One of Covenant Family Church’s valued relationships is with Pastor Glenn Middleton from Sturgis, Michigan. Glenn is an incredibly dynamic evangelist who wants to see people come to Jesus and be set free. On July 26th, Pat Forbes and Crystal Maertens got a chance to sit down with Glenn and ask his thoughts on how to overcome the fear of being rejected when you bring up the topic of Jesus and salvation to someone. These tips are very practical for members of our local church, especially in light of the recent mission trip led by Tim West. A group from our church took an opportunity to travel to the Twin Cities area and help with some street ministries and share the Gospel.
Q-If people are scared or nervous to approach people with the Gospel do you have any practical tips or other advice?
A- The fear is of rejection. That is number one. But the people are rejecting the Gospel, not the individual… So, if people can disconnect themselves from that it will help. Number two, build relationships. You can’t drive a 20 ton truck across a one ton bridge… Start by building with your Friends, your Relatives, and business Associates, and Neighbors. I use the acronym F.R.A.N. for those people, who are the key people to reach in anyone’s life. Remember, about 90% of all people who come to church get there through a member of F.R.A.N. and a relationship that was already there.
Q-If you share the Gospel with someone and they say they want to give their life to Jesus but seem to be doing it only to oblige you or to get you to leave them alone, is there a way to follow up with them? Do you just accept that maybe you were just planting a seed or watering one that was already there?
A- Excellent question. It takes about seven contacts for a person to be truly warmed up to receive the Gospel. People are always in different processes. In the past, the church has not been out talking to people, the chances of hitting a person to receive Christ right off, without a supernatural manifestation, is pretty limited. But the more you get the church or churches out talking to people, especially their FRANs, the more receptive the people are to hearing about Jesus. When people truly accept Jesus, they will have a desire to go to church. If someone “receives” Jesus, but doesn’t really have a desire to go to church, then they were probably wanting to receive religion rather than a true conversion. The reason people aren’t getting saved like they used to, is because there are less Christians warming the soil. It takes a soil temperature of around 50 degrees to get a corn kernel to open up and grow. So we have to warm the soil.
Q-Do you have any kind of routine that you use to bring Jesus into a conversation?
A- I always try to steer the conversation in some specific direction… The average person (Christian) thinks about talking with people they don’t know, and we need to squash that. Let’s just start off talking to people we do know, FRAN, (laughs), you are going to hear that a lot from me. We gotta start talking to people we already know and begin warming the soil and we will start to see more people get saved.
Q- Do you get shot down a lot yourself when you share the Gospel?
A- Very seldom because of how I approach people. First of all, I approach them honorably, I don’t treat them as less than, stupid, or ignorant. I come at them as a person who loves and cares for them. The key to it is that I am going to tell them of the wonderful things that the Lord has done for me. That disengages philosophy, that disengages it all. Because all you’re saying is “This is what God did for me and I appreciate you so much that I want you to have the same Jesus I have.” That’s disarming. When you throw out scripture and when you throw out “I believe” (into a conversation) you are asking for a rebuttal. You know what? Passion will take you a million miles. If you are a passionless person, go to church until you get some passion for Jesus (laughs). What people are looking for today is passionate believers who love God. Again, when you are around your FRAN people, they are watching you to see how much passion you have. So, how often do I get rejected? Pretty rarely, but don’t think that every person I talk to gets saved… But I do think of myself as an international harvester. I’m looking for the people who are already warmed up, the red apples. The problem is, that a lot of Christians look at green apples. They are looking at hardcore people that haven’t been warmed up by God’s people and then they wonder why they don’t reach someone for Christ. The other problem with some Christians is that they say, “I’m going to talk and share with this person until they get saved, then I’ll move on”… We’ve got to spread a lot of seed because then you are more apt to see people saved.
Q-So when you look at it (evangelism) that way, it places a lot more importance on acting Christ-like, instead of giving yourself a free pass if you are having a bad day.
A- Yeah, we have to know that every place we are at, we are ambassadors. I remember, my dad used to say, “You’re a Middleton, so act like one.” We weren’t allowed to hang out our dirty clothes. An example, people will get mad at the church, or the elders or pastor and then they’ll go to work and run down their church. Then a month later they’ll invite those (coworkers) to church and the coworkers will remember what was said. So we need to be people who are ambassadors, who know that people are always watching and that the Spirit of the Living God is moving out of us…. Really, the church needs to be outwardly focused…. The more disciples we have the more exciting the church service is.
Q-What do you do when you have someone who has prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and received Jesus, but is still living with their boyfriend or girlfriend? What is the next step?
A- Well it’s a choice. Now that’s a confrontation, a clash of the two kingdoms. The kingdom of darkness says, “I gotta stay with my boyfriend.” The Kingdom of the Heavenly Father says, “I love God more than I love myself,” and that is agape love. So now we have some choices. You’re probably gonna have to move out of that relationship for at least a season…. If you are going to be part of a country as a citizen, you are going to have to conform to that country or kingdom. Too many times we say, “Jesus takes you as you are,” well He doesn’t do that. He receives you as a son when you confess to Him and ask forgiveness for your sin. But you can’t just turn around and jump right back into your sin just because you felt bad about it for a little bit…Jesus said that we would get life by following his commandments…. That is not legalistic. It’s common sense.
Q-Do you (your church) have a discipleship process? If people come in and get saved and really want to live for God, do you have people that always work with them or a process to help with them?
A- I believe that life is in the cell. They used to call them cell groups, now they call them life groups, fellowship groups, or specialty groups. I think when people come into the church, we have got to find a way to get them into groups. Once they are into a group, a small group of 8 to 10, life begets life. The other thing you can do you, is have groups that are just for new believers. All these new people can be in the same thing, and grow in the same area. So we need to be looking for life groups and place where they can be shepherded. And you expect your pastor to be able to pastor 200 people in the same way he could for 50. Some people waste a lot of time by building all these things and then trying to bring in the lost. That is not how it is in a real family. Nobody says when they first get married, “You know, I think we are going to have four or five kids, so I think we better buy a house right now”. People don’t do that. Once we bring in the lost, then the pressure is there to have teachings and systems in place.
Q- In church culture today, it’s easy to equate inviting someone to church with preaching the Gospel. Do you have any thoughts on that?
A- I want people to invite, invite, invite. But preaching the Gospel is when you sit down, because you have built relationship, and you actually say, “I really need to share the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life.” I talked to my neighbor and asked him to forgive me for not being a very good neighbor. He said that I was one of the best neighbors he ever had, but I told him I had failed him. I said, “Here you are, right next door and I haven’t shared with you the greatest thing that has ever happened in my life.” Then you know, he is going to get some Gospel! Then I shared with him about heaven and hell. I shared with him about Jesus and He is the only begotten Son of God and He came to give us life and He wants to live in us now and later on we will be able to live with Him in heaven. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel. It’s the greatest thing that has ever happened in our lives.
Q- What are your thoughts about scriptural formula like the Romans Road, versus a relational approach?
A- Well I have Romans Road taped in my Bible. But if we just say the scripture without a relationship we make it like a laboratory….You can’t make a big animal, like a horse, drink, but you can give ‘em some salt and make them thirsty. That is why Jesus said we are the salt of the earth because we are supposed to make people thirsty for the Gospel.
Q-When you meet resistance, where is the line between driving on and realizing that the soil isn’t quite warm enough yet?
A- If you see a person that is tender or they have been hurt or wounded, you just need to blow some more snow for them, take them some chicken noodle soup. I mean you have to build that relationship and if you see or feel the resistance, I just don’t push through. I just say, “Maybe we can talk again some other time,” and try to end (the talk) upbeat and I tell them how much I appreciate them and that I am sorry for the hurt in their life. So if there is resistance, stop, because you are going to tick them off at you. At that point, they aren’t rejecting Jesus, they are rejecting you.