Joyfully Spreading the Word
Edited by Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
—C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Evangelism has an expiration date.
The story of the Bible reveals that evangelism is not eternal. It is a means to an end, and that end is fellowship with God forever. No two conversations, no two train rides, no two lunch breaks, and no two walks at the park are the same. History is going somewhere. Time is literally running out.
The day is coming when Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain in the new creation; they are all “former things” that will pass away when Christ returns and the dwelling place of God will be with man (Rev. 21:3–4). In that day, evangelism will also become a “former thing.” We can’t circle a date on our calendar, but we can count on it coming soon. In fact, no one knows the day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Matt. 24:36). So until the appointed day comes, we spend our days inviting our lost brothers and sisters to come home through faith in Christ who died, who lives and who is coming again.
This is easy to say but so hard to remember and live, I know. All of us have a self-centered inward focus (naturally); we need God’s intervention to give us a gospel-centered outward focus (supernaturally). We need God’s help to lift our eyes and see that we are surrounded by dead people who desperately need us to preach the gospel and live out the life of Christ in their midst. Today is a Wednesday morning, and while I write about the cosmos-altering gospel of Jesus Christ, my mind lurches back and forth between prioritizing my to-do list and an urgent need to collate the shopping list for school supplies for my four kids. (Who has time to track down all this stuff?) I’m often tempted to live as if there is a disparity between my calling as an evangelist and my role as a woman with multiple hats to wear and roles to play. How can I reach out to my friends and neighbors in the middle of all that I have to do in my everyday life? Perhaps you can relate to feeling this imaginary tension.
ARE YOU DISTURBED BY YOUR LACK OF FAITH?
What does it mean to make the best use of the time while we sojourn on this earth among our lost brothers and sisters? There aren’t enough whiteboards in the world to write down the bullet-pointed lists of practical means we have to share the good news. Last year the women’s ministry of our church facilitated several evangelism-training workshops over the course of six weeks. We met in small groups ranging from five to fifteen women (depending on the week). Each group met once to discuss various Scripture passages concerning evangelism and to brainstorm practical means of integrating biblical truths into our everyday lives. During the portion of our meetings spent poring over the Bible text, extended minutes of thoughtful meditation were punctuated by affirming “Mmhmms,” followed by pauses where the only noise was the air conditioner humming. (If you’ve ever led a small group, you’ve probably had times where the group was so silent that you’ve wondered if you need to interrupt the silence with words to keep the agenda moving along.) For all our times together of silent wonder at God’s Word, when it came time for the groups to contribute their ideas of putting faith into action, my hand cramped up from writing so fast on the whiteboard.
When we stop and think about it long enough, we all know that God has strategically designed our everyday lives to be bursting with opportunities to spread his gospel. It isn’t difficult to dream up ways we can practically order our priorities, adjust our schedules and acquire any resources we need to live lifestyles of evangelism. Spreading the Word naturally fits into our everyday lives because God has arranged it all that way. After six weeks of recording the ideas from these diverse groups of women from dozens of countries and all walks of life, I concluded that we are certainly not lacking in the creativity and practicality departments.
In my reflections on this evangelism-training season, one consistent issue kept popping up. It was a snag in the system of implementation, so to speak. When we all considered what it might look like to implement some of these sensible ways to spread the Word, two things were missing: faith and wisdom. Our blood pressure nervously rises, butterflies flip-flop in our tummies and pupils dilate with fear when we envision ourselves actually stepping into that conversation at work or hosting that Christmas party for the neighbor kids (for example). Perhaps you can relate to feeling faithless and uncertain when it comes to a lifestyle of evangelism? If so, I want to encourage you with some good news. Faith and wisdom are gifts from God. On one hand, we ought to be utterly disturbed by our lack of faith and wisdom. On the other hand, we need to consider our creatureliness and weakness and assume that of course we need more faith and wisdom. That’s okay. We can ask God for all we need in order to do whatever it is he has called us to do, and he will give it to us in the time and way he deems best to glorify himself as he provides for his children.
Excerpted from Joyfully Spreading the Word: Sharing the Good News of Jesus edited by Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, Crossway.org.