One of our members, Rosario Gibbs, posted this on her Facebook page. I’m sharing it with her permission:
My church served single mothers through a ministry called LOFT. Every year on Christmas, our church would ask families to sponsor a single mother and her children with Christmas gifts. Two years ago, I was walking the aisles of Walmart, buying items off the gift list we got from one of the single moms and her three children, and as I was looking into the shelves, a Walmart employee stops me and asks, in Spanish, if I’d accept an employee discount card that she had. Me, not fully understanding what she meant, asked if she was offering me her discount card for free, and she said “yes, I am done with my shopping and I don’t need this card, so I asked God to show me the right person and I think it’s you, it’s a 25% discount card.” She said she needed to go with me to the cashier cause she needed to sign to get the discount for me. I said “ok, but I’m not done yet,” and she said she’d wait for me at the cashier. When I was done, I met her at the cashier and she made the discount available to my purchase. I gave her a hug and told her about my church’s ministry and who she was blessing with that act of kindness, she said she knew God would point her to the right person. And I left amazed at God’s mysterious ways and grace.
Last week on Wednesday, a 22 year old male tragically passed away, he was the son of a lady that’s been visiting our church for over a month now, with whom I hadn’t spent much time during church. She was obviously devastated and requested visits and prayers. By Thursday, she was dealing with the unfortunate and painful fact that she didn’t have the money to pay for her son’s funeral, she couldn’t even have access to see his dead son, everything was just too much to deal with. Our church stepped in and helped raise the funds for her. On Sunday, amidst her pain, she was at church and we had a special prayer for her. Yesterday, Monday, some members of my church attended the visitation. I was standing in the room, looking at the young life that was lost, and then looking at the face of that mother, so full of sadness and pain, and I obviously couldn’t contain my tears. After a few words, a prayer and a song from one of our ministers, I left feeling terribly sad, praying for her and her family. As I was driving towards my house, I had her face on my mind and I remembered! She was the lady at Walmart that gave me her employee discount card two years ago!! She was her!
I thought of turning back so that I could ask her if she was that lady, but I didn’t do it. Today, we offered a meal for her family and friends after the burial. At the end of the meal, and after her friends and family left, all the present women from church sat with her and her husband and prayed for them again, when we were done I asked her “are you the lady that gave me the discount card at Walmart? She smiled and nodded, and we hugged. I told her again how she blessed that single mom and her kids, and I said “God blesses,” and she said “I have no doubt about it!”
2 Corinthians 9:8 says “….God is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work.”
Be sure, we serve an awesome God and His hand is all over our lives! And He definitely works in mysterious ways. Thank you God for your grace and love!
Studies done back in the 1980s showed that anywhere from 78-90% of those that came to church for the first time did so because of a friend or relative (The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples, Arn and Arn). Other studies have shown that approximately 95% of those that become Christians have friends or family in the church.
What does that mean? Here are a few thoughts:
- We, as Christians, need to be developing relationships with non-Christians.
- The best chance that our relatives and friends have of hearing the gospel is to hear it from us.
- We need to focus less on programs and more on people, less on showmanship and more on relationships, less on head knowledge and more on knowing our neighbors.
The unique mission of the church is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. There are other groups that can do much of what we do in interacting with our communities: building houses, sharing food, providing clothing. These good works and others can be done by those who don’t know Jesus. But only Christians can effectively share the gospel.
And we are the best ones to do that with those in our immediate circle.
I want you to think about some of the people you know. I’d like for you to try and think of someone you know who might fit each of these categories:
- Someone showing little interest in God. This might even be someone who is antagonistic toward God and religion in general. Just think of someone that you know that doesn’t seem interested in God.
- Moral person who isn’t involved in a church. It’s okay if you don’t know if this person believes in Jesus or not. Just try and identify someone who seems like a good person but doesn’t seem to be a church goer.
- God fearer. Borrowing a term from the book of Acts, I’m using this to describe people who seem to believe in God but haven’t given their lives to Christ.
- New Christian. This is someone who has recently begun their new life in Christ.
- Long-time Christian who could use some encouragement.
Now here’s what I’d like to ask you to do:
- Pray for this person. Pray for blessings for them. Pray that the Spirit will work in their lives.
- Pray that God will use you to move this person one step closer to Him. Each of these people needs that. Each of us needs that. Don’t worry about whether or not that person will even know how God has used you. Just pray to be used.
While you’re at it, go ahead and add me to that list. I could use your prayers. Feel free to add your name in the comments if you’d like the same.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Kingdom values aren’t kingdom values without the King. Loving one another wasn’t new; loving as Jesus loved was new.
If we are going to proclaim the kingdom, we must proclaim the King. If we are going to “bring heaven to earth,” then we will necessarily bring the One whose very presence fills heaven.
So let me put it this way: if you’re feeding and building and digging and giving for the sake of the Kingdom, tell people about the King. Talk about Jesus, who he is, what he’s done for us, and the eternal life he wants to give to us.
Bonus: “Trying to have a Kingdom with no King is just -dom.” :-)
So why are so many Christians today neglecting or denying the need to evangelize others? Here are some thoughts:
- There is a rejection of the “fire and brimstone” preaching of yesteryear. As I’ve said, this is a dangerous pendulum swing. Not unexpected, but dangerous. We don’t solve anything by going from one extreme to another. We’ve got to get back to a middle ground where our people (our leaders!) feel confident in sharing Jesus in a healthy way.
- An age of tolerance makes evangelism seem old-fashioned. Evangelism isn’t tolerant. It doesn’t say, “This is my idea, but yours is just as valid.” Evangelism makes claims of exclusivity. Evangelism calls for an embrace of one set of ideals and a rejection of all others. The spirit of tolerance and a zeal for evangelism don’t go together well.
- Evangelism creates conflict. It’s easy to hold forth kingdom values that society in general applauds. Few people openly advocate injustice. It’s rare that someone will argue against helping the needy. So many of the kingdom values that our church today wants to promote are values that society in general is in agreement with. It’s undeniably true that more churches began preaching gender justice when Western culture embraced women’s rights; many assume the same thing will happen with homosexuality.
But evangelism is counter-cultural. If someone suggests that a Muslim needs Jesus, they’re criticized for their intolerance. If we tell our neighbor that they need to live a Christian lifestyle, we’re seen as judgmental. Evangelism creates conflict.
- Evangelistic results are hard to predict and hard to quantify. If it takes $100 to dig a water well, you know that $1000 will dig ten. Predictable. Quantifiable. Easy to fit into a budget. Easy to report on afterward.
There are no formulas for predicting evangelistic success. Conversions can take years. We know that the more people we talk to, the more likely it will be that some will respond to Jesus. But for people who live by numbers and statistics, relief work is always going to be more attractive.
- Theological shifts have left church leaders without motivation to reach out. Here’s where we see a divide between many church leaders and your average church members. Many leaders no longer see the atonement as past generations did. Many choose an emphasis on “bringing heaven to earth” over “helping people get to heaven.” Others embrace a universalism that denies that any will be ultimately lost. These shifts and others have left many church leaders looking to spend their time, energy, and resources in other areas rather than evangelism.
We could name many more factors. Maybe you’ll help me. Why do you think so many church leaders today are hesitant to talk about evangelism and reaching out to the lost?