Why Patience Is the Key to Outreach

Sharing the love of Jesus with friends and family members is often not a sprint. Sometimes it can be a marathon. Doing outreach with parents, siblings, friends, colleagues and other people God places in your life takes time and Spirit-granted patience.

I have one family member who came from a very intellectual background. He was a deep thinker, a committed reader, and waffled between atheism and agnosticism. I prayed for him, shared my own journey with Jesus and presented the Gospel to him on many occasions over two decades. Sometimes when I was praying the hardest and having some of the best spiritual conversations with him, he seemed farther from God than ever. It just didn’t make sense to me. I knew spiritual battles were taking place, but there was no rhyme or reason to any of it. One day he would be open; the next, he would be pushing back or pull away. It was very frustrating.

I would give him books like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell and The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. While he read these books and reflected on them, he would not take that step of faith to believe in Jesus. At times, I felt disheartened, discouraged and ready to give up. As much as I loved this guy, it felt like there were zero indications that his heart was growing soft or open to the Good News of Jesus. Numerous times, I was tempted to move on to “greener pastures” and focus on people who seemed more open to the Gospel. But God kept calling me to pray, share yet again and look for new ways to connect him to Jesus.

After close to 20 years of me walking with this man, his heart began to soften. He started asking new questions about Jesus, the Bible and the Christian faith with a sense of urgency and openness. Over time he was able to think through many of his questions, but he also realized he could never make it all the way to Jesus through his intellect—he needed to take a step of faith, a genuine surrender. When he finally cried out to Jesus for cleansing and new life, he was transformed. It was a joy to watch! The Holy Spirit swept in like a fresh spring breeze and brought life to this young man. A new kindness marked his interactions with other family members. A gracious spirit took over his heart. His whole life direction began to shift toward the things of God.

It took more than two decades of patient prayer, sharing, friendship and risk-taking conversations, but it was all worth it. I knew I could easily have given up. And I am so thankful that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit.

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Kevin Harney
Kevin Harney is the Lead Pastor of Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, CA. He is the author of: Organic Outreach for Ordinary People, Leadership from the Inside Out, and Seismic Shifts and other books and curriculum. He and his wife Sherry have written over sixty small group study guides (in partnership with Bill Hybels, John Ortberg, and other authors). Kevin does extensive speaking and training in the areas of mobilizing churches for effective outreach, leadership, and balancing the challenges of ministry and marriage. Kevin has been married to his wife Sherry for twenty-six years and they have three adult sons: Zach, Josh and Nate. In the summer Kevin enjoys golfing and in the winter he loves to snow board.