Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's Evangelism?

Creating God Space

What’s evangelism?
Much has been written, been theorized about, and probably more talked about then actually done.


Evangelism at it's core is being a friendly open-hearted person, and gently stepping into another persons space.

A few years ago, I spoke to a group of teens…I began by telling a story about a friend of mine who has been coming to our food pantry for breakfast and groceries. He was waiting in line and we began to have a conversation…

As the conversation continued he told me about his wife who was a gambler. In 1997 she blew through $18,000 in savings, began to use drugs and left him with two young boys. Devastated, he went to the place where he thought he could find some encouragement and support… his church. He told the pastor his story, how he was left with two boys under 3 and needed some help.

The pastor told him, “We can’t help you now, but to come back in a month or so.” He wasn't looking for financial support just someone to help him walk through his crisis.

His comment to me, “I desperately needed support and help, not in a month but in the moment.” He left that day vowing, “I’ll never enter another church again.” 

He then spoke of his struggle to work, feed, and care for his boys. During the summer he used a neighborhood common garden to grow vegetables. He ate the fresh veggies in the summer and canned the rest for winter. He worked hard, supported his kids, had the usual growing pains of boys becoming teenagers and developing into young men.

After, he spoke I paused, then asked him to forgive me, representing the church as a leader. I then asked if we could pray. During the prayer, I asked God for forgiveness, and asked for grace to be to be given to his family, to bless them and for favor to rest upon them. He shook my hand and said, “Thanks, Steve.”

I then told the teens he’s now a personal friend and about our continued relationship.

I mentioned that evangelism at it's core is simply being a friendly open-hearted person and gently stepping into another persons space.

Once stepping into a person’s relational space we are creating God space, where God things happen.

To illustrate I shared another story.

Crosby, Stills and Nash came to the outdoor Fraze Pavilion for a show. My wife, and a few friends headed up to have a picnic outside the pavilion and to listen to the music. It was a great night. Good food, drinking coke, singing with the crowd and enjoying our friends. Interesting people, dogs, and kids walk by our smorgasbord. Often commenting on the spread of some pretty amazing food. “Man that’s what we should do.”

At one point a father with a small baby girl walked by. I noticed an attached tube to help the child receive meds, or food. The father evidently was besotted with his little girl. At one point he introduced the child to another baby.  They made faces at each other eye to eye, laughed and giggled…the connection baby to baby was amazing.

A little while later the mom walked toward us carrying the child. I mentioned to a friend, “I think we need to pray for them.” When the duo came by I asked the mom, “What’s the baby’s name.” The mom replied, “Abigail.” I laughed and said, “Our third child was supposed to be an Abigail, but she ended up being a Nathan. I have a blonde, brunette and Nathan has red hair.” The mom replied, “Oh, Abigail has red hair.”

 I then asked what was wrong with Abigail. She told the story of the birth, things not right with Abby’s stomach, and how she was improving but still had a long way to go. I then mentioned I and my friend were pastors of the Vineyard and asked if we could pray for Abby. She replied, “That would be great.” We prayed general, to specific prayers for the baby and prayed for the mom. I noticed that she was obviously touched.

It was ‘a God space moment’ Crosby, Stills and Nash were presenting a great show for the crowd, we were presenting a child in need to a great God. At the end we thanked the mom for allowing us to pray with her.

Again, intentionally stepping into a person’s relational space is where God space is created. God space is where faith begins to grow.

I told the teens. “That in a nutshell… is evangelism.”

People are either moving toward Jesus, or away from him, or are on pause. Our job is to seek to enter into a person’s life space with care and concern. We then can help people who have turned away from Jesus to turn toward Him, or to nudge those who are moving toward Him closer, and to help those who are thinking to move forward.

Reaching out to others is not really that complicated.
      It just requires seeing eyes, hearing ears,
                and a willingness to create space where faith can begin to dwell.

That’s why I enjoy serving others. Serving others creates God space.

Giving Gatorade to skaters at the skate park on a hot day, or offering sun screen to people at a beach, or cold water at the Dayton Air Show, or serving breakfast at our food pantry helps create God space where His life can be shared.

 I’ve discovered that God is very interested in the people within my sphere of influence. Once I’ve discovered and entered into a God moment He tends to show up.

In His presence, there is life. We call it serving our way into the heart… Breaking down barriers, building bridges. Creating God space.

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