I was on vacation in Florida a number of years ago and I was invited to attend a men’s study on The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. (A wonderful book, by the way.) I knew a few of the guys in the study. They were good men – successful in life, faithfully serving on boards of ministries and in their churches – standard issue Christians. So, I drove over to this gated development – Boca Del Boca or some such name, gave the guard mine and went in.
Ten or twelve tanned men sat around a long table and the lesson that day was on the chapter, Sharing Your Life’s Message, essentially sharing what Jesus taught you, with others. They had asked me to lead so I jumped right in with this question, “How many of you are meeting with a man or two or a couple and teaching them what God has taught you?” The only sound in that room right then was the hum of the air conditioning and sipping of coffee. You’d have thought I’d asked them to pull down their pants.
Finally, one brave soul cleared his throat and said, “Well, we attend this study every week.” “That’s great,” I said. “Studies like this prepare us for ministry, but to whom are you passing on what it means to actually live like Jesus?” I never got invited back.
One of the reasons the world is so lost is that Christians have chosen to huddle with each other in “Boca Del Boca studies” – whether in churches or homes, drinking coffee, eating cookies, forever learning, but rarely passing it on, except maybe to their children.
But, if Jesus’ last words on earth included the command, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” we can’t seriously consider ourselves followers of Jesus and not be actively engaged in passing along “the way” Jesus lived. As much as I value studying the Bible, I think Jesus would prefer that I was half as smart and twice as obedient.
The Way Before followers of Jesus were called Christians, they were called The Way (Acts 9:2 and other places in Acts). They were called that because Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) I’ve also heard it said they were called that because of “the way” followers of Jesus lived. In what we refer to as the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
It’s both our obligation and our privilege to introduce people to Jesus, what Christians have traditionally called evangelism. But, I’m not talking about inviting them to church or giving them a tract, although that may be part of it.
Lawn Mower Evangelism I grew up in a very conservative Christian culture where, as a rule, people didn’t share their faith much, but they were good people – devout and virtuous. I called this method of evangelism “lawn mower evangelism.” “I hope my neighbor gets saved because they notice I don’t cut my grass on Sunday.”
Live the Gospel! When you and I live the way Jesus lived, we make the gospel – the true gospel, evident and obvious to others. But at some point, we also need to open our mouths and speak his name and teach others all the things he taught us. Can you recall the last person who you personally introduced to Jesus? If not, what’s really holding you back? You say you’ve never been trained? I doubt if anyone had to train you to talk about your grandchildren, your favorite team, or TV program.
Let’s face it; we talk about the people and things we love. When I stop talking about Jesus to those who don’t know him, it’s an indicator to me that something is wrong between Jesus and me. Maybe it’s a sin I’ve not fully dealt with, fear of embarrassment, busyness – I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s my problem. It would be abnormal for people who say they love Jesus not to tell those who don’t.
“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26
10 Most Wanted Years ago, when I first became a Christian, I belonged to a ministry called CBMC (Christian Business Men’s Committee). They had a little blue card with ten empty lines on it. We were challenged to write down the names of ten people we were reasonably certain didn’t know Jesus and pray for them regularly. I got out of that habit for a few years, but I’ve since come back. It’s been my experience that if I’m not intentional about praying for and introducing people to Jesus, weeks or months can go by before I give them any serious thought – shame on me!
My obedience to the 10 second rule will often trigger some thoughts as I’m praying for them, of something Jesus wants me to do beyond prayer. Often it’s to write them a note of encouragement, invite them to coffee, or do something fun – no big deal really. But it’s amazing how often, years later after they’ve come to faith, they’ll recall serious followers of Jesus reached out to befriend or encourage them, without pressure – just love.
Apprentice yourself to an evangelism mentor If you don’t know how to introduce others to Jesus, there are people who can teach you. Pray and ask God to direct you to a person you know who has introduced people to Jesus. Call them. Meet with them. Tell them you’d like to apprentice under them. Ask them to mentor you through this process and introduce you to the joy of making Jesus known to another human being who needs him as much as you did – and still do!
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2
Following Jesus in Real Life