I woke abruptly yesterday morning. Jesus had spoken to me in my sleep. He gave me a message. Rebecca, he wants you to be an evangelist (and actually Rebecca and her friend brought another friend to church today), and you, too Terri, and you, Eddie. Will you do that?
Anyone think they woke up in the wrong church this morning? Anyone think that Pastor Cheri went off the edge? Think you checked out the wrong blog today? Well, you didn’t.
An Evangelist is not a person who scares people, scolds them, an evangelist is someone who shares good news, tells about who God is. Can you do that? Another way to say it: evangelist is someone who points to God in order to give HOPE!
In today’s scripture, (Luke 10: 1-12, 16-21, 23-24 for those playing along at home & on the road) Jesus sent out the disciples to teach and heal and to invite people to give their lives to God’s way, to give them hope.
You walked into the front area of a house, houses back then had a reception area like that and you were invited into the front section (no Holiday Inns or Motel 6’s back then) to be received. This was their method when they got to a town:
- Present yourself for hospitality
- Gave the host an opportunity to be a part of Jesus’ work
- You were not expected to house the enemy, so if not, you were going to be kicked out.
- The disciples had an easy way to force the question: do you want to be a part of God’s mission on earth?
The disciples were not to take anything with them when they went in and if they were not received, they were not even to take the dirt along with them from that town.
Houses aren’t built that way today. That’s not our custom. And most of us are not called to be full-time traveling evangelists. We are more settled. So sharing the hope of God with people, who are feeling hopeless, is going to look a little different for us.
So how can we do it? How can we share our experience of God, in ways that are authentic for us? Yesterday and last Saturday as well, some of us had a chance to invite some folks to come to The Village.
This week we were at Toledo Pride, inviting folks to come to church. We gave away 300 multi-colored stickers that said “I am loved”. We gave away 300 water bottles with the Village Logo (along with Equality Ohio’s logo). We gave away about 60 gallons of free water. We wore our “No Perfect People Allowed” T-Shirts. We even sold about a dozen of them. So about 500-600 people got the idea that the Village was a place that cared about people. That is one great way to invite folks to connect with God. How many of you came here because someone invited you? By the way, we did the same thing, minus the “I am loved” stickers, but adding face painting at the Maumee Street Fair last weekend.
When you invite people here, what do you say about this community? Do you talk about finding hope here? It takes many invitations to get some folks here. That’s why we just keep gently inviting. We have a variety of events, in addition to Sunday worship every week, to give you lots of opportunities to invite folks. This Friday night we are having a benefit concert for the AIDS Resource center.
But let’s take this a little bit deeper. Inviting folks to come here and experience this community is important. Because once they come here, the Spirit of God will grow in them. They will get hooked on hope, the way we are. But there is another layer in this scripture. Those disciples went out and talked to people about their experience of God’s amazing love. Their lives had been changed by knowing Jesus. We have stories to tell too. And we have opportunities every day, to share those stories with other people. I know it might sound a bit scary, but we can do this, each in our own way.
We can wait for the right time. It will present itself. A friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, will hit the wall, with a crisis, or with just the weight of all the everyday stuff that folks have to deal with. When this happens to me, eventually, I will have a chance to sit down and have a chat. I often do it in a place that is comfortable for me and the other person, over a cup of coffee, at a kitchen table or meeting in a coffee house.
First of all, I try to listen. When a friend is sharing that they don’t know what to do. Life is such a struggle. This is NOT the time to talk about how much MY life is also a struggle. When we think the time is right to invite someone to trust God, then the focus has to be all on the other person and God. It’s not time to dump all our problems back on them. We’ve got to get outside of ourselves. This is really important.
As I am listening I might say a quick prayer in my head, asking God to give me the words, to let met shut up about my problems, and asking God to open this person’s heart to God and let me give them your hope.
Then I wait for what seems like an opportunity to gently invite the person to consider turning to God for help, trusting God. Actually, I love the AA language here, of a higher power. Something seems to melt away, for some people, when I say, “Wow, you are really trying to take on the whole world on your own. Why don’t you let God worry about some of that?”
“TRUST GOD” is the mantra that has sustained me through oh, so many trials and tribulations. If you need a phrase to use when you are beginning to invite people to consider deepening their spiritual life, try that one. It’s a good one: “Trust God.”
Now, you need to be prepared, for a variety of reactions when you bring God into a conversation with someone who is hurting:
- They might be open to this, curious, thoughtful, you’ve got to be ready for that.
- They might get very emotional and start crying
- They might get angry because they have some old hurts around religious folks, I say I don’t like those judgmental, religious people either and neither did Jesus.
- They might just blow you off
It’s ok. You still said it. And know they know that you love God and you are a “Jesus freak.” From now on, they will be watching you and testing you. They’ll be looking if you are another one of the judgmental, hypocritical Jesus Freaks.
We talked about this last week. Once we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus, then we have a responsibility, and an opportunity, to act with love, compassion and forgiveness toward other people. We won’t be perfect. But when we make mistakes, we need to own up to our mistakes and apologize. That is what will model to the world, the way of Jesus.
It may take a very long time. . . A VERY LONG TIME. . . but we have to trust God. We are evangelists sometimes, simply by the way we live our lives. It works.
Here, today, we had multiple people share the long road that got them through the doors. Stories of lost church relationships were shared. Stories of a lack of acceptance of the brokenness we all have. Stories of destructive behavior that were fostered out there without a place like the Village.
But, what we really were happy to have shared were the stories of acceptance into the light and hope of our community that those same people shared. In the words of one member of our Village family, who admits she was a drug addict before coming, “God shows up at the Village and I show up to see God”.
So, you see, we all really can be evangelists, because we can all share the hope of Jesus with another person. We can share how trusting God makes a difference in our lives. There are people out there who need to hear that message. They are hungering for a place of hope. We were once out there and now we are in here. They are no different from us. They are counting on us, to offer them hope. So, let’s do it.
And if you’re one of those people out there, hungering for a spiritual life, a deeper relationship with God, we’re here, at the corner of Monroe & Central in Toledo each Sunday at 11 AM, and soon in Maumee.