Evangelism - sharing our faith with a hungry world - is something that Jesus asked us to do. He asked us to proclaim the good news into all the world! How many of us do that? Hiow many of us would LIKE to do that? What stops us? If you're like me, what gives us pause is the HOW of it - HOW do we do this effectively? This very good article titled: Sent out by Jesus by Bret Fear has some wonderful, practical suggestions on this topic; and we'll blog further about this idea using Urantia Book teachings below, but here are a few snips from the article - I recommend it!
"At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to participate in "street evangelization." At a hotel near O'Hare Airport, our group boarded a bus and headed to Millennium Park. On the way, we received instructions: "Go out by two, approach an individual, and ask if he or she would like prayer or is in need of a miracle. If opposed, wish the person a good day and move on. If he or she is open, visit and eventually pray with or over the person." Our final instruction: "Pray the Lord will send you to individuals who could use grace and are in need of prayer." Everyone on the bus fell into silent prayer. When we arrived at our designation, we left our belongings on the bus and stepped into the heart of Chicago. And then the bus drove off, leaving us a bit shell shocked."
Click to read the entire article, with details on the outcome of their adventure
I am inspired after reading this article, and it gets me to thinking about the possibility of actually doing something like this with others (and I share an experience of my own below). I would never do this alone, nor would I suggest that anyone else attempt this kind of evangelism alone. Just as the Master sent out the Kingdom workers two-and-two, we should also enlist a partner, or even a group of "twos" with whom to share the adventure, should we be so led. Such fellowship lends safety, and such a shared service will strengthen the faith of each of us.
You might want to read the article in full to find out how this group fared; I can share one or two things here, though. The author states: "Though it may sound simple, evangelization can be intimidating. Street evangelization seems particularly daunting; yet it's often easier evangelizing strangers than friends, co-workers or family members. " and: "Truthfully, it often felt awkward. However, we also experienced grace-filled encounters." That's the prize, isn't it?
Ready for more inspiration?
Of course, we don't have to go out into the streets and byways like the apostles or even like this group mentioned in the article, it's true. We can simply minister as we pass by and continue to go about doing good like Jesus did; nevertheless, a mission-oriented foray with friends and believers armed with matchless goodwill and the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven might really appeal to some of us. It does to me. Perhaps it might be a goal to work towards for some committed Kingdom-dwellers...are you one of them?
Here's some practical advice from The Urantia Book that explores some of the nuts-and-bolts of the Master's evangelizing style, so that any potential evangelist - individually or as a group - can have a blueprint for success. I have broken up the text to highlight each idea:
"Always the burden of his message was: the fact of the heavenly Father's love and the truth of his mercy, coupled with the good news that man is a faith-son of this same God of love.
"Jesus' usual technique of social contact was to draw people out and into talking with him by asking them questions. The interview would usually begin by his asking them questions and end by their asking him questions. He was equally adept in teaching by either asking or answering questions.
"As a rule, to those he taught the most, he said the least. Those who derived most benefit from his personal ministry were overburdened, anxious, and dejected mortals who gained much relief because of the opportunity to unburden their souls to a sympathetic and understanding listener, and he was all that and more.
"And when these maladjusted human beings had told Jesus about their troubles, always was he able to offer practical and immediately helpful suggestions looking toward the correction of their real difficulties, albeit he did not neglect to speak words of present comfort and immediate consolation.
"And invariably would he tell these distressed mortals about the love of God and impart the information, by various and sundry methods, that they were the children of this loving Father in heaven."
We can discern a pattern here:
Before we start, we might want to pray with our partner that God go before us to bring seekers across our path. Together, reinforce the message that we wish to convey and pray for God and his unseen helpers to direct seekers to us, or us to them.
First: ask questions. "Can we pray with you today?" may be a good ice-breaker question to ask.
Second: Listen to what is being said, even if it seems like a rejection. Listen and reflect what you hear. If the person expresses a strong rejection, just move on, but always listen respectfully first for clues to real needs.
Third: (and this may be the greatest challenge) discern the real need of the person before you; offer prayer and if asked, advice. If our aim is to minister to the homeless, we might want to have a list of resources available before we embark on our journey - where the nearest social services are located, for example. Maybe we might even have a little cash on hand to share, if we can afford to do that, or food/restaurant coupons.
We may be able to offer advice on difficult relationships or on the value of prayer - or just be a listening ear. If we don't have ready advice, prayers are always appropriate for the solution to the problem at hand. But all people, regardless, need sincere understanding, tolerance, and a reason to feel refreshed by the Spirit-led attention they receive from us, and optimistic enough to face the rest of their day, knowing that someone cares for them. We might want to let their need determine our response, always praying for that one opening into which we can drop some of our good news of the kingdom and their place in it.
We should always strive to leave people the better for having met us that day, whether they accept us or not.
What did Jesus ask us to do?
Here's another list of of some very practical advice that Jesus mentioned in his "Instructions for Teachers and Believers," and in his resurrection appearances (some of this advice is paraphrased from Urantia Book text):
Again, these advices can be followed whether you're ministering in your day-to-day life to those you happen to meet, or if you're planning a real tour...
Always respect the personality of man.
Overpowering arguments and mental superiority are not to be employed to coerce men and women into the kingdom.
Make your appeals directly to the divine spirit that dwells within the minds of men. Do not appeal to fear, pity, or mere sentiment. In appealing to men, be fair; exercise self-control and exhibit due restraint.
Do not indulge in sarcasm. Be not cynical.
In preaching the gospel of the kingdom, you are simply teaching friendship with God.
Extend sympathy to the brave and courageous while you withhold overmuch pity from those cowardly souls who only halfheartedly stand up before the trials of living.
Offer not consolation to those who lie down before their troubles without a struggle (but DO offer encouragement to overcome!). Sympathize not with your fellows merely that they may sympathize with you in return.
Proclaim the good news of the heavenly kingdom: sonship with God, brotherhood with men/women, and ever-ascending citizenship in the eternal universe.
Lead men/women into the kingdom: When you have presented to mortal man the good news that God is his Father, you can the easier persuade him that he is in reality a son of God.
Do not strive with men—always be patient.
Teach that man's whole duty is summed up in this one commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself."
Show forth the fruits of the Spirit.
Minister to the sick and strengthen those who are fainthearted and fear-ridden.
Be excited about what you can give to those who live in dire spiritual poverty.
Ever be wise in your choice of methods for presenting the good news.
"Pray the Father of truth to shed abroad in your hearts a new and greater love for your brethren. You are to love all men as I have loved you; you are to serve all men as I have served you."
"Fear not the resistance of evil, for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages. And my peace I leave with you."
"Let faith reveal your light to the world; let the revelation of truth open the eyes blinded by tradition; let your loving service effectually destroy the prejudice engendered by ignorance. By so drawing close to your fellow men in understanding sympathy and with unselfish devotion, you will lead them into a saving knowledge of the Father's love."
"Carry the good news to those who sit in darkness. This gospel of the kingdom belongs to all who believe it."
"Devote your life to proving that love is the greatest thing in the world."
"Minister to the weak, the poor, and the young. Preach the gospel without fear or favor; remember always that God is no respecter of persons. Serve your fellow men even as I have served you; forgive your fellow mortals even as I have forgiven you."
"Persevere as one who has been ordained by God for this service of love."
"Cease to fear men; be unafraid to preach the good news of eternal life to your fellows who languish in darkness and hunger for the light of truth."
"Love men with the love wherewith I have loved you and serve your fellow mortals even as I have served you. By the spirit fruits of your lives impel souls to believe the truth that man is a son of God, and that all men are brethren. Remember all I have taught you and the life I have lived among you. My love overshadows you, my spirit will dwell with you, and my peace shall abide upon you."
It's not for everyone, but for you "second-milers..."
Are you inspired yet? I remember a few years back, a partner and I embarked on a one-day mini-mission of mercy during the Christmas season. We both had a little bit of disposable income at that time, and so we got in the car and headed to downtown Denver, looking for people we thought might appreceiate an unexpected gift of cash and spiritual ministry for the holidays. It was a truly memorable adventure.
We met a mother hitchiking with her two small children who really appreciated our help, a panhandler on the street, an outdoor sign-painter at work, a woman who thanked us and instantly went off to the liquor store with the money (!), a lame man struggling to cross the street, a flower seller at a gas station, a mother of three in a hospital parking lot who was overjoyed to receive a little bit of extra cash at Christmas, and a father of many children who was down on his luck. And there were more - we met and ministered to 14 people that day. Most were so appreciative, and many accepted our offer to pray with them for God's help. We shared the gospel as best we could, explaining that all the money belongs to God and we just wanted to share it with them. He loves them, and so do we.
But I won't lie; it was not easy, and we only did it that one time. However, I reflect back on that day with fondness. I kept notes on all who we met and as I read my notes, I remember each one and wonder where they are now. To this day, I pray for their welfare.
In the end, our aim must be to fulfill the Master's mandate to proclaim the gospel to all; the way we do it remains open to our imaginations and our Spirit-inspired creativity.
195:10.5 In winning souls for the Master, it is not the first mile of compulsion, duty, or convention that will transform man and his world, but rather the second mile of free service and liberty-loving devotion that betokens the Jesusonian reaching forth to grasp his brother in love and sweep him on under spiritual guidance toward the higher and divine goal of mortal existence. Christianity even now willingly goes the first mile, but mankind languishes and stumbles along in moral darkness because there are so few genuine second-milers—so few professed followers of Jesus who really live and love as he taught his disciples to live and love and serve.
Are YOU a second-miler?