Why bus stops? Good question. Let me explain. Let me give you a brief history on how I stumbled across the idea. Two summers years ago I did my first internship at GFC. I was hired as a part-time summer evangelist (12 weeks long). How should I start? I had no idea. The elders suggested that I begin going door-to-door to invite people to church; this would give me a better feel for the dynamics of the community, and it would remind people that there is a church in the neighbourhood which they are welcome to. I was nervous, but by God’s grace I went. Indeed, going door-to-door certainly helped me get a much better grasp of the demographics of our church neigbourhood.
Going door-to-door was a very interesting experience to say the least. To this day I still have good relations with many people in the church neighbourhood, which came as a result of simply getting out there and introducing myself (and the church) in a friendly manner. Some people are genuinely interested in a church which is in their own neighbourhood. They are more likely to come to your Christmas and Easter services if you are that friendly person who stops in every now and then to say hello and to see how they are.
I would sometimes try to talk to people at their door (lawn/porch) if I sensed they had time to talk. Sometimes I would eventually try sharing the Gospel with them. I think I only had the door slammed in my face a few times. I recall being swore at only a few times (in English). Most people were polite, but not interested. Once in a while the Lord opened doors for the spread of the Gospel (which was great!), but the opportunities seemed far and few between.
One day at the beginning of the summer, after knocking on many doors without many people home and without much gossipping of the Gospel, I thought to myself, “I will go to the bus stops, I know there are people there.” I was afraid of approaching strangers, but I knew that God was (and is) with me and that He was (and is) powerful to cause people to listen. Accordingly, I prayed and went, and the Lord opened many doors!
I found that many people were willing to listen. Many people had good questions about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Of course, there were those who were glad to have my ear so that they could preach a different message to me! Even so, many people who I spoke with had never heard the Gospel before. How do I know this? I would ask them. After sharing the Gospel, I would say, “Have you ever heard this message before?” Many had not . . . even church goers!
So, why bus stops? Because I can get an ear – that is one of the main reasons. Ear? Yes, I said ear. Paul wrote, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We must remember that it is the message of the Gospel which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Bus stops are obviously not the be-all and end-all of evangelism, but they are places where people have time to give you an ear (or two) to listen to the truth of the Gospel (which they may have never heard before or simply never understood).
What is especially good about bus stops is that people are generally bored. They do not have much to do while they wait. From my limited experiences in Rexdale, I have noticed that (generally speaking) people are more open to talk with me at bus stop than at their front door (when they could be online, watching TV, etc.). Furthermore, they know the conversation will come to end as soon as the bus comes. This reassures them that this talk about the Christian Gospel will not be endless. So, everyone I approach listens right? Not exactly. Of course people reject me and politely say, “thanks but no thanks.” However, I think most Christians in Canada would be shocked (and I mean shocked!!!) by how many people are actually willing to listen and dialogue at bus stops. In fact, I was recently sharing about this bus stop ministry with a man who agreed that the Lord will eventually open doors, but he said (with sincerity), “about one in a million.” I had to inform him that the ratio is much smaller. But more on this later.
So how does it work? What is my method? I do not have one. Every situation is different. Every person is different. Every bus stop area has its own unique setting. Thus, I flex. I am not a robot. As mystical as this may sound, the truth remains, “the Spirit leads.” Cookie cutter evangelistic methods fail to realize that in evangelism we are talking to real people who have a real past with real issues that are unique. Not that it is wrong to have a general approach to gravitate to, but as ambassador’s of Christ, though we preach Christ, we also need to listen to people and take care to make sure they are understanding God’s message (cf. Colossians 1:6). When they have questions and objections, we must care for them and interact in an appropriate manner (every situation is different). This means that it may not be best to stay on your Romans road, or a Ray Comfort “Would you consider yourself to be a good person?” approach, or a John Piper “Did you know God commands your happiness?” track. These are all good approaches, which I personally use, but we must be sure to try to get to know the people we meet. Can you image sitting at the lunch room and having a pre-set speech that you had planned for every person you spoke with? There is something about that which is a little off.
Our primary aim is NOT to feel good that we said this and then that! Our primary aim is to please Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9), and this is centred in preaching his Gospel; but such practise ought to be controlled by “the love of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:14). And what does this mean? It certainly refers to our love for Christ, but also his love working in us for others. So, we must really love those who we are talking to. Such love must preach, but this preaching is the preaching of a shepherd who cares for those with whom he speaks. With all that being said, there is a general way I usually go about meeting people.
Generally speaking, I simply go up to a person who is not right beside anyone else (so that I do not embarrass one person in the midst of a crowd) and I simply offer them a free coin (with the 10 commandments on it) or tract. While I offer it to him, I smile, encourage him to take it as a free gift and explain who I am, that I am from the church down the road and that I am out on the streets sharing the Gospel with people. Then I will simply ask if he would be willing to let me talk with him about the Gospel while he waits for his bus. Then, if his is willing, we talk. If he is not willing, I will sometimes plead briefly (saying, something like, “please, this is very important”). If he is still unwilling, I will respect his wish and gently withdraw (feeling sadness in my heart).
For those who I am speaking with, when I see the bus coming, I give them a free New Testament which has an insert, which is a clear presentation of the Gospel (which I wrote). By the way, I tend to think that people are more inclined to read something that you wrote (once they have met you) rather than something by some guy (or gal) they have never met. Now with that being said, I do hand out tracts with stuff written by MacArthur and Piper, etc., but this side note is simply an encouragement for you to write out the Gospel message, calling sinners to come freely – to repent and believe the Gospel. People who know you and meet you just may read it! Hey, why not ask them to edit it?! Now, on the topic of the literature, what I hand out includes my contact info and all the church info (church address, times of services, website, etc.). Thus, future correspondence is definitely an option.
How many people are willing to talk? Well, I have not recorded the stats, but based on a rough estimate from my limited memory, I would say at least a third of the people who I approach are willing to talk (generally speaking . . . every day is different). This may be different in your area, but I thank God for bus stops! Think about how many ears are hearing the Gospel!
But what about friendships? Some may think, “you will never see these people again.” That is usually true. Even so, that is not a bad thing; people get sanctified by the truth (John 17:17), and even though people also come to Christ in conjunction with observation of Christian love and unity (John 13:35 and 17:20-21), never underestimate the power of the message itself. Just think of the written message of the Gospel of John. Now, I know that it is inspired, but even so, he did not have to become friends first before people were positively effected by his message. I know this argument is not air tight, but there is something to be said for the power of the Gospel itself. And though there is some merit to the slogan, “you have to earn your right to speak,” it has it’s problems too. Think about this: God has spoken – He has earned his right to speak – you are simply sharing His message (which He commands you to spread) – He has the power to open doors when and where he wills. This is just some food for thought.
So, it is usually true that I do not see people again (who I have met a bus stops). However, that is not always true. At the beginning of my internship two years ago I thought I would never see these people again. However, after a summer of bus stop ministry I learned something: many people who use the bus are regulars. They typically use the same bus stops (at roughly the same times). Just think, you could become the chaplain of a bus stop! I am not kidding. Some people were glad to see me (an evangelist!) when they were waiting for a bus; I was someone they knew, who they could talk to! By God’s grace there is currently a couple attending our church, who first visited our church largely as a result of the bus stop ministry two years ago. Furthermore, you would be shocked to see how many people the Lord gave me ongoing dialogue with during my summer evangelism ministry two summers ago – may the Lord see fit to open such doors again this summer. This is not to my praise or honour. Keep in mind – the bus stop ministry was not my idea; I accidentally stumbled across it because of frustrations with door-to-door ministry. To God be all the glory for any good that has been done through the bus stop ministry. I am nothing (Galatians 6:3).
Another main reason why I keep doing bus stops is because it is a great place to train those who want to grow in their faithfulness and ability in sharing the Gospel. I have led evangelism training seminars before, where I taught on evangelism and even where I encouraged practise evangelism; however, nothing compares to actually getting out there and trying to spread the Gospel.
Anyhow, I have learned that there are people out there wondering, “what’s up with this bus stop stuff?” Well, this post is simply an attempt to share some of the reasons why I devote some time each week to evangelism at bus stops. I hope that it will encourage you to seriously consider where you can best get an ear (or two) in your area. I also go to a local mall as well as a particular coffee shop in the area where I try to build relationships and spread the Gospel. In addition, I am doing a program-oriented childrens evangelism minsitry with Grace Chapel in Markham. Doing an evangelistic Bible study would be ideal, but I need a seeker to start (may the Lord grant one!). I think there are many other great ways to advance the Gospel (through street preaching, Bible studies, tracts, sports, teaching english, service, free literature tables, free stuff, etc., etc.). As someone told me not too long ago: “there is only one way to God, but many ways to Jesus.” Bus stops are just one way.