A borrowed story: “One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. ‘Willie,’ Booth said to his son, ‘These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.’ Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, ‘The impression never left me.’”
Some years ago, on a visit to Honduras, I asked to go out with Honduran missionary students to see how they do street level evangelism. I was joined with a young man and a young woman whose English was as limited as my Spanish. That did not seem to matter as we walked the neighborhood near their missionary training school and visited with anyone who cared to talk. There were middle-aged women making tortillas, older women watching over children, men transporting wheel barrows and working on homes, and young people just hanging out. Some conversations were simple exchanges of pleasant greetings, but occasionally someone would engage us in a longer conversation. I learned that they talked about how things were going for that person, what their concerns were, and what they might want prayer for along with a reassurance of God’s love. And that is it. Really simple, right? Just walking around, meeting people where they are, talking with them about their concerns, and offering them prayer and reassurance.
Later, a ministry leader shared with me that bars are common places where they do this kind of work. That sounded odd to me, but they explained that many people are often busy and in a hurry to get somewhere when you meet them on the street. People in bars have time on their hands and are often willing to have a conversation. So, they do bar evangelism. They talk to people about their lives and their concerns and about what help they need. They also go out onto the streets where the women are selling themselves. That is risky, but they are going where there is need, to the people who are in need.
At the end of his ministry, Jesus says to his followers “Go.” I think the church has made the going into all the world too “churchy.” By that I mean, we have made it too much of asking “Do you know Jesus” and “Have you been saved?” or “Do you have a church?” and “Would you please come to mine?”
By that I mean, we have made it too much about bringing people into the church instead of getting church people out of the church and into meeting, being present with, and maybe even serving others. What I have seen and what I believe is Christ-like evangelism, is to simply go and be with people where they are and to show them the love and support of Christ by helping them accomplish their dreams. Evangelism is just that. You and your family can do that in your neighborhood. You and a friend can do that around your town square. You can do it at the café area of Ingles. I have March 30 marked on my calendar for going out. Maybe I’ll check out the town square. I hope to see you around.
Grace and peace,