You didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell.
“I build relationships through evangelism, rather than for evangelism.
Am I saying that I take the first opportunity to share Christ with perfect strangers?
Yes, most of the time.
Does it feel awkward at first, like I’m about to fall off a cliff?
Almost, every time.
What happens if they reject me out of hand, haven’t I lost an opportunity?
That’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Shouldn’t I build a resume of trust first, before I risk telling the mystery of the gospel?
It helps, but it’s not essential.
Building relationships through evangelism makes more sense to me, because waiting to share the secret of faith not only contradicts the mandate of the gospel, but its counter intuitive to human instinct. We are all hard wired to find someone to tell what’s been whispered to us.
Recently, one of my children told me I was going to be a Grandfather, but said it ‘wasn’t for public knowledge.’ Not for public knowledge? Nice try! Ginnette and I laughed over who would leak first. Technically, call me the sieve! I didn’t last 24 hours! If the Gospel is good news to tell, why aren’t we all sieves, leaking every chance we get?
In his book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, author Roland Allen says, “Christian experience is always a secret, and the man who speaks of it to another always pays him a subtle compliment when he entrusts him with his secret of life.”
“The way, the truth and the Life….” began with a cacophony of languages accompanied by fire, consuming the dry philosophies and religious kindling of the first century. No man or woman who heard and received this Secret could hold it in. “God so loved…” was the most fundamental shift in human religious pursuit ever to happen, grounded in the person of Jesus Christ, whose example from the cross defined a new kind of love. “Father, forgive them.” How can any of us hold in that kind of secret?
Yesterday, I met a smart young man named Christian at a local coffee shop. He was minding his lonesome, when I took the initiative with a brilliant and seamless question. “You a Grizzly fan?” Granted, it was lame, but that’s all it took. He wheeled around, and starting talking. Soon, he was telling me his philosophy of life. I listened patiently to his invention of belief, with parts pantheistic, parts humanistic, and a small pinch of Jesus thrown in like sea salt in soup. “When I see God, I’m going to ask him to send me back as a lion,” he concluded. All the while he spoke, a kind of pressure was building in me, because the more he shared, the more I realized that first, he was arguably seeking answers, and second, he was miserably lost in a diatribe of rambling syllables, contradictions and crazy notions. Up to that point, he knew nothing about me, but while he spoke, God was whispering, reminding and urging me to clearly connect Christian’s greatest need to the mystery of His message.
Jesus said, “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.”
The power of a secret is at our disposal, and it’s not our revved up human will. He’s given a name in the book of Acts. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, to be my witnesses…” The mysterious power of a secret is no other than God Himself.
So, where do we start in asking Him to build pressure inside of us, so like the Apostle Paul, we are ‘constrained by the love of Christ?’ If there was a formula, it might look something like this: Permission, plus time, plus grace to experiment.
Permission means we understand that God has not only asked us to share His message, but that the idea, ‘it’s not public knowledge’ is antithetical to the Gospel’s Author. He’s standing with us, urging us to tell anyone He sends across our path what He’s revealed to us about our relationship with Him. He’s given us permission to help bring others with us to heaven.
Time means that we will seek God’s heart for whom, when and how we share the message. Time in prayer with God allows us to be refreshed in the Secret He has whispered, and builds anticipation for sharing what we’ve heard. Most likely, the first person He wants us to leak His message to is right under our roof.
Grace to experiment means that we may not get it right the first time, or say the right things, or be able to anticipate the drama that will unfold. My friend was about to lead four young men in a prayer for salvation at McDonalds in lower Manhattan, when a rat was spotted. Every person fled the store, along with the four young seeking hearts. Be ready for anything, but remember it’s far better to try than to never try at all.