How Are We To Spread the News?: Bible Thumping, Thermometers, and Radical Service
Often the greatest difficulty of missional work is to know how to preach the gospel. Growing up, I tried a wide assortment of “sharing your faith” forms. While optimistic when learning them, I soon came to realize that they were none to successful. In fact, now when looking back, I am somewhat embarrassed that I thought they would ever work or that I even went through with them.
No doubt there were many different types or methods of sharing your faith, but these are a few that I explored…or perhaps endured….as a developing Christian.
The “Mime” Play With A Moral/Scriptural Twist
In my young teens, a group of the high schoolers decided that we would go on a mission trip to San Francisco and sharing our faith through acting out mimed plays. I am not sure who came up with the “brilliant” idea to paint our faces all white with accent blacks and act as mimes everywhere we went, but that is what we did. We learned several skits based on people finding Christ and being freed or how the devil controls everyone and their sin.
And there we stood on street corners in major cities throughout California acting out our plays. While I am unsure if anyone was touched deep within their soul, for the most part people just gawked at the “weirdo” Christians. There wasn’t much success in sharing the gospel, but that was what we were trying to do. Without words, we tried to share the love of Jesus Christ through mediocre skits and plays, a symptom of a community which was culturally dislocated and out-of-touch.
The Thermometer “Share Jesus Without Fear”
A few years later, the “Share Jesus Without Fear” program swept through our church. I remember the Sunday distinctly as we sat through a crackly VHS “presentation” of a middle-aged and somewhat “frumpy” man (nothing wrong with frumpy, just a symptom of early to mid-nineties film—especially Christian film!) explaining how people are like a baking turkey. I had odd images of people’s faces on Thanksgiving birds basting and broiling in the oven, a curious image of how to think about people who are lost. “All we need to do,” the man explained, “is check how people are cooking by sticking in the thermometer of scripture.” And with that, made a curious sound mimicking the puncturing of juicy cooked meat with a thermometer, pluuulaaath.
And so we were given special bibles which had specific highlighted verses which we had people read. Our mission, if we chose to except it, was to start random conversations with people in line at the store, sitting at the coffee shop, or wherever else all with the objective of inserting a few key questions right off the bat. They are still ingrained in me even today. “Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs?” “To you, who is Jesus?” “Do you think there is a heaven and hell? “If you died, where would you go?” “If what you are believing is wrong, would you want to know?”
Now these questions are great and I have used them many times, but never successfully with people I don’t already know. Maybe it is just me, but every time I tried this method, it was incredibly awkward and unnatural. “Hi there Frank, I am Jon. By the way, do you have any spiritual beliefs” while we stand in line at the bank never really worked out for me.
Radical Service and Relationship
It wasn’t until a few years ago when God brought me to a new community of believers to which I now belong, that I learned a more healthy form of ministry and preaching the gospel. Community Bible Church in San Bernardino, CA became a place where I learned to serve and intentionally live in peoples lives through which I could not just speak the truth of Jesus Christ, but show them through my actions of everyday living. And while these methods of sharing faith all shared the common burden of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, it was not recently that I discovered that all Christians are missionaries. In which ever context we are called, whether it be everyday work, relationships with old High School friends, or the call to a foreign country—we are all on mission with a God who is on mission himself.
One friend, who by all worldly standards should be pursuing career, money, and squeezing every drop out of his twenties for parties and women, has given himself to the call of Christ in radical ways. Conway Robinson, a man to whom I respect and admire, has dedicated himself to working in Costa Rica in various cities, partnering with New Life Church of Los Guido. He is currently spending three months doing hard manual labor and building relationships with many young people through various service-oriented ministries. He has shown me, through example, what ministry means. Being a missionary, in whichever context we are in or called to, is rolling up your sleeves and serving. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and generally meeting practical needs all in the name of Christ as we build relationships and disciple.
Check out this video from last years work in Costa Rica
In the coming months, I will be posting updates and a few interviews with this missionary, learning more about his specific tasks and areas we can be holding him and those he is serving up in prayer.
Until then, check out his blog where he updates all that is going on in Los Guido.
What sort of methods have you used to preach gospel, good or bad?
In your specific context, how are you able to serve and disciple?
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