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I’ve never felt like a good Baptist.
Why? Because I don’t think knocking on people’s doors and leading them through the Roman Road and pressuring them to pray “the prayer” is an effective way to make followers of Christ.
I’ll never forget a lunchtime Bible study in college that filled me with hope. Our campus minister drew a circle. He talked about how the general method of evangelists was to get people inside the circle – and then leave them there while they go find more people to herd inside.
What if, he conjectured, it was more like there was a big point in the middle, labeled Jesus? And we were trying to help people get closer to that point?
In his book Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, Carl Medearis uses pretty much the same illustration. Medearis speaks of an evangelism that is simply leading people into conversation about Jesus and letting the Holy Spirit truly do the work.
The year before Libbie was born, I went on a “mission trip” to Brazil with a few others. It was an amazing two weeks; I loved meeting the students from the seminary, having dinner with the local imam, going to a service at a mosque, and touring the breathtaking area we were in. I loved talking with the missionary couple and the two of their three children that still lived at home. I loved taking a Lebanese cooking class.
What I did not love was trying to approach people cold turkey to talk about the Gospel.
Why? It always seems like such immense pressure. Like I had to defend every aspect of what I believed to be the Christian faith. Apologetics. History. A lot of stuff I didn’t know nor understand.
Having lived and ministered in the Middle East and around the globe, Medearis makes one thing clear: people are turned off by Christianity but long to hear more about Jesus.
I honestly cried at the end of this book because I felt such a wave of relief. Maybe I don’t have to defend Christianity, Christianese, and why Elisha would let a bear kill some kids for making fun of him. Maybe I can just share the relationship I’ve cultivated with Jesus myself. Maybe I can just do what He did: love people. Especially the people we’re not “supposed” to love.
If you, like me, have always felt like the “get your butt into heaven” method of evangelism is just not quite right … you need to read this book. You probably won’t agree with everything Medearis says, but it’s well worth the few hours of reading.
And if you ever want to talk about Jesus – I’m here.