Much has been written, been theorized about and probably more talked about then actually done.
Recently, I spoke to a group of teens…I began by talking about a friend of mine who has been coming to the food pantry for breakfast and groceries for the past few months.
I first met him as he was waiting in line… we began to talk… As the conversation continued he told me about his wife who was a gambler. In 1987 she blew through $18,000 in savings, began to use drugs and left him with two young boys. Devastated, he went to the place where he thought he could find some encouragement and support… his church.
He told the pastor his story, how he was left with two boys under 3 and needed some help. The pastor told him, “We can’t help you now, but to come back in a month or so.” His comment, “I desperately needed help then, not in a month.” He left that day vowing, “I’ll never enter another church again.”
He then spoke of his ongoing struggle to work, feed, and care for his boys. During the summer he used a neighborhood garden to grow vegetables… fresh veggies in the summer and he canned the rest for winter. He worked hard, supported his kids, had the usual growing pains of boys becoming teenagers and developing into young men.
After, he spoke I paused, and asked him to forgive me, representing the church as a leader. I then asked if we could pray.
During the prayer, I asked God for forgiveness, and asked for grace to be to be given to his family, to bless them and for favor to rest upon them. He shook my hand and said, “Thanks, Steve.”
I then told the teens he’s now a friend and spoke about our continued relationship.
I mentioned that evangelism consists of being a friendly open-hearted person and how important it is to gently step into another persons space.
Once stepping into a person’s relational space we create God space… where God things can happen.
To illustrate I shared another story.
Crosby, Stills and Nash came to the outdoor Fraze Pavilion for a show. My wife, and a few friends headed up to have a picnic outside the pavilion and to listen to the music. It was a great night. Good food, drinking coke, singing with the crowd and enjoying our friends.
There are always interesting people like the hula hoop lady, the bike lady, the hippy dude, dogs of all sizes and shapes, kids with mom’s and dad’s who walk by our smorgasbord. Often the people comment on our spread of some pretty amazing food, “Man that’s what we should do.”
At one point a father with a small baby girl walked by. I noticed an attached tube to help the child receive meds or food. The father evidently was besotted with his little girl. At one point he introduced the child to another baby. They made faces at each other eye to eye, laughed and giggled…the connection baby to baby was amazing to watch.
A little while later the mom walked toward us carrying the child. I mentioned to a friend, “I think we need to pray for them.” When the duo came by I asked the mom, “What’s the baby’s name.” The mom replied, “Abigail.” I laughed and said, “Our third child was supposed to be an Abigail, but she ended up being a Nathan. I have a blond, brunette and Nathan has red hair.” The mom replied, “Oh, Abigail has red hair.”
I then asked what was wrong with Abigail. She told the story of the birth, things not right with Abby’s stomach, and how she was improving but still had a long way to go. I then mentioned I and my friend were pastors of the Vineyard and asked if we could pray for Abby.
She replied, “That would be great.” We prayed general, to specific prayers for the baby and prayed for the mom. I noticed that the mom was obviously being emotionally moved as we prayed.
It was ‘a God space moment’ Crosby, Stills and Nash were presenting a great show for the crowd, we were presenting a child with a great need, to a great God. At the end of the prayer we thanked the mom for allowing us to pray with her. She in turn thanked us smiled and continued her walk.
Again, seeing a need, then intentionally stepping into a person’s relational space is where God space can be created.
God space is where faith can begin to grow.
I told the teens. “That in a nutshell… is evangelism.” Be where you are. Notice needs. Ask good questions. Listen to their story. Take note of their need as they talk. If you have a story that relates to their life share it. Offer prayer. Usually, people respond in a positive way when they sense genuine love and care… no strings attached.
People are either moving toward Jesus or away from him. Our job is to seek, with gentleness and respect, to enter into a person’s life space.
We can then nudge people who have turned away from Jesus… to turn toward Him, or to nudge those who are moving toward Him… closer.
It’s not really that complicated. It just requires seeing eyes, hearing ears, and a willingness to respond and create space where faith can begin to dwell.
I’ve discovered that God is interested in the people within my sphere of influence. Once I’ve discovered and entered into a God moment He tends to show up. In His presence, there is life. We call it serving our way into the heart… Breaking down barriers, building bridges. Creating God space.
That’s why I enjoy practicing Servant Evangelism. Serving others creates God space. Giving Gatorade to skaters at the skate park on a hot day, or offering sun screen to people at a beach, or cold water at the Dayton Air Show, or serving breakfast at our food pantry helps create God moments where His life can be shared.