Now my story doesn’t end there. I may be a terrible evangelist, but lately I’ve been learning, in little baby steps, how to express God’s heart to our world. It’s a journey that’s changing me and our church quite deeply and I want to share it with you.
In 2007 my city, Hull, was hit by catastrophic floods and today around 24,000 people are displaced in some way, hurt by the pain of the disaster. In reading through the Gospels I find Jesus did four main things to touch his hurting world, and as we’ve begun to incorporate these into reaching these flood victims, something divine seems to be taking place.
Firstly, he fed people. His very first miracle was to turn jars of water into 4000 glasses of wine, an act that has had theologians twitching ever since! We of course know that he also fed thousands of men, women and children on at least two occasions. The simple, divine act, of providing food for people was a part of Jesus methodology of evangelism.
When the floods first hit Hull, smashing through villages, towns and suburbs, we gave financial gifts to all the flood victims in our own church. One couple, not in immediate financial need, decided to buy a load of food and invite their whole street to a BBQ. “Our church wanted to cheer us up” were their words. Neighbours and friends crowded around and were fascinated saying “What kind of a church puts on a BBQ for flood victims?”. Since then literally hundreds upon hundreds of flood victims have been through our doors to enjoy good food, and along with it, the love of God. I’ve discovered even Terrible Evangelists can hand out hot dogs!
The second thing Jesus did was he healed people. Recently a camera crew were visiting our church from a nearby college, filming and studying the life of our church. Part way through my interview one of the crew mentioned she had a head ache and was due to see a doctor about it for scans of some sort.
I groaned inwardly, as I knew God wanted me to pray for her. I’ve seen loads of Christian head aches healed, but this girl didn’t know Jesus, and what’s more, cameras were rolling. Talk about pressure!
Eventually plucking up the courage I asked her if I could pray for her, which she accepted. The cameras had been put down by this point but I heard the words coming out of my mouth “Why don’t you roll cameras and get this on film”. My spirit man was up for an adventure, but my flesh man was crying out for the rapture!
Cameras rolling, I prayed, and the girl was healed. “That’s freaky” were her exact words of praise.
Most congregations and leaders engage in praying for healing to some degree in church, so is it really that hard to lay hands on the head of someone who doesn’t know God yet? I have personally seen that God is often more likely to turn up for the fascinated non-Christian, than for some cynical believers!
The third thing Jesus did was love people. Simple, selfless, love. At our church we’ve named 2008 “The Year of Loving Dangerously”. We might be Terrible Evangelists, but we can all love people. Over Christmas we handed out 600 luxury hampers to those stuck in caravans due to floods. Tears flowed from heart broken flood victims, as they realised someone cared. We’ve since offered people free Pamper days and invites to free concerts and fun days; literally everything and anything we could think of to show people we loved them.
And it’s having an amazing affect. From being shunned by funding from the council, they are now ringing up to ask if we want more money! Care organisations are offering to bus people to the church. All because of the simple act of loving people. Surely any of us can do that?
The final thing Jesus did was to provoke people.
Most self-certified “Terrible Evangelists” like me find that squeezing the full Gospel into every conversation with non-believers so hard. We feel we haven’t shared the truth unless every interaction includes the “Jesus died for me, on a tree, at Calvary, to set me free” line somewhere.
But on reading the Gospels I discover Jesus didn’t do this at all! He knew people were being drawn by the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart, so was happy to play the side-role of divine provocateur.
Rather than deliver a self contained package of Gospel truth, Jesus seemed very happy to share confusing parables, leaving the hidden meanings to private discussions with his disciples. He basically said things like “I’m a loaf of bread, eat me”! He spoke of weddings, foxes, preservatives, vineyards, sheep, trees, farms, goats, virgins, lamps, streams and being born, all over again, a statement that had learned theologians wondering how it could be biologically possible!
Sometimes we feel every conversation has to include the full-Gospel message, or else we’ve failed. But relaxing into the roll of God’s provocateur has set me free! Pop in the “God healed me this Sunday” or simply “I’m off to church now” or even (my personal favourite) “Want to hear me speak in tongues?” and you’ll have that listener awake all night, questioning, seeking, wondering. And that’s where the Spirit moves upon a heart. Soon enough they’ll come back for more.
If we relax and start to feed people, heal them, love them and provoke them, lifting up the kindness and relevance of Jesus Christ, we may just find he will “draw all mankind to himself”. (John 12:32). Even the most Terrible Evangelists can do that, surely?