I love seeing the photographs of gospel crusades as thousands or millions of people give their lives to Christ. I love watching youtube videos of brave and powerful street evangelists healing the sick and giving words of knowledge to complete strangers and leading them in a prayer. These are the types of people that the Church celebrates as evangelists. We celebrate those who go big rather than those who go deep.
These big time crusade evangelists, and bold and fun street evangelists may get hands up in meetings, and see some extraordinary miracles, but the reality is that these forms of evangelism are not that effective in changing hearts.What is the point of millions of hands waving in the sky if their hearts never change? As much as miracle meetings on the streets and in stadiums may resemble parts of Jesus ministry, it actually is missing some key ingredients to heart transformation. Jesus message of “Repent and Believe” is a heart message, and if it is a heart message then our evangelistic efforts need to create environments where peoples hearts can be transformed.[pullquote]What is the point of millions of hands waving in the sky if their hearts never change?[/pullquote]
As we read through the life of Jesus as found in the gospels, it is clear to see that Jesus has a very clear method for sharing the good news. He followed the same strategy wherever He went, and when He sent out the 12 and the 72 He told them exactly what His method was. Not only that, but He described why He did it that way too in Luke 6 where He tells His disciples how to deal with wicked hearts. Sadly, we don’t recognise His strategy, fail to do the same, and therefore fail to get to the heart of the matter.
In Matthew 10 and Luke 10 Jesus sends His team on a Mission trip. Here He gives them instructions on what to do. This is how Jesus taught His disciples to share the good news. Allow me to sum up a few key points:
Pray. Jesus wanted His believers to begin by praying. Jesus often withdrew to connect with the Father. Jesus says that He only ever did what He saw the Father do, and only spoke what He heard the Father say. God is already at work in peoples hearts and by praying we connect with the Father and realise what it is He wants to do and say to those we are trying to reach. The fields are ripe for the harvest!
Eat. Jesus wanted His disciples to find people to do every day life with. He wanted them to sit down and have meals wth people. Jesus did this so much that He was labelled a glutton and a drunk! His first miracle was supplying even more wine for the wedding party! Jesus was always looking for meals and would both accept invitations and invite Himself over. This is where it is different to a big meeting. The dinner table in the home of those we’re reaching is a safe place for them to be real, honest and open – the perfect environment for a heart revolution.
Bless. Jesus tells His disciples to go and declare peace. Peace was the attitude they were going with. They were not to overstay their welcome, nor keep banging on if people didn’t want to hear. Jesus would respect peoples right to accept or reject Him. He wanted to respect peoples hearts, hearts that were broken and perverted. He knew that only love can defeat hate and heal a wounded soul. He always blessed them regardless of their beliefs or current lifestyle. When we bless people it shows them our heart, and moves theirs.
Heal. Part of blessing people is seeing their needs and seeing what The Father wants to do. Jesus loved to heal the sick and cast out demons, and did it regularly. He commands His disciples to do it, and tells us in the Great Commission that healing is a sign that follows His believers. It is a sign that points people to the Living God who is not angrily pushing people away, but lovingly pursuing us. Healing is bigger than just physical healing too, also including emotional, and spiritual healing as well. Think of the 10 Lepers, all were healed only one was made well. Eating together, accepting, and blessing all lead to healing. Simply put, Love heals. [pullquote]Think of the 10 Lepers, all were healed only one was made well. Eating together, accepting, and blessing all lead to healing. Simply put, Love heals.[/pullquote]
Preach. Jesus both demonstrated and proclaimed the good news. When the “Gospel” is mentioned with Jesus it is always in relation to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the world being put back the way it was suppose to be. Eden, as in The Garden of Eden, literally means pleasure, and it is this pleasurable existence with God that we were created for. When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead or cast out demons He said the Kingdom has come to you, along with a tag line – “Repent and Believe.” This literally means to change your mind to agree with God. When this message is backed up with the loving good works mentioned above hearts change. People are drawn into the loving friendship with God. The message is not a threat or ultimatum, it is a declaration that God has already reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, and that friendship with God is available to all.
When we see this strategy we clearly see why it is effective. In Luke 6 Jesus says that out of the heart the mouth speaks. If someone is going to confess Jesus is Lord, there is something that needs to shift in their hearts. Whilst this can happen in a big meeting, deep heart transformation more often than not happens over time, and in community amongst friends who love them unconditionally.
Jesus strategy for sharing the good news, healing hearts and changing the world is actually pretty achievable for most believers. In todays world it may look like taking someone out for a coffee, going out for a meal, or inviting someone over for dinner. It looks like being nice, blessing people in whatever way you can, and by being naturally supernatural. Then as you are showing them the love of God, you tell them about His love for them and how Jesus has reconciled them to the Father. You don’t have to be an “evangelist”, an “extrovert” or anything or anyone special. All you need to do is pray for them, bless them, heal them, and share some good news with them over a simple meal.
Today I celebrate the evangelists who have understood the transforming power of love lived out, the evangelists who don’t post amazing photographs of fields full of hands raised, or videos of miracles in shopping centres. I celebrate all those who have loved and listened, and created opportunities and spaces for their friends, families, and colleagues to have a heart transformation. It is not as glamorous, not as big, but it is deep and eternal. I honour you and join you in this amazing opportunity to co-labor with Christ.