‘Why does evangelism sometimes feel like selling vacuums door to door? Here is why: many of us have been trained to use a bag of tools and methods to share the gospel. More often than not, those methods become the focus instead of Jesus. When that happens, we can end up selling and manipulating instead of serving and sharing Father’s gift of salvation and love.’ Bob Johnson, ‘Love Stains’
Every person Jesus ministered to received a personal encounter with Him, and as a result a personal taste of heaven. Not one encountered Jesus in the same way. He gave what was needed to those who needed it. He did not offer blind Bartimaeous a pair of glasses, He opened his eyes. He didn’t offer the lepers gauze for their wounds, or a crutch for a broken leg, but healed them, He didn’t offer to embalm Jairus’s daughter, but raised her from the dead.
Just before a Christmas a few years back, I had ordered clothes, blankets and sleeping bags to distribute to the numerous homeless people around London. To almost all of the homeless people I distributed the clothes to, I was asked for something besides what I gave them. One lady pleaded for the boots on my feet, another for money and others for food. While I knew my Daddy’s face was smiling upon me while I presented those gifts to each individual, He met my confusion to the responses I had received with a question, ‘Do I not know their need?’.
My numbness may not be to the ones He loves, perhaps my numbness is in my inability to hear or search for His voice.
See, He knows their need because He made them. He sees them day in day out, all hours, minutes and seconds of the day. He knows where they walk and what they talk, He knows what makes them laugh and He knows what makes them feel valued, it’s because He knows the key to their heart; He knows their treasure. Bob Johnson speaks in great detail in ‘Love Stains’ about each individual having a key into their heart which will trigger an encounter. He tells this story of his sweet son:
It wasn’t that the people I offered clothes to, didn’t need clothes, it was that in their desperation there was more pressing needs. And I felt what God taught me in that moment was exactly what Bob Johnson describes again here:
It is ears that hear that pave the way for an encounter, that make it a divine appointment, rather than just an appointment. A single word or action can capture what God has wanted them to know, and wants them to know for a whole lifetime: that they are loved, known and adored. It’s not a slick set of thought out notes and memorised verses. Holy Spirit’s nearness is all we need. We so often act as if He works via a rule book or a set of methods. We trap Holy Spirit within three point sermons, five fold prayers of repentance and the stubborn, awkward introductions to His name that we so often bring. Does our Father use this? Of course, in His grace and mercy He does and can, but how much more could He use us if we but listened for His voice, if we gave them a direct encounter with Jesus. We need to stop living inside realms of quotas and targets, believing if it worked the last time it must work again. If we understood, truly understood that ‘The wind blows wherever He pleases,’ John 3:8, we would understand it’s much safer to leave things in His hands. There is no formula for Kingdom effectiveness, what’s effective is Jesus, and Him in us.
Evangelism feels like selling vacuums door to door, because we have believed somewhere along the line that salvation lies in our hands. We raise a sweat when we realise we probably should mention we went to church on Sunday in talk of our weekends, or pay lip service to Him for the sake of paying lip service. We must make a shift from a people who are burdened to carry the gospel, (I speak of a burden not intended by God), to a people who are so captivated by the heart of Jesus, so entrenched, whacked out for Him, that our lives CAN’T look the same, a yes that looks so different from before. A breed of Jesus lovers whose lips are addicted to the honey of heaven, to the king of Kings, a breed stamped and sealed with the fragrance of heaven that He rolls off our tongue, or that we need not even utter a word. Francis of Assissi was the one who said ‘preach the gospel at all time and when necessary use words.’ this was not because preaching the gospel took the words, it’s because preaching the gospel looks different from words. It’s not words, it’s not merely theology, it’s an expression, it’s our identity, it’s the love that stains.
I recently just came back from Malta on a trip where before I left, as I asked Holy Spirit whether to go, I could not have heard a clearer yes. I went with an agenda in tow, I wanted to lay hands on prostitutes, I wanted to see tens come into encounter with Jesus, I wanted to preach on street corners. However, just because I want to do it, doesn’t mean it’s the Father’s desire for me. It’s not my Father’s job to hop on where we want to be, it’s our job to search the Father’s heart and see where He is and what He is doing. I don’t doubt that the power of God is always ready to take effect, but I do believe the field is ripe for harvest and He knows the fruit that is ripe. The needs I may think I know, may actually not be the needs. But the Father does. So often when we make it about our desires, or where we think we’re going to do something, or change something or bring something, it becomes about us. When it becomes about finding where our Father is, and what He wants to do, it becomes about Him. As a result, the unnecessary pressure of our own agenda is lifted. We simply become the vessel, the ever humbled vessel, for which He chooses to make Himself known by.
Malta didn’t look like standing on street corners and preaching His name, it didn’t look like laying my hands on prostitutes. But it did look like a whole lot of other things. It looked like working from Him, not for Him. It looked like feeling the warmth of His smile as I set foot in the creation He knew I would step in before the hairs on my head were formed, it looked like gleaning wisdom and knowledge from those around me, it looked like knowing Him and feeling, through dreams, unexpected prophecies, and early hours of the morning worship His ever closeness. It looked like praying for someone for healing not because I ‘should’, but because Holy Spirit prompted me to, it looked like worshipping with a guitar in front of forty or so other cars at a ferry dock while we waited in line and feeling His joy in night’s of washing up. Not one of these things was planned: just how He had wanted it from the start, all because He works best when we leave Him room. I doubt Jesus woke up each morning and planned to raise a man from the dead or walk on water, of course He knew the encounters He would bring, so much so that He didn’t need to make an agenda, in fact, so many of Jesus’s miracles were done whilst He was travelling to places or intending to do something all together different. Like the Son’s identity was rooted in the Father, so ours should be to know what we possess through Him. It’s who I am through Him that knows that the touch of my hand on a shop worker, a smile at the tour guide, or the words ‘Jesus loves you’, were enough to shift atmospheres, that each of those meetings, released something of heaven. I am confident that my Father doesn’t stop with the words I utter or my abilities, my ability isn’t in what I possess but who I possess I am confident that what I sowed in Malta will be reaped in the coming days, weeks and month; that what I radiated is ever expanding. I am confident and pray that every person I met, took a step closer to Jesus.
Did I see tens of people saved in Malta, No. But was I as effective for the Kingdom? I believe yes, because I was right where He wanted me: resting in the depths of His everlasting arms.
Throw away the agendas, the pressure of sealing the deal, the striving to accomplish, and do. Yet, do drink of Him, drink of Him so that those around you get thirsty.