Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.
I came barreling out of seminary, fresh out of Victoria Heard’s church planting course with various evangelism methods ready to be fired on the unsuspecting. I was ready to build a church. I believed if I had enough enthusiasm, the people would come flitting, moths to the flame. (And yes, friend, I know you are cringing with me.)
Love, true self-giving, cross-shaped love, was completely out of my league.
I was approaching evangelism through the lens of business model success. Church growth, it’s sometimes called. Ten years later and I have been weakened, wizened, humbled. The cross is no business model. The cross is the giving up (dying) to our own imaginary ideas of success and how they might build our kingdom and slowly prying open one finger at a time, letting outcomes slide away. Only then can we open our hearts, love our neighbor and let the Holy Spirit guide the process of precious ones to Jesus.
The first step to cross-shaped love? We must be made whole before we can learn to love with God’s persevering love. If we haven’t dealt with our own stuff… If we don’t know how we might attack or abandon during the knock-down drag out crucibles in a relationship, we cannot be trusted with the heart of another (though thank You Jesus, He can always redeem our very human messes!) Through the healing power of the love of God, we slowly become a safe person.
Only people who have sat in front of the cross, drank huge drafts of grace, can themselves become pointers to Jesus.
The second step to cross-shaped love is to become an image of the Father’s love. Our world is weighed down with a screwed-up idea of God, and really, why would they want to come within His reach? We have a whole lot of unhealthy Christian stereo-types to overcome. To do that, we have to build time-tested trust and love them in their language, just as our Father wooed us.
Third, if they are beginning to show curiosity, we park ourselves in front of them, asking questions about their journey. We listen and we listen and we listen and then we slowly share. We open our hands with little pieces of our story, little pieces of Jesus’ story…just as much bread as they are hungry for that day. And then, when they are ready to change, truly change their lives, we walk with them to the foot of the cross to meet the One who gave His all for them.
And you, friend, I see you smiling because you know that this transformation usually takes years and a team of loving people. I might have the privilege of walking with them through the first stage and they will need you to listen and stoke the fire of their curiosity.
Cross-shaped evangelism means years of prayer, years of self-giving friendship, years of listening and availability. Why? Because we are not just pray- the- prayer type people. Jesus’ asks us to make disciples, not pick projects and leave them outside their door with a flimsy invitation to church. He shows us the way.
He built relationships of mutual care. Jesus feasted at their dinner parties or invited them over to his place with a wave and a “Come and See!” He walked beside them on miles of dusty roads and then knelt down to wash their dirty feet. He taught and loved and challenged and stayed present. And in the midst of all that messy life, Jesus offered good news to the poor, bound up broken hearts, released prisoners from darkness, and brought new life to one bowed- down life after another. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
That is the type of love I need to be transformed by, the type of love I want to hand out one cup of living water after another. That is good news.
Together let’s sit in front of the cross and learn.
Over the next 39 days, we will be following a journey together deeper into these concepts. Wanna come along? Ash Wednesday to Easter, we will be taking a macro-lens look at cross-shaped evangelism. If you desire to receive the reflection in your inbox, find the box at to your right under the word “Connect,” add your email address and push the subscribe button. Easy. And maybe you have a cross-shaped evangelism story to share? Please use the box under “Submit Your Work” and I would love to share your offering.
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