I’ve never won a person to Christ on a plane. It has just never happened that way for me. I have witnessed to people on a plane many times. Anyone who knows me knows I care about the topic of witnessing. I have been following one of the most prolific, premier authors of the last few years “Rachel Held Evans.” Check her out. She will make you think. While I have never fully examined her theology, I’m pretty sure she would fall into a more theologically liberal category than some. I’m not there, but I respect her interpretations of some of the hard stuff even when I disagree. She brings us stuff that others do not. I respect that much.
Rachel Held Evans wrote a post called “Why I don’t witness to people on airplanes.” Go read the post before or after finishing this one. Evans article can be wrapped up in this idea from her post. She said,
“Planted seeds are the consolation prizes of failed evangelists.”
Evans goes on to basically say that if someone witnesses to a person on a plane using a gospel presentation that person is forcing the other person to make a decision. You are making the person listen even if the person does not want to listen. Evans does admit that she is struggling with witnessing and says “maybe I’m a chicken.” Well, we are all chicken at some point. That is true. Yet I want to give principles for how to share the gospel in a plane (or anywhere). It is not as difficult as you think.
How to witness to someone on a plane (and not be a jerk)?
1. Pray first asking the Holy Spirit to open the door as He sees fit.
2. Don’t act like a jerk in the preflight time. If you are rude to airline workers, others waiting for the plane, or are rude getting to your seat, DON’T WITNESS.
3. Once seated, introduce yourself. Buckle in. Pray.
4. Keep the conversation going. Be real. Don’t converse just to witness. Do it because it what your mother calls “good manners.” The conversation will go something like this:
Destination: where are you going?
Donde Vive: where do you live?
Job: Where do you work? (this one is always tricky for me, I’m a pastor
Family: are you married? Do you have kids?
5. At this point you will know if you have freedom to ask about faith. If it’s a go, do it. The easiest way to do this is to ask “Do you go to church” or you can say “do you do church?” This will illicit a response. If the response is good, inviting, probe more. Lovingly. Carefully. The way the person responds will dictate how far you can go.
6. If you get to the point where you can do it, share your faith in Jesus in 1 minute. Serious. No more time than that. If you cannot do that, you are not thinking enough about it. Here’s what it would sound like:
“John, you know I’m not a religious person. I actually can’t stand religion. I didn’t grow up in the church. Yet when I was 24, I got to the end of myself. I was just dying in life. I knew I needed a change. And that is when I placed my faith in Christ. Things are not perfect in my life, but they are better. God brought a steadiness to my soul.”
“John, were are you with faith?”
7. The chances of you getting to share to gospel actually see the person come to faith in Christ on a plane is slim. We do live in a “relationship” culture. Having a view of evangelism where success is defined only by winning the person, well, it is not biblical. Sowing the seed of the gospel is always a good thing. And most of the time we sow seeds into peoples lives.
8. If the person you are witnessing to is not interested, your response will be crucial. Do not respond with any negatives. Do not go for a second try either. That works in a coffee shop, not on a plane. A plane is too private yet public for a debate.
9. Leave room no matter how your initial conversation goes, so you can give the person a book. Not a track, but a book. A good book that connects people with the gospel yet is not a straight up “you are going to hell” book. I would recommend Dr. Ken Hemphill’s “He is” books. The best book I’d recommend is “The Prayer of Jesus.” This book is a book on prayer but is not religious sounding. It’s based on the Lord’s Prayer. It’s short. Ken tells great family stories that everyone would like. And best of all, there is a gospel conversation that is subtle, yet effective.
Ask the person if you can give a book to him/her before you show the book. Permission is a good thing. Most people will accept a gift, especially a good looking book. Again, do not give a tract. If that image is still in you head, you are behind.
10. Be gracious. Do not try to convince as must as share the gospel. Story, yours, is more powerful than a presentation. Again, if you are still thinking presentation only, you are behind. A presentation is important. Most people who do not share the gospel do not share it because they do not know how. A lack of know how will not overcome fear.
Again, witnessing is not that hard. It mostly takes courage as a result of spiritual growth in your own life. My challenge with Evans’ post and many responses in the thread, is that we are making evangelism something it is not. The word evangelism in Greek means herald. It means a witness is a verbalized presentation of the gospel. Yes, print media counts. I’m just saying the old St. Francis of Assisi quote “Share the gospel … use words if necessary” is only half the doctrine. Words are necessary. I’ve never seen anyone converted by saying “your life looks so wonderful. I want to receive Jesus.” Now that is not exactly where Evans goes, but the discussion can lead there at the very least.
We are living in the last times or at least in times where the end time clouds are on the horizon. The church cannot afford to not sow seeds. We may just reap where another person sowed (John 4). That is only possible if you sow.
So, the next time you travel. Get a good book to give your flight neighbors. Why not? Would Jesus have not witnessed to Nicodemus if they were on a plane?