Any form of outreach should not primarily be ‘cut and run’, in the hope that a quick exposure to an evangelistic message is likely to communicate effectively.
How did Jesus communicate? It’s tempting to think it was because He was a great orator. He clearly was. But as you read the biblical record, you’ll find few long speeches or lengthy sermons. So He must have been doing something else. When Jesus spoke to or ate with people deemed unworthy by others, He sent out powerful signals. Eating together spoke of acceptance, acceptance sparked trust, trust released hope, hope sought salvation.
Jesus’ words to His disciples as He sends them out to prepare the way for Him are instructive. Consider the order in Luke 10:5-9. ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you.”’
Part of the challenge of this passage lies in the order in which Jesus suggests things be done.
1. Declare peace
This formed part of a common greeting at the time. But it was also a prayer. Does it provoke us about our tendency to pray ‘against’ things when we begin to think about how to pray for our area, town, or street? Jesus is inviting us to invite Him to bring peace to that area. The mere announcement that God’s peace is coming to that place is a form of spiritual warfare that drives away destructive forces that may have strongholds there.
2. Eat with people
Eating together allowed discussion, signified acceptance, and was a redemptive act in its own right when practiced by Jesus with the social outcasts of the day. It reminds us to be with people in the ordinary rhythms of their lives, building friendship and trust.
3. Take as well as give
Creating strong friendships depends on mutual care. It’s OK for us to lean on our unchurched friends. Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. He then gave her living water!
4. Pray for their healing
In our culture people seem ready to be prayed for, even if not all acknowledge the Healer who might come to their aid. In the Bible, healing prayer seemed to be a gateway for the message of Christ’s life. It enabled trust to grow and readied people to hear the message of the Kingdom.
5. Declare the Kingdom
The story is told of a concert in an American city, featuring a militantly anti-Christian band. Their fans sweltered in the sun as they waited for the doors to open. At one end of the street, a church group held up banners proclaiming that God hated gays. Further down the street, another church group, noting the plight of the queue, made gallons of cold drinks and offered them to people as they waited. Hundreds of young adults had some of their caricatures of Christians (encouraged by the banner wavers) undone by a simple act of acceptance and help. A church group declared peace to the crowd and helped feed them. They were much more likely to get the opportunity to pray for their needs and declare the good news of Jesus’ Kingdom to them.
Jesus often met with those considered ‘sinners and publicans’ in the company of several of His followers. We will not want to face alone some of the challenges of the culture we live in, but we will never change it by hiding in our castles and staging confrontational raids on the hearts of the lost via occasional street preaching or door knocking.
In towns and cities around the world, door knocking is starting to work again because its primary purpose is not to engineer a conversation but to simply make contact, offer prayer, or convey information about church events or children’s clubs. At first, you are given seconds at the door, but in time trust is built; people become your acquaintances and then your friends.
The challenge is this: Will we for ever regard the not-yet-Christian as ‘them’, objects of spiritual pity, rather than objects of God’s love? Will we be their friends whether or not they make an immediate response to our talk of faith? Are we prepared to enjoy life together with them on shopping trips, in the stands of a sports stadium, or relaxed around a late summer barbecue? Are we willing to connect with non-Christians and dare to believe that we can influence them for good, rather than them corrupting us? Do we believe that He who is in us is greater than he that is in the world?
Pity or compassion?
As we consider matters of social justice, are we motivated by pity or compassion? Pity says: ‘I will help you because I feel guilty, or maybe because I feel superior.’ Compassion says: ‘I will help you because you’re human, made in the image of God and worthy of dignity, friendship and aid.’ Jesus was colour-blind, status-blind, and gender-blind. He didn’t see the divisions we often see. He created a Church where there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.
Jesus did not come with mere words of wisdom before scurrying home to a spiritual fortress. He lived among and ate with the ordinary people of His day. He was their friend as well as their Saviour. Who are your friends? Will you follow Jesus in befriending the lost?
© Web Evangelism Guide(web-evangelism.com), used with permission. The insights in this article are excerpted from Following Jesus by Dave Roberts, (Relevant Books, ISBN: 0-97292-763-8), with additional material by Gary Gibbs.
From Life Indeed November/December 2005
By Virginia Kremer
WHILE waiting for something to finish cooking, my eyes absently came to rest on my kitchen timer. The last time I had really looked at it, it was shiny new. That was 30 years ago! I picked it up thinking how old and worn it was. Its imitation wood sides were scratched and there were a couple of marks left in haste by buttered fingers. Nicks on the plastic rim were the results of falls, and its face had become cloudy. As I turned it over, the decorative gold-coloured cap in the middle slipped off as usual, reminding me that although I had planned many times to glue it back in place, once the timer’s work was done, I had not thought of it again. Who thinks about an old kitchen timer as long as it works? And why not replace it by a new, modern version?
Looking at it in amazement and wondering where the time had gone since I’d received it as a wedding gift, I thought of the person who had given it to me: Anna. Tears came to my eyes. I had never really mourned her death a few years ago. Her passing away had happened when I, myself, was facing the desperate situation of my husband’s serious illness.
I pictured her jolly, smiling face, twinkling eyes, ruddy cheeks, and grey hair, once black and curly, pulled back in a bun. Anna was from a large farming family of Mennonites in Alsace. She had wanted to play the saxophone as a young person, but her very strict father considered that a sin. She had rebelled and gone out into the “world” but early on realized that without God, life had no meaning. She came back to the faith of her fathers and opened her heart to the love of God and to salvation in his Son Jesus Christ. Her life was turned around and she became an ardent witness to his grace and saving power. Her great desire was to serve him as a missionary all the days of her life and she made known her calling to the elders of her church. Anna was a farm girl with minimum schooling and no qualifications. She was sent to work in the home of a prominent Christian family whose vocation was to send out missionaries. There, she was to clean and cook, and in other words, be their servant. She had her little room up under the eaves on the third floor and was on call twenty-four hours a day!
A call frustrated?
She never made it to the mission field. She spent her life up to her retirement doing what she did best: cooking, cleaning and working in the garden. There may have been times when she was a little frustrated; she had had such a clear calling. But wherever Anna went, be it in a shop or at the market or on the train or talking to someone at the door, everyone remarked her beaming face and cheery presence. She always spoke a word for the Lord. She had the gift of evangelism. Even the most defiant or disinterested could not resist her words of wisdom and truth. Not only did she believe, but she also put what she believed in practice. The children in the Sunday School loved to hear her tell Bible stories and several generations called her “Aunt Anna”. Some of them went on to serve the Lord.
Taken for granted
When I was in the home where Anna served, she was such a joy and encouragement to me. Somehow, she made life easier, smoothed out the rough places and made me feel at home. Yet, Anna was only a servant. Everyone took her for granted. She was always there. No one seemed to notice that the years were passing, that time and work were taking their toll. Who cares about an old servant? When she can’t work anymore, she will be replaced.
Faithful and fruitful
Anna has gone home to be with the Lord she loved and served so faithfully. She didn’t get to be a missionary and go to a foreign field as she had dreamed, but she didn’t let that stop her from being a true witness to Christ where she was. Anna served a number of God’s servants. Some of them may not have even taken much notice of her, but it wouldn’t surprise me that when we all stand before God’s throne and the rewards are passed out, Anna might just be up in the front row among the most faithful!
Now when I pick up my timer, I always think of Anna, and thankfully remember that God is not like us. He doesn’t use people and then replace them when they are old or no longer physically useful. He sees and knows the hidden motives of the heart. He does not stop at the outward appearance, the superficial spirituality, the ‘importance’ of the person in men’s eyes, the apparent usefulness or success or education. He looks at the heart, the love there for Him and for others, the humble service where there is no place for self-glory.
I’ve learned so much from my old kitchen timer and from Anna! ■
Virginia lives in France, where she worked for many years with her late husband, Etienne, as members of the Mission-Foi- Evangile.
This article was published by The Faith Mission, Edinburgh, in FIRST! magazine November/December 2004