As a follow up to my 3 part series on reaching the next generation with the message of the Gospel, I wanted to take a moment and recognize that ”creating an experiential framework” through which we can articulate the story of Jesus extends beyond what we do in service to our community. One reason for this is because a lot of churches struggle with developing a sustainable culture of service; we continue to help each other discover new ways of doing this, but it continues to be a journey. The main reason, however, is because we simply can’t be painting houses and feeding the hungry 24-7. We all have callings and families to care for, work, soccer practice, social lives, etc. Even when we make serving a priority, by it’s nature it can’t be done in a formal way on a constant basis. So, does that mean that our evangelistic efforts are confined to moments of compassion for the hurting? Not at all.
The concept we studied in the post “The Solution to Relational” revealed the profound (and simple) approach to evangelism Jesus shows us with His disciples. Remember that Jesus created a Gospel-shaped moment for his men by including them in the work of the miracle on the hill (John 6:1-13). The point isn’t necessarily that it served thousands, but that it connected those present to the power of the Gospel. This must be the focus of our lives–it is the essence of the Great Commission. When we live this way in the presence of friends who don’t know Christ, we inspire genuine curiosity about God that can lead to a demand for explanation. While we can look to John 6 and many other passages to find outrageous and memorable examples of this, it can also take place in the ordinary, everyday routines that play out in each of our lives.
Such was the case not too long ago in a cafe outside San Francisco. During a recent conversation with my brother Matt (@matthew_bond), youth pastor at Menlo Park Pres., he related a story to me that illustrates how we can create an experiential framework even in the less-than-extraordinary moments. Matt and his friend Jason were talking over coffee one afternoon in a local cafe down the street from his office. Sitting a table nearby was an older man buried in a book. As the man went to stand, he bumped his full cup of coffee, sending it through the air and ultimately… all over the table, the floor, and the book. Total mess. Then, without a thought, Matt and Jason both stood up. Matt grabbed a bunch of napkins while Jason dashed to the counter and grabbed a rag. As the man worked to clean up the spill, Jason and Matt joined in and made short work of the job. As quickly as they swooped in, Jason and Matt were back at a table, this time sitting outside. A few moments later, the man came out and approached them with what seemed like a stern look on his face. He looked at each of them, back and forth, and finally asked, “Was that you two in there? Did you come and clean up my coffee?” Matt and Jason hesitated for a moment, not knowing if he was upset or confused. “Um, yeah. That was us,” Jason said softly. The man continued to examine them. Then, “Why? Why would you help a person you don’t even know?” Matt and Jason looked at each other, trying to process the man’s amazement at this rather small expression of love. Now, as Matt pointed out to me, we would expect their response to be something that pointed to Jesus. For some reason, the dynamic just wasn’t obvious enough to either of them at the moment. “Well, it seemed like the nice thing to do at the moment,” Jason offered.
The point here is that we have the opportunity to create an experiential framework everywhere we find ourselves. Often times they will go seemingly unnoticed, but keep doing it! Some will be blown away by the Gospel and ask you to explain it. When that happens, don’t complicate the situation, just tell them. Let God be God and see where the conversation leads. No matter the outcome, let yourself experience the joy that comes with sharing Christ!
This is just one small story. I want to hear yours! Share with me how you’ve done this recently and what happened as a result (in the comments below.)