John was playing squash with an unbelieving colleague who had recently joined the company. They had had a couple of brief chats over coffee in the cafeteria. Simon was new to the area and so welcomed the chance to do something social, and John seemed to be an “okay sort of bloke.” During the game, Simon got hit by the ball and began jumping around the court in pain. Over a drink in the lounge after the game, John and his workmate talked about their match.
The incident with the ball was mentioned, and John responded, “It’s a hard ball when it comes at that speed. It’s happened to me loads. I once knew someone who got it straight in the eye. But have you ever noticed how God seems to play hardball with us in life? It’s often far more painful than a squash ball hitting you. Downsizing, bereavement, rejection –the list is endless. How do you respond, Simon, when life hits you like a punch to the kidneys?”
This story was taken from the book Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. Most of my observations will come from this book. What do you think about John’s approach? Some may appreciate his courage while others may be prone to cringe. There is a tendency in some quarters today to promote a kind of evangelism without proclamation. Acts of service are done or people are invited to experience a Christian worship. But without words of explanation, what are we left with? The gospel is good news – a message to be proclaimed, a truth to be taught, a word to be spoken, and a story to be told.
The Gospel Community is Central in Evangelism
The gospel word and the gospel community go hand in hand. Jesus asserts the centrality of gospel community by saying, “By this, all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).” In most experiences, people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message. If your community is an authentic apologetic for the gospel, then people need to be included to see this apologetic at work.
The life of the Christian community provokes a response. Too much evangelism is an attempt to answer questions people are not asking. Let them experience the life of the Christian community. The church is the home in which God dwells by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Let our relationships provoke questions. And do not worry if your community (church) life is sometimes less perfect than it should be! We do not witness to good works but to the grace of God. Our commitment to one another despite our differences and our grace toward one another’s failures are more eloquent testimony to the grace of God than any pretense at perfection.
Gospel intentionality is crucial to gospel community. Most gospel communities are ordinary people doing ordinary things. Without gospel intentionality, we simply are forming good relationships that never go anywhere. The gospel has to become priority in community. Otherwise we may even hesitate to share the gospel for fear of jeopardizing those relationships. We should aim clearly to reach the point where we can open the Bible with people.
Chris Wilson is the director of the Baptist Student Union on the campus of Missouri State. After traveling in a traveling ministry called No Longer Quiet for 11 years, the Lord brought him back to his old alumni where he was first discipled. He has a passion for discipleship, missional living, and the church. More info at http://www.springfieldbsu.org