Where the only true hope is found
As the spring renewal arrives with daylight saving time and Easter, many churches launch campaigns to train and encourage Christians to share their faith with neighbors and associates. The word evangelism strikes fear in my heart.
It’s like Valentine’s Day: I love my wife, daughters and granddaughters and have great schemes to show my love, but nothing ever seems adequate for the love festival. In a similar way, I believe that the blessing of knowing God and experiencing salvation adds meaning and value to all human life. I want to share the story of Jesus, and I plan ways to reach out, but always feel inadequate.
“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.” These words that conclude Matthew’s gospel call all believers to share the story of Jesus and his redemption.
My dad had been the target of evangelistic family members since he married my mother. My mother’s family (the Baileys) had deep roots in Churches of Christ, but my father had grown up in a non-religious family. Dad possessed strong moral values, fully dedicated to Mother and his family. With only a grammar school education, Dad worked hard and sacrificed for his family. His in-laws set out to convert him: I remember his heated arguments with my aunts and my grown cousins. Years later, when the family had given up on him, I carried on the crusade. My focus was on the church, church attendance, baptism. My argumentative spirit gave no insight into the powerful meekness of Jesus.
Years later, when Dad and I never talked about religion, my children began sorrowing that Granddad did not take communion or sing. Earlier, they successfully begged him to quit smoking when television campaigns alarmed them about lung cancer. In 1975 their Christmas present for my dad was a New Testament and an appeal that he read the gospel of Mark. A year later when the family gathered for Christmas, we were grieving the spring death of Joyce’s mother—a death that deeply touched my parents.
Dad began talking with his grandchildren about his reading of the Bible. Over the next years, he read all the New Testament and had conversations about the relationship of Jesus to the church of Acts.
At Christmas of 1985, when my parents came for my daughter’s wedding and the family holiday, my dad decided to be baptized. He was 75 years old, having rebuffed arguments about religion for 55 years.
Discovering Jesus transformed Dad. Jesus is hope, light, strength, music. He was convincing to my dad and will be to others.
The fear of telling friends about Jesus and the dread of renewing the discussion of becoming an evangelistic church must not deter us from listening to Jesus’ final words in Matthew. A wonderful Christian man who has been growing spiritually in the 40 years I have known him, Tom Boker carries around in the trunk of his car a box of Bibles.
He gives one to the man who changes his oil, the waitress where he has lunch, a street person he hands money. Nearly any Sunday, he will introduce me to visitors he has brought with him.
Stafford North, my dear friend and mentor, has been teaching courses in personal evangelism for 30 years. Last year he published Evangelizing Your Community (21st Century Christian), a compilation of studies, ideas and approaches for sharing the study of Jesus. His second chapter brings together all the Bible teaching about Jesus as the focal point of God’s plan for saving the world. The book has ideas for churches that can equip us to spread the kingdom in our community.
Bringing the lost to Jesus is God’s work, but we must be an instrument. The power of conversion is in Jesus and the Word. As we determine that we will be evangelistic, prayer is the starting point. When we seek God’s aid, evangelism becomes more natural. I pray that sharing Jesus will be my top priority.
“In Christ alone my hope is found.”