As someone very dear to me pointed out yesterday, it’s easy for the church to tip the scales into acting like theological think tanks devoid of action. Sometimes we, and I, can write more about what we’ve done than what we are doing. Sometimes we act like mere humans. (1 Corinthians 13:3) Here in the Cloud Forest of Ecuador we’ve seen, and are continuing to see, some amazing things. We see the lasting transformation of individuals and entire communities. When people ask what the secret of our “success” is, I usually related it directly to the power of the gospel and how we’ve tuned the message to be effective in our multi-cultural settings. Yes, “tune,” not change. There are times, and I suppose it healthy, where I debate the value of non-verbal evangelism and rehash the seemingly silly and misquoted statement, “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary, use words,”* but here are some ways we’ve created evangelism episodes:
- When we fed the hungry.
- When we replaced their tattered shoes.
- When we gave them safe drinking water.
- When we worked with them at their job.
- When we asked to pray for and with them.
- When we read to them.
- When we counseled with them.
- When we appropriately and timely touched them.
- When we gave someone a ride.
- When we gave someone a job.
- When we listened to their stories
- When we became a handy-man for them.
- When we walked with them.
- When we genuinely greet someone.
- When we expressed more than passing interest in another.
- When we asked questions that they had a need to answer.
- When we helped someone through a tight spot.
- When we clothed someone.
- When we celebrated someone’s Birthday.
- When we frequented the same vendor.
This list represents only 20 episodes in my mind when we acted in such a way that was, or led to, an evangelism episode. I say “led to,” because some might say these acts are not technically evangelism until they include the transmission, or preaching of the gospel message. For the purposes of this post, an “Effective Evangelism Episode,” is an episode which has led to the making of a disciple of Jesus.
I’m sure that I can reach the 70 if I were to include all the different ways that I’ve personally transmitted the gospel verbally, textually, etc., but I wanted to ask you, the reader, to take part in this exercise.
Other than those listed above, how have you personally created an effective evangelism episode? What are some real examples from your day-to-day life? Let’s leave out the theoretical and supposed. I’m asking for your help in getting this list to 70.
*It is always attributed to St. Francis of Assisi—founder of the Franciscan Order—and is intended to say that proclaiming the Gospel by example is more virtuous than actually proclaiming with voice. It suggests that those who “practice the Gospel” are more faithful to the faith than those who preach it. But, Francis never said such a thing. None of his disciples, early or later biographers have these words coming from his mouth. It doesn’t show up in any of his writings. Not even close really. The closest comes from his Rule of 1221, Chapter XII on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching:
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.
Essentially, make sure your deeds match your words.