Evangelism: Show and Tell!
I’m thinking about teaching the book of 1 Thessalonians (in Greek, how else?) next semester. The letter pulsates with evangelism! Here’s a sampler (1:5):
The Good News we brought came to you not only with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with complete certainty. In the same way you know what kind of people we were while we were with you and the good things we did for you.
As I read 1 Thessalonians, I’m haunted by the idea that God is not so much asking us to tell people what a friend they have in Jesus as in showing them what a friend they have in us. Paul’s mission was show and tell! From beginning to end, 1 Thessalonians is an epistle of sacrificial love. God’s love for the lost. Paul’s love for the Thessalonians. The Thessalonians’ love for their Macedonian neighbors. The letter virtually shouts: Love others! Love them until they ask why!
That Paul emphasizes lifestyle evangelism should not surprise us. Our Lord Himself told us to love our neighbors, not evangelize them. And we cannot love them unless we love Him! Indeed, our relationship to Christ is the single most important qualification for becoming an evangelist. We simply demonstrate and declare what He has done for us. We are to do as He did, speak as He spoke, love as He loved, live as He lived. There’s no “method” beyond this method! Evangelism is simply “Jesus fleshed out,” a second incarnation. That means we must stay in close fellowship with Him. If He speaks, listen. If He sends, go. If He asks, give. It’s just that simple!
People see the Light when they feel the love. That’s why Paul got involved with the lives of others. He served them. And he loved doing it! This presupposes:
Remember: Evangelism is show and tell together. To use a popular agricultural metaphor, evangelism involves cultivating, planting, and reaping.
Cultivating appeals to the heart. Planting appeals to the mind. Reaping appeals to the will. If you need an acronym, how about “CPR”! Becky and I have noticed that sometimes we reap what we have planted. Other times we reap what others have planted. Either way, people need to hear the music of the Gospel (Cultivating) and see its light (Planting) before they can make a decision to follow Christ (Reaping). We’re not called to shout the Good News from a safe distance and then pull a wheelie out of the parking lot. Paul spent time with people. He was like a “mother taking care of her children” when he was with the Thessalonians (2:7). He voluntarily laid aside the temptation to be detached from the unsaved or to lord it over them. He was “one of us,” they must have thought. No power plays. No condescending attitudes. No need to control, to possess, to dominate. No insistence upon having everything “convenient.” Taking care of children is never convenient! And it’s seldom convenient to cultivate, plant, and reap. I know. I’m a farmer.
Lifestyle evangelism is not a method. It’s a way of living and loving. Paul put it like this in 1 Cor. 9:22: “I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some of them.” No gimmicks. No tricks. No manipulation. No gospel blimps. No quickie “decisions.” Remember, Jesus didn’t say “Make decisions.” He said “Make disciples!” Our task involves bringing people to the point of lifelong discipleship.
So don’t confuse evangelism with methodology. Evangelism is simply a way of living that uses methods appropriate to a person’s gifts and abilities. The one thing people are vulnerable to is love. Live the Gospel before them. Cultivate the parched soil of their lives. Model commitment and faithfulness in all you do. Again, we’re not commanded to evangelize our neighbors but to love them. Why? If we really do love them we will evangelize them!
Bottom line? Stay in close touch with your Heavenly Father. Ask Him what you should do and when. When it’s time to act, He will guide and empower your efforts. Don’t depend on man-made “strategies.” When God opens a door, go through it. When faced with a green light, proceed full speed ahead. Even if you can’t spell homiletics you can still speak the Word! Evangelism is a lifestyle. Our Lord said as much. “You will be my witnesses.”
And, should God bring forth a newborn baby, make sure it gets into a healthy church!
November 22, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.