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Christian Union: The Magazine
December 2, 2021

Simoni '23 Has a Passion for Evangelism

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Many Christians get nervous when they think about evangelism. Thoughts of difficult questions they cannot answer well or the possibility of offending another often lead believers to say less than they ought, and often to say nothing at all of the riches of Christ. 

But as missionary Hudson Taylor said, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” For anyone who calls themself a Christian, evangelism can and must flow from their delight in union with Christ. And yet, sadly, for most evangelism seems like more of an option to be considered. 

David Navadeh Photography

But perhaps evangelism is less difficult and less frightening than we fear. Perhaps, as Cornell junior Nathan Simoni has found, evangelism is merely a part of daily Christian life, an opportunity to talk about the person of Jesus as you know Him today. For Simoni, who serves as a freshmen Bible course leader for Christian Union Vita, evangelism pours forth from seeking the Lord, sharing his story, and depending on prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit.

"When you seek me with your whole heart, you will find me" 

Every believer has found something—or more accurately every believer has been found by someone. But whether one is struck down on the road like Paul, hears the gospel explained rationally and reasonably like Lydia, or is raised up in the faith by family, becoming a Chrisitan means that you have danced a dance of being led by the Spirit, found by Christ, and in turn begun to seek him to know, follow, and obey him. 

1 Nathan SimoniNathan SimoniSimoni, who was raised in a Christian home but spent time abroad in Dubai where he had no Christian friends, spent his high school years in pursuit of answers—he wanted and needed to know more about this person of Jesus. In these formative years of asking difficult questions and reading apologetics and theology books, Simoni found many answers, but there was always something lacking.

When Simoni went to Cornell and met passionate and thoughtful Christians, the opportunity to grow in community seemed too good to be true. Opting to live in the Chesterton House at Cornell, a residential home that focuses on developing the life of the mind, Simoni began to merge his pursuit of knowing God with the necessary foundation of faith in the person of Jesus. 

“The [Christian life of the mind] seeks to merge an intellectual understanding of God with a foundation of faith. Some people are more intellectual in their faith and have really thought through things. I know personally, from high school, that was how my faith worked,” reflects Simoni. “But this was also a struggle for me because you can’t understand God fully and I was frustrated because I didn’t have all the understanding. I was kind of rocked when I learned I had to have a foundation of faith for all my intellectual pursuits; we don’t understand him fully and yet he wants us to pursue him in faith and try to know him.”

It was this foundation of seeking the Lord to know Him, understand Him, and eventually for Simoni to trust Him in faith that he is who he says he is that undergirds Simoni’s appetite for evangelism. When we commit time and energy to know what is true and who God is, He meets us, reveals the truth to us through his word and the Church, and puts us on his long path of discipleship. As Simoni found himself with theological answers and burgeoning faith, the natural overflow of his heart was to tell of what the Lord had done and was doing. And the Lord has opened a few powerful pathways for him to regularly share his faith and encourage others in theirs.

The Power of Personal Testimony

Simoni, who often brings non-Christian friends to CU Vita Bible courses, teaching and leading weekly discussions on Scripture have challenged him to grow in his agility in both contextualizing the gospel and the Word of God for a wide range of students. His own story of seeking the Lord has led him to disciple younger believers as they navigate the snares of Cornell and of maturing in Christ. But Christian Union Bible courses are just one place Simoni is teaching others about Christ.

“I have this bent of wanting to talk to people about Jesus, not just how He is important to me, but how He can give true meaning to them in their life— not just subjective meaning, but true meaning. This is what you were made for. A lot of Christians are scared to go out and have those conversations. In the ivy league, you need to be able to answer the tough questions, but even at these highly intellectual places a lot of people’s issues with God are much more personal and they really need care and prayer. That is what will turn them to Christ.” 

In his willingness to share what he has found, Simoni sees two common objections to Christianity: intellectual and emotional. “I’ve found that some people have intellectual issues. One friend whose father was a minister has a lot of intellectual issues. Another friend cares more about why he can’t connect with God—those questions are more personal, spiritual, and emotional. On one hand, having apologetics and intellectual understanding is helpful to answer questions. On the other hand, it’s entirely my personal testimony. Trusting in the power of prayer, reading the Bible, turning from sin, dedicating yourself to god. I’ve seen progress in both guys in how they receive faith and pursue God.”

A Holy Dependence

Though Simoni says his own Bible course has equipped him further to answer tough questions about God, every evangelistic conversation that he has depends on the power of prayer and the work of the Spirit to soften and open a heart. Ultimately, we don’t need to be afraid in evangelistic conversations because we cannot make someone a Christian, we can only witness what we have seen and who we know Jesus to be. 

Simoni undergirds his meetings with non-believers and Christians who are struggling with prayer, asking the Lord to give them what they need and fill up what is lacking in their pursuit of Him--as he lives out the Great Commission.

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