“Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.” (Romans 16:5, ESV)
In 1983, the Lord saved me and he immediately impressed upon me to share my faith with others. Granted, I did not have a clue regarding what I should say other than to hand people a brochure and ask them if they had any interest in a church. I began reading books on evangelism, but I still struggled. About six months after my conversion, the denomination offered me a scholarship to attend an Evangelism Explosion Teacher Training Certification week in Omaha Nebraska. Upon returning, the pastor and I established the Evangelism Explosion ministry in the church.
Part of the training included taking a team to visit first-time guests to the church and referrals. I know that some did make professions of faith as we visited on those evenings, but I cannot remember the first one. However, there are some that I do remember. One of these was my barber. Yes, at one time I had a full head of hair. One day as I was getting my hair cut, we entered into a discussion about spiritual things. She was genuinely interested. I asked her if she would like to know more about salvation and offered to stop by with a couple people and spend more time discussing Christianity. She agreed.
The next Saturday, my training team and I went to her home and we shared the plan of salvation with her. That morning the Lord touched her heart and she responded by faith in Him. She also responded by engaging in our local church faithfully. Perhaps that is why I remember her since I could see in her the fruit of true salvation. That was nearly 37 years ago.
Paul here asks the Romans to greet “Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia.” The word that the ESV translates as “first convert” is aparche, which refers to the first-fruits. Now my barber coming to faith was not the first-fruits of the gospel in Bartlett Illinois, but she was the first-fruits for our Evangelism Explosion Team. There were others after that, but the first true fruit-bearing convert is one that I still remember even after all these years.
Reaching people with the life changing message of hope in Christ is a lot of work. It is kind of like fishing, which involves more fishing than catching. However, the reward of steadfastness in witnessing will bear fruit. Every believer can reach people with the gospel message. Let me give a few hints about doing this.
First get equipped to witness. I was blessed to have gone to a one-week session to learn. We began teaching this in our local church. But there are other ways. Second, begin praying for open-doors to tell people of Christ. Third, be ready to go through the door when the Lord opens it. Do not worry if you get tongue tied and miss the opportunity. Use it as a learning experience and try to do better the next time. Fourth, when you do present the gospel, trust the lord for the results. Finally, when one comes to faith, follow-up with that person by offering to help them on their great adventure with Jesus and invite them to join you in the local church.