What is your stereotype of evangelization?
For many of us when we hear the word evangelization, we conjure up images of someone handing out Christian tracks on a street corner, the broadcast of a televangelist in a mega church, or a famous preacher in a large stadium.
The prophet, Isaiah, in speaking about the coming of Jesus gives us a different perspective. “He will not shout or cry out or raise his voice in the street. A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” Isaiah 42:2-3
Jesus did not need to shout or raise his voice in the street to proclaim the kingdom of God. His concern was for the broken hearted (the bruised reed). He would not snuff out the smoldering faith of the weak and downtrodden. He wouldn’t do the usual things we think of to get attention, to promote a cause or persuade others with an argument. “My ways are not your ways,” God says. Jesus simply responded with compassion, mercy, wisdom and God’s power.
Although the above words may have been intended by Isaiah for God’s incarnation in Jesus, they are also applicable to us, his followers and successors. We are God’s current day incarnation, for he has given us the same Spirit that he gave Jesus. The following story illustrates how this can work.
Jerry works in a medical office and wasn’t feeling well. So, he asked his boss, Karen, who oversees the administrative staff, if he could have the rest of the day off. When Karen asked what was wrong, Jerry offered a rather vague response. Karen continued to probe, asking if he would be returning tomorrow. Jerry said he didn’t know. Karen asked if there was something wrong and Jerry said no. She invited him to sit down and he started to share that nothing was going right in his life. He wanted to get married to the woman he was living with, but she didn’t want to and was in fact talking about moving out. He was having difficulty finding enough time for his two small children and relating to them in the right way. He seemed quite despondent to Karen.
As he was leaving, Karen asked if she could make a suggestion. He said yes. “When you go home, go into your bedroom, close the door, kneel down and ask Jesus to come into your life and help you.” Jerry said, “I’ve tried church.” Karen said, “I am not talking about church, I’m just saying that if you offer that prayer, Jesus will not refuse you, and things will start to change.”
Sometime later, Karen noticed that Jerry appeared to be happier and had a more positive attitude. She asked how he was doing. He smiled, and said, “I did what you suggested and something did happen. I started to feel warm all over when I prayed. Later, I bought a Bible and started reading it. I bought a Children’s Bible and started reading the stories to my kids. We have started to go to church and my partner and I are moving toward marriage.”
You will notice that Karen did not judge Jerry or preach to him. She gave him an opportunity to talk, she listened, she empathized, and she asked if she could make a suggestion. She related to him as Jesus would. A “bruised reed” she did not break.
How do we reflect the presence of Christ to the people and circumstances in our lives — with shouts of judgment and argument, or with mercy, wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit? The latter is evangelism.