(Sorry, friends, no pictures til tomorrow. My computer’s battery connection has frayed.)
They stood on my porch, chins up, one man pushing closer to the door than the other. He was clearly in charge.
I opened the door after they rang my doorbell on a warm Wednesday night early in fall. No one rang my doorbell.
The other offered a smile nervously.
Were they Mormons who had decided to slum it without a coat and tie? “Do you have a moment?” the first one asked, rocking up on his toes.
“Have you come to a place in your thinking where you would know for sure that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven or is that something you would say you’re still working on?”
Ahhh, I knew that question. Immediately my brain starts plumbing the depths of my memory expecting an explanation mark.
“No,” I assured them, “ I was planning on going to seminary next fall and know that Jesus has saved me from my sins by dying on the cross.”
He looked at me warily and paused. Woman, seminary? Not on the script. He pushed ahead.
“Suppose you were to die today, and stand at the gates of heaven and Jesus asked you, why should I let you in to my heaven?”
And there it was. I still have Question #2 memorized: Evangelism Explosion. As a high-schooler I had studied this intimidating two-page text. Our church’s evangelism class had gone out Wednesday nights to the sad townhouses a mile down the road. (I wanted to be a missionary and thought I should get a jump on my training. I’ve always been a bit Type A like that.)
So…it was a script. Why did I feel so angry?
I politely (and politeness has always been a part of my religion) answered the question. I’ve got this, I thought.
After I shared my “conversion story”, my repentance and my belief in a Savior who had died for me, oddly enough he didn’t cry “Alleluia,” and open his arms to a fellow Christian. He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, studying me. Oh, he mumbled. I wasn’t a Baptist or from a conventional evangelical church.
The exercise was over but the mask stayed on. No joy or real conversation. He slammed a mug into my hands plastered with their church logo and backed slowly down the porch steps, barely waving.
I was left with this hollow, lonely feeling and holding a “corporate” consolation prize.
It had been canned and entirely impersonal. They had no desire to sit down and listen to my stories, to be drawn into a deeper relationship, to come sit on my porch tomorrow evening. This was wham, bam, thank you ma’am sterile evangelism.
I walked back upstairs to our apartment and added the mug to the good will box.
What a convergence from the Word walking the dust of our earth. Jesus would ask, “What is it that I can do for you,” and then listen for the text behind the hunger.
He loved. He healed. He touched. He listened.
He ate their favorite recipes, got to know their friends, chatted as they walked from village to village with a wave and a “Come follow me.”
Trust was built and discipleship can be constructed upon that scaffolding.
Our world has a very real hunger for Jesus, but a distrust of Christians.
We have a desire to share our Jesus, to watch Him transform the broken, but often want a quick fix, a method instead of a relationship. This is where the pain of the self-giving cross confronts our sad efforts at offering handfulls of the Bread of Life.
Trust built over time becomes a greenhouse for the fragile new growth of God in someone’s life. We stay and we share and we lean into the people God has given us, letting roots grow into our love, so that eventually they can be established in His love.
Tired of evangelism feeling like a sales job? Apparently, Shawn Young did too. Check out his article on Intervarsity’s site: here.