If you frequent downtown Greenville on Friday evenings, chances are you have seen a group of BJU students passing out tracts to the diverse crowd of coffee drinkers, window shoppers, bar-hoppers and homeless people that fill the streets of downtown.
For this street evangelism ministry, students meet in front of Nell Sunday and split into two groups, with one going out at 6 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m., in order to hand out tracts. Both groups generally stay out for two hours.
When they find a good place to stand, the students approach passersby to ask if they would like something to read. Many people ask what the tract is, giving the students an opportunity to witness. Jonathan Davis, a senior history major, said that God uses this ministry to increase the students’ burden for the lost and to teach them to rely on the Spirit to give them the words they need.
To keep safe, they stay on main roads and walk in mixed groups of three to five people. Tiffany Radle, a sophomore biochemistry major, said, “We pray for protection and go out in faith.”
Junior biology major Deborah Spannagel leads the Friday night street-witnessing ministry. Spannagel explained that the students do not need a permit to hand out tracts since they are in a public place, so they are able to distribute them freely.
Spannagel said the key to street witnessing is engaging people in conversation. A couple of her favorite conversation starters are “Have you heard any good news today?” or “Do you want the truth?” These phrases create an opening for the students to share the Gospel.
According to Spannagel, the main purpose of this ministry is to plant seeds in somebody’s mind that “maybe they do have something missing in their life.”
Street witnessing is a unique form of sharing the gospel since the students do not always see the fruit of their efforts. Davis said, “We have no idea what God has done with the thousands of tracts we have passed out,” but he enjoys the chance to speak with people who do not know Christ. One witnessing opportunity stands out to Davis: witnessing to a 15-year-old boy who was open to the Gospel, but too afraid to pray in front of his friends.
While extroverted students may be in their element talking to new people, introverted students succeed in and enjoy this ministry too. Radle said street witnessing is “wonderfully horrifying,” as it pulls her out of her comfort zone, allowing God to work through the students to reach people who need hope. Radle remembers one episode in particular when a homeless woman reached out and grabbed her hand, desperate for prayer.
Spannagel described this opportunity to meet a wide variety of people as “a great way to build boldness.” She remembers speaking to a Christian homeless woman one evening and being greatly encouraged and convicted by the woman’s quiet contentment.
Downtown Greenville is “ripe for harvest,” as Jesus said of the world in John 4:35. Every student is encouraged to come share the gospel. As Radle commented, “No Bible degree is necessary to share your love for Jesus.” Anyone interested in more information on this outreach opportunity can email Deborah Spannagel at DSPAN792@students.bju.edu.