One of the mandates of Jesus is that we go and make disciples of all nations. That we love people well and share the good news of life with Him with those who don’t know Him yet. That first encounter with people is what the church has come to call “Evangelism”. That word can conjure up all sorts of good and bad emotions and imagery for people both inside and outside the church. For me it usually conjured fear. The fear of being pressured to talk to a stranger, read off a rote list of “Jesus questions” in an attempt to have them drop to their knees on the street corner and convert. It always felt like I was trying to get them to sign up for a multi-level marketing program on the spot, against their will: “There is a special offer…today only…if you accept Jesus right now, we’ll throw in an additional 20 jewels for your crown in heaven in addition to our normal offer of eternal life”.
However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that evangelism might be simpler than I had thought. Perhaps it just being who God made me to be at exactly the right time.
I believe the Bible demonstrates that God speaks in dreams. He often does this to me and when I have a very vivid dream that feels like God I write it down. I had one such dream about a month ago concerning evangelism. (For context, I love culture, philosophy, and speak conversational French from living in Switzerland and Paris.)
Here was the dream as I recorded it:
“I had a dream that I was walking with my dad in a city. We were in a very old book store. It had very old bible concordances on the shelves as well as lots of other philosophy books. As we were walking by the checkout counter there was a little French lady that was trying to ask questions of other people. No one could understand her and the people started asking everyone in the store “Does anyone speak French?” I ignored them as we were on our way somewhere else and were walking out. As I was walking through the exit doors I paused and thought “I’m the only person here short of a French teacher that will speak French”. I went over to her and started speaking French to her and ask her what she needed. She was from Paris and was in this store because she said she was in search of “the Truth”. I smirked. A divine appointment. I introduced myself and began to tell her about the good news of Jesus. I showed her an old philosophy book I had with a quote from Soren Kirkegard about truth. As we parted ways, I told her to just pray one prayer; “God, if you’re real like my friend Ryan says, reveal yourself to me in a way that I can understand and know it’s not anyone else but you so that I might believe in you and worship you”. We parted and I caught up with my dad outside and excitedly told him about my evangelism encounter.”
I felt the dream was from the Lord so I reflected on it asking what specifically He was trying to say to me. A few things stuck out.
- It was an evangelism encounter specific tailored for me – What are the chances that I would encounter a French-speaking lady, be the only person that could speak French to her, talk about something she’s looking for and that I love (philosophy and culture) and that I could relay all this in a way she could understand. I didn’t preach her the “Romans Road”. I didn’t ask her if she had “accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and savior”. I spoke her language..both culturally and literally. Paul did this in Acts 17 when he addresses the Athenians worship of their “unknown” God. He starts culturally where they are already at and then draws them to the truth of Jesus.
- No one else could have reached that lady – I have some truly amazing frieds. They have all sorts of personalities and gifts. Some of them are very different from me and that is a good thing. My friend Justin has an uncanny way of meeting and befriending somewhat famous people. He’ll come back from a trip and tell us a story of how he randomly met XYZ person and now is invited to their birthday party. Justin can reach lost people that I cannot reach. That’s how God designed him. I need Justin to fully be himself in the kingdom for us all to win in the greater goal of reaching the lost. Likewise, if he was with me in that dream in the bookstore…he would not be able to reach the French lady. He couldn’t speak her language, speak her “culture of philosophy” and transliterate the gospel for her as I could. There are special people that only Justin can reach and likewise, there are special people only I can reach. The same is true for you. There are people in your sphere of influence that I will never have a chance of reaching…but you will. You speak their language (literal or cultural), understand their world and know how to explain the love of Jesus to them where they are at.
- Sensitivity + Compassion = Encounter – As I was exiting the door in that dream I just had a little thought that maybe I should go back. In real life, more often than not, that tiny nudge is the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a lifestyle that is sensitive to that nudge will produce a rich bounty of God encounters. Additionally, it was compassion for that woman’s situation that drove me to her. “She’s alone, no one can understand her…maybe I should just go help”. I didn’t go into it thinking she would meet Jesus, just that she needed help. Most of the time that miracles happened in the gospels it’s because Jesus was moved by compassion. Compassion is the ignition of miraculous “God things” to happen.
- My evangelism encounter wasn’t hard, it was easy – All it took was my “yes” to a small nudge and loving someone. Only when I started talking to her did I find out she was in search of “The Truth”. I find this is often how God leads. Perhaps Jesus was just nudged to be at a watering hole at the right time that a woman who desperately needed the “water of life” came by. Maybe he didn’t know who He would encounter or what they needed, but rather just a voice that said “Go to the well” and He obeyed. I know that is how it usually happens to me. My step of faith in obeying something small usually opens up God to move in a big way.
Evangelism and making disciples of all nations is strongly woven together with worship. God’s end desire is that everyone would worship Him. However, one of the key junctures on that journey is encountering Him. In a lot of ways, someone giving their life to Jesus is their first act of worship. Their proclamation of praise and trust and submission.
I would propose to you that perhaps Evangelism is easier and less terrifying than we make it out to me. If we are simply ourselves and are sensitive to love I believe God will take care of the rest so that people might encounter Him.
Written by Ryan Kee, RNW Leadership Team
- How you currently feel about Evangelism? What emotions does that word strike for you? Write down what your previous experiences have been, positive and negative.
- There are people that only “you” can reach. Who are those people? If you had the same dream that I had, who would be your “French lady”. Who are the people that God has created you and equipped you to reach better than anyone else? Be specific. Start to pray for encounters with those people.
- Ask God to grow your sensitivity to His nudge. Throughout your day pay attention to the little nudges you feel and just do them. Write down afterward of anything came of them. Perhaps its nothing, but perhaps you’ll have a story of something God did that came from obeying a nudge.