Friday, November 30, 2012

A Matter of "Being"

It's instructive, I believe, to note that Jesus never charged his disciples to invent elaborate schemes or fancy strategies or detailed plans to evangelize the world.  Instead, he simply said this:

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1.8, emphasis added)

Jesus promised that the power of his Holy Spirit would dwell in us and then flow through us, like rivers of living water (John 7.37-39).

Now -- godly strategies and wise plans and loving "schemes" for evangelism can be fine and good things.  In fact, they can be very helpful at times.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that at its heart evangelism is -- as Jesus said -- a matter of "being."  It's a matter of our essence, who we are, and how we're growing more and more into the person we were made to be.

And that's part of what made me love this book by C. John Miller:  A Faith Worth Sharing (subtitle:  A Lifetime of Conversations About Christ).  It's another solid book recommendation for you.

Miller wrote this book as he was dying, looking back over -- as the subtitle suggests -- a lifetime of conversations about Christ.

And in this little book he is literally sharing a lifetime of faithful "evangelism wisdom," always illustrated with great stories.  And the stories cover a great variety of people: hostile people, "virtuous" people, people you're related to, skeptical people, sick & dying people, lonely people, modern and postmodern people, people God just providentially puts in your path, confused "seekers," religious-but-unconverted people, shame-filled people, etc., etc., etc.

Miller doesn't use this language, but I found him affirming again and again what I've thought of as the three most important keys to evangelism:

  1. Be who you are.  Who God made you to be.  Don't try to be somebody else.
  2. Tell what you know.  Even if you've loved and followed Christ for only one day, you already know a great deal that's worth sharing.  
  3. Love the person in front of you.  It's not going to be your perfection or the perfection of your arguments that convinces that person in front of you of the truth of the gospel.  But your willingness to really, truly love them where they are (in the holy name of Christ) will speak volumes.  And remember, love is a four letter word -- spelled T-I-M-E.  
A few quotes from the book:

"Some Christians want to rush in and confront others with the gospel without taking the time to build a relationship of trust.  Others are wonderful at building relationships, but never take the next step and lovingly confront their friends with the claims of Christ.  I have been guilty of both mistakes.  This is when we learn what prayer is all about.  As we pray, the Holy Spirit gives us what we need: the right combination of love and boldness as we share with others the words of life."

"At twenty I didn't understand everything in this chapter.  Far from it.  But I was learning more about sharing Christ by living in this boarding house and cooking breakfast than I ever could have learned from a systematic course of instruction."  

"I was learning to let others into my life.  Mel could see me studying the Bible and finding something there that changed and satisfied me.  That's why he wanted to study the Bible, too.  And I lived close enough to John to be fed up with his sins -- and to let him know (less than perfectly) how they affected me.  There at the boarding house, the men could see that I had the same sins and needs as they did and that my God helped me.  The Holy Spirit did the rest."

"So wherever you 'cook breakfast,' there is your classroom for learning to share your faith.  The people you encounter daily are the ones Jesus wants you to share the gospel with.  But make sure that you are understanding and loving the gospel more each day yourself or you will not be able to love and understand that friends at your 'breakfast table.'"

"... love them where they are and introduce them to our community of faith.  God does not want us to share our faith as independent supermen or superwomen, but as brothers and sisters together in God's family."

"From this conversation with my mother, I learned that I didn't need to attack 'virtuous people' to show them that I was more virtuous than they.  Instead, they needed to hear about my sins and weaknesses first of all.  I needed to open up my life and my heart to them, just as I had to the people in the boarding house.  When I shared with them how God had broken me and how he was cleansing me from my vices and virtues, then I saw God work."

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