“Are you giving out tracts,” was the question of the concerned volunteer. We were busily working to bless some of the families associated with our local church during the holidays. The volunteer presumed this would be one of few if not the only interaction our church would have with these families. And he wanted to make sure they heard the gospel. The volunteer’s heart was in the right place, but the person’s methodology of evangelism was sorely off.
The church was not blessing random families. That should not be the church’s focus. The church was targeting men, women, and children who had a relationship with the church we attended. We were ministering to them precisely because we had taken the time to get to know them. We did not have to give them tracts and perform the classic bait-and-switch evangelism techniques that dominate the Southern Baptist Convention. We were simply loving them as Christ loved us.
And as we loved them through meeting needs, through preaching the gospel, and through hearing their concerns, we had countless opportunities to share the gospel. We shared the gospel when we dropped off the gifts. We shared the gospel when they came to our Wednesday night church service. We shared the gospel with these families all the time because we were with them all the time. They did not need tracts because they had us. We were the testimony of God’s grace
We should not be afraid of tracts. We should not be afraid of sharing the gospel with the local server or auto-mechanic.
But, I believe the best and most effective way to do evangelism is to love people in our sphere of influence. We have to get to know people. We have to be willing to work with the broken and messy as long as they will let us. We have to be willing to be taken advantage of. We have to be willing to be mocked, to get lice, and to be robbed. We have to be willing to be disappointed. We have to be willing to do life with people inviting them into our churches and our homes happily enduring the earthly cost.
The apostle Paul summed up these thoughts in 1 Thessalonians 2:5 writing:
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Love should always to be tied to proclamation. We have to use words. We have to share the gospel. We have to call men and women to repentance. We have to love others in word and deed. And as we love people in action and in words, I believe the gospel will go forward. I believe lives will change if we will eat with sinners, and talk to women who had seven husbands.
In the cooking world, chefs talking about flashing food. You heat up an oven or grill and quickly stick a filet or some other food on the extreme heat for a few seconds. While the technique is used to seal in flavor, it is not a great technique for cooking your food from start to finish. It gets things ready in a hurry but loses all the wonderful flavor of the steak.
In much the same way, flashing people with an evangelistic track hurriedly brings a persons to the point of decision. But the processes loses all the relational aroma of love, compassion, and care. The beauty of the gospel is diminished. When and if we have the opportunity, we should take the time to get to know people. We should do life with them. We should open our churches and our homes so that we can talk about the whole counsel of God. We should move beyond flashing and start spending time with people so that the gospel can go forward.
Are you ready to get messy with people?