Two nights ago, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I received a phone call from a sweet woman who has been a victim of sexual exploitation for years, perhaps decades. I met her in a bar a few years ago and felt an instant bond with her. “Laurie,” her message began, “I would like to see you.” My friend had just discovered she needed a liver transplant after having suffered quite a bit over the past few months with issues related to a number of organs. “It’s going downhill quickly,” she said.
My heart raced as I listened to her message. Overlaying her words were God’s, telling me I needed to see her. As I texted with her last night I tried to contextualize the gospel message as best I could through my knowledge of her, my understanding of her situation, and the technology I had. I would perhaps best describe my texts as a stream of living thoughts seeking to be the seed that plants itself on good soil (yes, I had just read Mark 4 the night before). At worst, they were a cacophony which beated wildly with the hope that one word would fill my friend’s heart.
Evangelism is like that, isn’t it? When we least expect it, God provides an opportunity to give a reason for the hope that dwells within us. We may open our mouths and out runs streams of living water. More often than not, I have found, we open our mouths and out runs something more like drops of water, a trickle that is sometimes beautiful and unified and other times…not.
The older I get in my faith and in my understanding of God, the more I am convinced that our preparation for evangelism is equally if not more important than our evangelism. No, I’m not talking about studying whatever gospel tract we can lay our hands on. I’m talking about the preparation of the heart. In scripture we see repeatedly the idea of setting our hearts on the things of God (1 Chron. 22:19; Rom. 12:11-13). We study to be found worthy of God. We seek God’s face to better know and understand His heart for others.
And I wonder how many of us stumble in our evangelism because we haven’t been nurturing our own souls deeply enough. Scratch that. We haven’t allowed God the space to nurture our souls to the point that they beat wildly at the hope that all would come to know Jesus Christ and their own Lord and Savior.
Think of the self that God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is ‘… the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’ Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the loss of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem.
As we spend time with God, we become more like Him and less like us. As this relates to evangelism, our desire to share the gospel grows from just a wish into forming the character of one that can actually do it and do it well. One of my co-workers, who is also an amazing scholar, recently said it this way: “I believe, with all my heart, that for anyone who has lived one moment of honest life, the message that God loves and forgives is the most significant thing any of us can know.”
Our hearts must be ready for evangelism at all times. Can we honestly say that we will drop everything at a moment’s notice to minister and care for a friend in need? What about a stranger? What about an enemy? With each passing question, our affirmative yes may turn to a hesitant yes, or even a no. The truth is that unless we spend time preparing our hearts for evangelism, we will never be able to seize the moments as we should.
At the Billy Graham Center, we created this great resource to help you deepen your soul for evangelism. I invite you to sit with these questions and be honest with yourself. And then I invite you to join us for Amplify 2016, which is coming up in less than three weeks. We have created this event to be a place where you can learn and be encouraged by others and hear God speaking to you even as His heart beats wildly for our nation and our world.
By the way, today I go to visit my friend. Pray for me. I walk hesitantly into her life in the hopes of offering her streams of living water. I’d be happy with a trickle if God makes it grow.