I can remember as a small child watching Billy Graham on television conduct his crusades with power, and authority. In the same way, once a year like clockwork the family church would schedule a tent revival, and for about a week we would have loud, and impassioned preaching, fiery prayer, people committing their lives to Christ, and mosquitoes. During that time the church was full of energy, and there were new faces. The women fawned over the new babies, and the men glad-handed the new husbands, and sons from the visiting families. It was a well oiled, and well rehearsed machine. After that week of revival everything went back to normal. We had R.A.’s (Royal Ambassadors for those out of the “know”) on Wednesdays, Boy Scouts on Thursdays, and then on Sundays we got up, and put on our best for Jesus. We ate breakfast, went to Sunday school, gave our offering, read out of our Gideon pocket edition New Testament (Complete with Psalms), and then we got to go to “Big church” When I was small, there was no such thing as “children’s church”, in fact the closest thing we had was a five minute story, the senior pastor would tell all the children on the steps of the stage, right before we started to sing out of the hymnal. That too was clockwork regular – three songs then you sit, fifteen seconds to catch your breath, then you stand and smile and shake hands and hug folks. After that we would sit, the offering plates were passed, and then with the twenty-six minutes left (which to a kid feels like an eternity) the preacher would give a spirited three point (not a five or anything longer) message followed by a prayer and an invitation to commit your life to Christ. That happened every week, of every year that I went to church as a kid.
Now I understand that regularity is a good thing, and I am not knocking it. I’m 35 now, and there is nothing better than that first cup of coffee in the morning, without it, I don’t feel regular. It has become part of my ritual. Here comes the but… BUT, when I look at Jesus, and the way he did things, his outcome was regular, but the process by which he did it was ever evolving. Look at his miracles, he spits in some mud, rubs it in the dudes eyes and presto he’s healed. Another guy is deaf, so he pulls him out of the crowd, gives him a wet willy, and he’s healed. Still another lady simply touches the hem of his garment, and she is healed. We could discuss his miracles for the duration of this post, and find that in some instances the miracle performed was the same as a previous (healing the blind, raising the dead), but in every instance the miracle is performed differently. That speaks to understanding, knowledge, and faith, not to training and preparation. In fact when Christ trains his apostles he doesn’t give them a book of work flows, and processes to follow. He simply teaches them how to pray, gives them some profound teaching, and then sends the Holy Ghost.
Let’s face it, some of these cats weren’t the brightest bulbs in the box either, and definitely not experts in the field of ministry. This shows us its not really about us. Sure, I am, as most of us are major proponents of education. Even I have gone back to college to pursue a teaching degree, and I firmly believe and say often that God intended us to use our minds otherwise he would not have blessed us with reason and logic. Still, the fact remains, God can and will use anything, a rock, a smelly fisherman with a quick temper, or even an ass (the long-eared mule variety) to carry out his will and plan. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called, and he does it this way, so that no one can deny his transformative power.
So what does all of that have to do with evangelism? Well, while we were busy building our million dollar buildings with pristine steeples, and making sure pot luck and raffle for the ladies ministries was scheduled, we forgot the most important part of our job. ”Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. That’s Matthew 28:19, I used the New Living Translation if you were wondering. We can’t go, if we’re too busy being busy. That may mean we have too much stuff that matters that shouldn’t matter going on. I get that sounds mean, maybe even counterproductive to “growing” a church, but the church isn’t just your collection of believers. Ministry isn’t fru-fru country club style living, it’s back breaking, knuckle busting, sleep losing, emotional wreck, worn out jeans and bloody knees, sometimes days without eating, may cost us our lives – WORK.
That’s what evangelism is, there is no secret, its all there in the Gospels. Even the concept of revival – “ain’t nobody got time for that”. You cannot plan it, it just happens, and in my experience it happens because we are being faithful to the great commission. So get out there, talk to somebody, anybody – and newsflash, you don’t have to lead off with a tract or a card. Sometimes the easiest way to plant a seed is to soften the soil by listening and being a friend.