Sweat-soaked palms gripped my shorts as I silently prayed, “Please don’t pick me, please don’t pick me.” I was twelve years old, on my first mission trip, and I was petrified. Our youth pastor had divided us into two teams: one to remain and work at the church; the other to go out and “evangelize.” Odd glances and awkward conversations in sweltering 100 degree weather? No thank you.
“Laura! Get in the Van”! Great. . .
We stopped at an apartment complex in what appeared to be a rough neighborhood. I slinked out of the van, palms open for Gospel tracts to distribute, but was handed Popsicles instead. Popsicles? My eyes darted to other boxes, all filled with toys, crafts, hygiene products and food. Spotting my confusion, a chaperone took me aside. “Where are the pamphlets and Bibles,” I asked. “I thought we were telling people about Jesus, not having a party.” Then and there, I learned about the evangelistic strategy employed by mission teams of just about every mainline denomination: “We hope we have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus, but first, we must show them His love, and we do that by meeting them on their level.”
Today, when the urge to go on a mission trip or contribute financially towards an evangelistic endeavor or plan grandiose, local events to share the Gospel strikes me, I think back on the above experience. Since then, having read pastor and author John MacArthur, his comments on evangelism always come to mind: “Most people do not come to Christ as an immediate response to a sermon they hear in a crowded setting. They come to Christ because of the influence of an individual.” Jesus’s final words in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples and teach them everything I have commanded,” didn’t include a list of modifiers. There are many ways to fulfill the Great Commission; the Lord has revealed to me how to be a missionary right where He’s put me.
A powerful way to reveal the regenerative, saving grace of Christ is to live out the Word of God This means not checking in on Sundays, only to check out the rest of the week, but in “everything we do, eat, drink, do to the Glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our lives should look so radically different from those around us that it truly begs the question, “What exactly do you have in your life that I am missing in mine?” But sadly, Christians walk around looking like we’ve eaten sour grapes. Instead of exuding joy and hope, we act more burdened by our faith in Christ than bolstered by it.
People are watching us, especially non-believers. Are we living in a way that testifies of a redeemed life? Does our everyday manner of acting and reacting point others toward a personal relationship with the Son of God (John 13:35)? Is our speech full of grace, yet seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6)? God commands us to be holy and set-apart (1 Peter 2:9); yet, far too often, my life blends in with the crowd. If we seriously want to lead the spiritually lost to Christ, we must consistently reflect Christ, not ourselves or the world around us, for salvation is in Him and Him alone.
When asked to name Jesus’s disciples, Peter, James, John and likely Judas, roll quickly off the tongue. We remember Judas because he betrayed Jesus; Peter, James and John were part of Jesus’s inner circle and figured in some of the miracles recorded in the New Testament. After that, names become a bit fuzzy. Nonetheless, there was also Andrew, the first disciple Jesus called. Although there isn’t a lot written about Andrew, we know that he invested in people, bringing them to Christ one by one. It was Andrew who brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus; it was Andrew who presented the boy with the five loaves and two fishes to Jesus (John 6:9), and when a group of Greeks asked to see Jesus, it was Andrew who introduced them (John 12:20-22). Unlike Peter, there is no record of his preaching to the masses or writing letters to be widely circulated. It appears that he witnessed and ministered mostly on an individual basis. Many Christians assume that unless they have the gift of public speaking, they are excused from witnessing, but Andrew proves differently. The simple act of befriending one person today could significantly impact one life for all eternity.
Jesus understood the importance of satisfying people’s pressing needs, both spiritually and physically. On one occasion, His disciples wanted to send the hungry crowd away, but Jesus replied, “They need not go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). Jesus wanted to demonstrate two truths: first, He was in control of the situation. Secondly, feeding the crowd under those extraordinary circumstances (humanly speaking), would make a lasting impression of the message they heard that day.
Matthew 20:28 says, “He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” What was the last thing Jesus did with His disciples before His arrest? He, the Son of God, presented them food and drink after He had washed their feet, a very powerful expression of humble service in that culture. That act of servitude foreshadowed His ultimate act of love, grace, and mercy—sacrificing Himself on the cross for our sins. No, I’m not suggesting that we wash one another’s feet; however, if the King of Kings loved mankind enough to perform demeaning tasks, to serve a meal to impart spiritual truths and to sacrifice His very life so we can escape the wrath of God and stand forever righteous in His presence, can we not, at the very least, offer someone a cup of coffee or glass of tea in Jesus’s name? This may not end world hunger, but an extra place at the dinner table may help satisfy someone’s hunger and thirst for righteousness. Open homes provide wonderful opportunities to open hearts and share the Good News.
We are not responsible for who turns to Christ in faith and forgiveness of sins and who doesn’t. However, we are responsible for telling others why God sent His son into the world to die. I can’t guarantee that there won’t be odd looks or conversations that will never be awkward. But, the Holy Spirit lives in us to help us manage in those moments. Now is the time for Believers everywhere to get the Gospel out instead of leaving it for those “called” into ministry or missions. Jesus’s last words to go and tell HIS story were meant for ALL in Christ, so what are you waiting for?