How does the church reach the masses for the glory of God in our current cultural climate? According to Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of the recent book Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out, the key is authentic relationships. We know the gospel, we have been trained in its story and its importance, we believe it and live by it, the next step to move into a life of evangelism is not a 10 step evangelism explosion using 3 circles and an elevator pitch. We need to step away from an evangelism approach that places performance over personality, lists over love, and sales over sustainable relationships. As helpful as certain evangelism tools may be, our world is craving more than a prepackaged solution to our problems.
Think about it. We live in a world saturated by sales and advertisements. Every time we look at our phone, turn on the tv, drive down the road, or enter a public place advertisements scream for our attention, and in all the noise we have learned to tune out anything that feels targeted to get us to buy a product or attend an event. At the same time, we live in a world saturated by social media, and all of the impediments to authenticity and deep relationships that have resulted from a highly controlled self-branding culture.
Insert the model of Jesus here. When we read the gospels, one thing is certain: Jesus wasn’t out to sell a product to an unknown consumer. He was out to know people, to show them that they were truly known, loved, and cared for. He sought to show them the bread of life, to be certain, but not without getting dirty first.
Think about that. The God of the universe came down into the dirt of this world in order to bridge the gap of relationship between God and man. He took on the bleeding, itchy, sweaty, stinky human flesh we all inhabit, and in the process showed us that He knows us deeply and loves us fully. What if we tried to reach the world that way?
What if we, like Jesus, took time out of our schedule to develop intentional relationships with stinky people? What if we set aside our aspirations and goals for a few minutes each day and genuinely sought to know people with the goal of sharing the Jesus who has transformed our lives. What if we modeled the Emmanuel, God with us, love of Christ, by truly being with and for those we encounter each day? I think we just might see a few hearts and minds changed, a few eternities redirected, and a few fires lit for Christ.
Want some strategies for making that change? You might want to pick up Alvin Reid’s book. It’s a short read, only around 100 pages, and I think you’ll benefit from it.
Soli Deo Gloria!