7 Reasons You Can Relax About Evangelism
(Read John 4:31-42.) In our last post from the book of John we learned about how Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. I don’t know about you but whenever this topic comes up, the topic of evangelism, I start feeling pretty awkward. But while we can’t ignore Jesus’ command to evangelize, we don’t have to stress about it. In today’s post we’ll look at seven reasons why we can relax while evangelizing. But first we’ll have a brief look at an interaction between Jesus and his disciples.
The Disciples Urging
After the woman at the well left to go tell the men in town about Jesus, the disciples start urging him to eat. But Jesus says: I already have food that you don’t know about. (see previous post Love Like Jesus–Focus and Flow)
As sometimes happens with the disciples, they think Jesus is talking about things of the world instead of the things of God’s kingdom. And they look around at each other saying: Did somebody bring him something to eat?
But then Jesus explains what he means. In my imagination I see him watching the woman on her way back to him, with the crowd of Samaritan townspeople she just evangelized. And it’s then that he says to his disciples: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. You say there are four more months until harvest but look, lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white and ready for harvest now.
And he continues: Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” (John 4:31-42)
7 Reasons To Relax
1) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… the weight of evangelizing the world doesn’t rest on you, or on me.
We only have a part of the job. “One sows and another reaps,” Jesus said.
When I was in my thirties I led a couple to Christ–and I was feeling pretty good about it. But then I found out that for some time before my visit with them, their grade school age daughter had been attending Sunday school and talking to them, frequently, about Jesus. The husband told me later that the biggest influence in their decision was their daughter. So yes I led them to Jesus, but their daughter did all the heavy lifting. She may have felt discouraged for some time, about her parents’ lack of response, but she did great work. She was the sower.
Today I heard about a young woman who gave her life to Jesus in response to a pastor. But for years before that moment, her mother had been praying and sharing from the Bible with her. Again her mother must have felt discouraged during all those years of sharing from scripture and praying. But in it’s season, the time for harvest came.
Sometimes we’re just sowing seeds and someone else gets to reap the harvest, but we both get to rejoice when someone is saved.
2) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… you’re just one yeast cell.
One sows and another reaps, but it turns out the kingdom of God goes far beyond dividing by two.
A number of months ago I met the woman who runs CityServe PDX, a Christian organization that equips and empowers the Body of Christ in Portland, Oregon to serve the people of Portland. I told her how impressed I was with what she does and immediately she looked down at the floor and said, “I’m just a footnote.” That’s what she said, “I’m just a footnote.” And then she said that someday she might even write a book with that title: I’m Just A Footnote, because except for Christ Himself, that’s all any of us are, we’re just footnotes.
In Luke chapter 13 Jesus says the kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour until the yeast grew and caused the bread to rise. Three measures of flour is like 60 lbs. Using baker’s math, that means she used 2.4 lbs. of yeast. Each ounce of yeast contains about 20 billion yeast cells. So that means 2.4 lbs. of yeast contains 768 billion yeast cells–give or take a cell or two. So when you’re sharing Christ with someone, keep in mind, you’re only one yeast cell among many.
3) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… God wants to give us His Holy Spirit.
I heard about an evangelist named Jonathan Edwards who read a sermon from a piece of paper to a crowd. During his very dispassionate preaching, people began weeping. Most of those listening gave their lives to Jesus. But it wasn’t the dynamic delivery of Edwards that brought those people to Christ. Have you ever listened to someone lecture by reading directly from a piece of paper? Edwards was known for his dispassionate style and he wasn’t the key to their response, it was the Holy Spirit. Yes we have to do our part but the main difference maker is God’s Holy Spirit working in both the heart of the person delivering the message, and in the heart of the listener. So ask for the Holy Spirit. Ask for Him today. Ask for Him every day. Ask for Him three times a day. There’s nothing more important to evangelism than asking for God’s Holy Spirit to help you share Christ. And relax, the onus is on Him to evangelize anyway.
And here’s the deal concerning the Holy Spirit: God wants you to have Him. You have only to ask. (see Luke 11:9-13)
4) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… little things count.
Loving people in little ways: little conversations, little prayers, little stories, listening to stories, creating safe places for broken people to be broken people–they count. Loving your neighbor as yourself, even in little ways, can be sowing. Loving people pleases God, and that’s the reason we should love people, to please Him. But along the way loving people, even in small ways, can open the door to conversations about Christ. (Bowen)
5) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… any old bush will do.
As a young man, the famous evangelist Luis Palau was profoundly impacted by something a man named Major Thomas once said. Speaking of the burning bush God used to communicate with Moses, he stated, “Any old bush will do as long as God is in the bush.” Major Thomas said, God was trying to tell Moses, “I don’t need a pretty bush, or an educated bush, or an eloquent bush. Any old bush will do, as long as I am in the bush.”
It’s worth noting what the woman at the well did not do, after discovering that Jesus is the Christ. She didn’t say what we Christians often say, “Well now that I’m a believer, before I can evangelize, I need to really study those scriptures, and really focus on cleaning up my act so I can live a holy life, and then save up some money so I have more time away from work, and then go to seminary–and then… then I can tell people about Jesus! But I don’t know enough to do anything now.”
We saw in the last post on the book of John what happened to Francis Chan when he went to seminary. God doesn’t need a seminarian.
Any old bush will do.
6) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… sometimes people come to Christ through a progression.
We see a progression of belief in the Samaritan woman. When you read the story she first calls Jesus a “Jew.” Then “Sir.” Then “a prophet.” Then “Messiah and Christ.” And finally she and the whole village call Jesus “the Savior of the world.”
You might find yourself connecting with someone who’s still early in their progression. If you do, take heart. If you described the lifestyle of the Samaritan woman to many Christians today, their response might be to simply avoid her. But Jesus recognized that just because she was at an early point in her progression, that didn’t mean he should stay away. He very graciously engaged her anyway. That’s what you and I can do too. And if the person we talk with doesn’t come to the Lord quickly, like the Samaritan woman did, see point number 1.
7) Yes we need to follow Jesus’ command to make disciples but we can relax because… you don’t have to share Jesus with the cool people.
Notice who Jesus reveals himself to, here in John chapter four: the Samaritans. They’re the super-uncool people of their culture. They’re not even allowed in the synagogue. They’re detestable to the Jews.
When the disciples come back from their grocery run they marvel that Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman at all. When the woman tells the people in town that Jesus told her everything thing she ever did, you can almost audibly hear them say, “Wow, he must have had a lot to say, because you’ve left a wake of destruction your whole life. But you say he spoke to you? And he was gracious toward you? You? A Jewish Rabii did that? Really?”
It’s interesting that Jesus publicly revealed himself to a group who was detested by Jewish Rabbis and Jewish society in general, before he revealed himself publicly to anyone else (if we can even say he did reveal himself publicly to another group in the same direct way–see John 4:25-26).
There are people out there who would be elated to hear from you, people who might not even expect you to show any interest in them. Maybe they’re significantly younger than you are. Or maybe they’re circumstances are significantly more humble than yours are. Maybe they’re a person who our culture would consider uncool. You can evangelize the cool people if you want to, or you can share Jesus with those who might think you’re cool, those who would be thrilled to see you and hear from you. That’s what Jesus did with the Samaritans. I think doing it this way is not only much less stressful, but you and I are much more effective when we take this approach.
I’m No Evangelist
I can tell you, I’m no evangelist. I’m as reluctant as the next guy. But I take hope in these seven reasons to relax about it. For me asking for God’s Holy Spirit and evangelizing to people who might be overjoyed to see me are the two I think about most, to loosen myself up about evangelism. But I find the others helpful too.
What about you?
What helps you to relax when you evangelize?
[Image via amanda tipton-Creative Commons]