Lifestyle evangelism, in which there is little-or-no separation between our everyday life and our obedience to Jesus Christ’s great commission (Matthew 28:19) is Wally Gerstmeier’s passion.
Ever since he committed his life to Christ in 1977 he has had a heart for those who don’t know God. And it is a passion that he loves to ignite in others by teaching how to make sharing Christ a natural part of everything we do.
In 2014, Wally handed over the reins of the Life Changes Church in Tableview, Cape Town, which he and his wife, Shirley, planted 18 years before, to focus on helping churches to strengthen their evangelism ministry.
His approach — since he came to faith — is simply “to share with others what Jesus has done for me and what He can do for them” — helping them to become reconciled with God and to start walking with Jesus in a personal and real way as disciples who will also make disciples.
Direction from the Holy Spirit
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we should focus on the Lord, seeking direction from the Holy Spirit, he says.
For example, the day before I spoke to Wally, he was doing some shopping when he came across a lady with her hands full of items — one of which had dropped on the floor. He fetched a trolley and helped her pack her shopping.
During conversation with her, an opportunity presented itself to share his faith in Jesus and encourage her to begin to seek a personal relationship with Him.
“Later, after a game of squash, I was in the change-rooms when I had a conversation with a person next to me who was speaking of his son who was getting married for the third time and he was telling me how he struggles with it, because of the difficulties his grandchildren are having.
“I encouraged him with reference to his faith and how God wants to answer his prayers for his grandchildren.
“We sat down in the change-rooms and chatted about personal faith in Jesus and developing a relationship with Him.”
However, Wally is careful not to be pushy or to bible-bash.
“I respect where people are and if all I can do is plant a seed or nudge them in the direction of Jesus, it is enough –that is what I live for,” said Wally.
Breaking down fear of evangelism
Greg Mackinnon, Pastor at Kingsway Church in Amanzimtoti — one of the many churches around the country where Wally has ministered — said the lifestyle evangelism training that Wally offers has helped break down church members’ fear of evangelism.
“Many Christians think that evangelism is for a specialised, small group of Christians, but Wally makes evangelism accessible, he makes people realise that they are able to evangelise.
“Wally has very practical teachings that help people put the teachings into practice, which makes it valuable.
“It’s not a one-dimensional approach to evangelism or an attempt to instantly present the gospel, but is to do with building bridges, extending Jesus’ kindness and empowering people.
“Most Christians know that they should evangelise and Wally helps them with the ‘how to do it’,” said Greg.
Wally believes that we need to lovingly hold each other to account, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to be witnesses to Jesus (Acts 1:8) and to be doers of God’s Word and not just listeners.
He encourages us to take the first step — act on God’s Word by faith, because if we do not act on the Word, the Word will not be alive in us. The Bible clearly states that if your faith isn’t active through deeds, it’s a dead faith (James 2:14-26).
“We need to encourage each other to reach out to people with God’s kindness, to influence them towards Jesus. It is about inspiring one another on to good deeds to action others to follow Jesus,” says Wally.
If we don’t act on God’s Word we are deceiving ourselves, because His Word will remain religious theology in us instead of being brought to life through active faith.
It’s about obedience
Wally says that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not so much about knowledge of God’s Word as much as it is about obedience to His Word.
Jesus clearly spoke of the advantages of obedience, of doing what He said and the repercussions of not doing what He said.
Jesus likened the person that does what He said to a wise man who built his house on the rock, which withstood the rain, winds and floods. However, He equated those who hear His sayings without doing them to “a foolish man who built his house on sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall” (Mathew 7:24-27). .
“We are trying to simplify what it means to be a disciple of Christ, of being born again and living in that resurrection life of being filled with the Holy Spirit – God’s boldness, God’s courage, God’s power, His authority to live an impactful life able to pray for the sick, cast out demons, proclaim the gospel and be a witness to Jesus.”
Wally emphasises that being a disciple of Jesus is about being focussed on Jesus to reflect His love to the people He places in our path for God’s glory.
“Each and every follower of Jesus has to prayerfully ask Him who He wants us to demonstrate His love, kindness, forgiveness and mercy to. It is a matter of being aware that we are His ambassadors, His light and His salt wherever we go, and responding accordingly when He creates opportunities for us.”
Jesus said, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:7-8)
Wally urges: “Live every day, making a difference for Jesus Christ by reflecting Him in attitude, deed and word, planting and watering seeds of kindness and love wherever you go”.
For more information contact Wally at email@example.com or 082 895 5054.