street witnessing (or life in general), I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth more times than I can count. Many things in life are prone to pitfalls, and evangelism is even more so. Below is a list of a few tried-and-true tips that I’ve learned through the years, which have helped me become a better soul winner when going out with a group to share the gospel. I hope you’ll find them useful in avoiding mistakes yourself.
Don’t have more than three in a group when you approach someone—otherwise you’ll be intimidating.
Do rotate. Let everyone who’s interested get a chance to participate. For newer people, it’s often helpful to assign each person a different part of the conversation—one starts the dialogue, another goes through the Law, and the last shares the gospel.
Don’t wear sunglasses or chew gum when speaking to people.
Do always leave them with a tract and a church card in their hand.
Don’t be weird—standing too close, speaking in Christianese, etc.
Do show genuine care for the person—maintain eye contact, listen, smile.
Don’t steal sheep from other Christian churches. Don’t go on autopilot and try to sell everyone on attending your church; if they’re already at a good church, don’t try to yank them out.
Do pay close attention to what the person speaking is saying.
Don’t take rejection personally. Jesus said, “He who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16). Just make sure they’re rejecting the gospel and not the way you’re presenting it (by being harsh, unfriendly, etc.).
Do look for people hanging out; people walking are often harder to engage in conversation.
Don’t interrupt people, complete their sentences, answer questions before they finish asking, etc.
Do have men witness to men, and women witness to women. While I wouldn’t call this a hard rule, it’s often a better practice. There will often be an attraction to the opposite gender, which can be a distraction at times (if not for you, for them). Mixed groups of both genders aren’t generally an issue, but two girls approaching two guys can end up with misfocused attention.
Don’t chat with a friend on the side when someone’s witnessing. Stay focused, and don’t become a distraction. Pray, listen, learn.
Do keep safety first. Only witness in safe public areas. Avoid thinking, “Hey, it’d be cool to witness to the drug dealers in that dark alley.” (Drug dealers eventually walk on the well-lit sidewalks too, with all the other lost people.)
Don’t dress immodestly. You want the focus on Christ, not yourself.
Do pick up any trash. When mall security sees a lot of tracts on the floor, it can leave a bad taste in their mouth for your future trips.
“Do use breath mints. It’s hard to hear the words of life through the breath of death.”
Don’t dishonor the authorities. Whether it is mall security or a law enforcement officer, if they ask you to leave, respond with respect, humility, and politeness. Remember Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Do invest quality time into memorizing the message and practicing witnessing at home.
Don’t forget to take 2 Timothy 2:23–26 deeply to heart:
“Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
Do use breath mints. It’s hard to hear the words of life through the breath of death.
Don’t get discouraged. One plants, another waters, but God gives the increase. You’ve done your part, and you can be confident God will do His—when you stop speaking the Holy Spirit doesn’t. Learn to go “blind” when you witness, not taking joy in the person’s outward expression, but in that the gospel was faithfully preached. If anyone is to be saved it’ll be because the Father draws them.