Comment from across the partnerships

Evangelism from the riverbank

16 April, 2015 Mike Cain

Evangelism from the river bank

Time in Colossians has given me a fresh vision of the big Jesus of the Bible. People around us will always want to make Jesus small. People tell us they are happy we have found a religion that works for us, but we must keep Jesus to Sundays and, above all, keep Him to ourselves. Colossians, though, insists that He is the “head over every power and authority.” (Col 2:10). He is Lord over all things and all people. So we cannot keep him to Sundays nor can we keep Him to ourselves.

People sometimes think of evangelism as nothing more than a recruitment campaign. No. Evangelism is the logical consequence of a clear sight of the big Jesus of the Bible. One day everyone will stand before him. There we will give account for our life. Everyone needs to know this Jesus before that day dawns. But evangelism isn’t easy, I know from experience.

Tom was someone I remembered vaguely from university. We bumped into each other and, not being quite sure what to say, found myself venturing, “Hey, we should get together some time.”

So it was sort of by accident that Tom and I found ourselves one freezing February morning, trudging through the mud along the riverbank towards a spot which, I assured him, held some fair-sized pike. Tom had never been fishing before. I am not quite sure why I’d decided taking him would be a good idea. I think it was something to do with the fact that two blokes who don’t really know each other, two cups of coffee and a whole morning to kill is not always a very easy combination.

In the car we had pretty much run out of things to talk about. By the time we had walked down to the river our fingers were so cold we thought they were going to snap off. The thermos, I had to confess, was left at home, sitting ready on the kitchen table. Things were feeling a little frosty on every front. While I fumbled with line and hooks in bid to get started, Tom stood stony faced, his back to the wind, his hands as deep in his pockets as he could bury them. With my first cast came the rain. Horizontal rain. In minutes we were soaked. Tom held the rod for a bit, a token gesture of interest. What sort of dumb idea had this been? And then as the rain turned to sleet and stung our faces, we both burst out laughing. We were so miserable it was funny. I wondered if we should call it a day. Without a moment’s hesitation Tom grabbed the rod and led the charge back to the car. We had lasted out there for only twenty minutes. Yet suddenly we had become friends.

We had done something ridiculous together, something we could laugh about together, something we’d never forget. And for the rest of the morning, over our two cups of coffee, we talked about everything. It was natural for me to talk about Jesus and why I spend my days sharing the good news about Him with others.

That morning taught me a lesson. We are often paralysed by the thought of evangelism. We fear it means moving from, “Hello, I’m Mike” all the way to “...and this is the prayer you pray to become a Christian”- all in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.
There are times when we need to be bold and unashamed. Times when we need to seize the opportunity the Lord gives us to speak of Christ. The person speak to may never get the chance to hear of Him again. But mostly we need to be starting friendships with people. And starting friendships usually means doing something with someone. Vague acquaintances from work, or from down the street, or from on your course, or from outside the school gate soon stop being vague when you’ve stood in the rain for twenty minutes by a river with them; or gone mountain biking; or unblocked the drain at the end of your road; or put up a shed; or set up a neighbourhood watch group; or gone running; or made pancakes together. You become friends and you start sharing your life with them. And how can we Christians share our lives without getting on to the Christ “who is our life” (Colossians 3:4)?

Thinking about evangelism like this gives me something to be getting on with when I might otherwise feel paralysed. My friends may be miles away from wanting to come and hear a talk on “How can anyone take the Bible literally?” But I could just ask them if they fancied seeing the latest George Clooney film. That would not be nothing. That would be something. It would be the beginnings of the chance to share Christ with them. It may only be a small sort of a victory in the battle to win souls. Yet it would be the sort of victory that would move me to pray in ways I might not have been praying before. All of a sudden I’d have a real friend to pray for. One who wasn’t a Christian.

It seems to me that the great enemy of friendship-making like this is the fact that we all feel so busy. We tend to want to guard our time and keep ourselves to ourselves. But we need to be counter-cultural. Jesus calls us to love people enough to take the trouble to make the first move, to hold out the hand of friendship - whatever that might cost us.

So here’s the challenge. This year, will you join me in praying for the Lord’s help to love someone enough to do something with them? Then in the week before a mission we won’t need to race around wondering whom to invite. We will already have a friend or two in mind.

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