By Luke Cawley
After several hours of careful preparation, I had my talk down to perfection.
I was ready to share with a room full of parents how following Jesus affects my parenting.
Almost none of the parents were Christians and I was keen to communicate that though I struggle with all the same aspects of parents as they do, taking Jesus seriously has at least pointed me in a more helpful direction with some of these struggles.
I printed off the talk and put it in my bag.
The person organizing the event, which was a children’s Easter party, picked me up in her car and as I put on my seatbelt I thought I heard her say that I was not addressing the parents.
I was to speak with nine and ten year-olds.
Panic hit, as I haven’t done any kids’ work for over a decade.
I suddenly realised, though, that the car journey was probably long enough for me to rework this thing, so I pull out my notebook, and scribbled and prayed and thought.
By the time I arrived I was sure I could probably just about say something engaging and useful.
When I walked in the room, I had my second surprise of the evening: All the children were five and six years old.
I stuffed my notebook back in my bag and managed to see the funny side of the situation.
Somebody told me I was “on” in ten minutes, and after a moment’s prayer I realized that I should just tell the kids who Jesus was in the very same way I talk with my own toddler son every night before we pray.
When it came time to talk, the kids and I both had a great time and the parents around the edge listened in casually.
Afterwards, a friend and I sat with two dads who don’t yet follow Jesus, and we quickly moved into some really in-depth conversations about God and the big questions about life.
We sat there talking for two hours and by the end both were much more open to Jesus than they were at the start.
Afterwards, as I rode home, I reflected on how I normally like to script every word I intend to say in my talks, and how my high standards were unsettled by having to create an original talk in a the course of a few minutes.
Yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, my spontaneous storytelling had somehow opened the door to some really helpful spiritual conversations.
It struck me that sometimes (perhaps often?) we can’t create events or talks which meet our own highest ideals, but that maybe simply getting together with people who need Jesus and throwing some stories about him into the mix (even if they are ill-prepared) is a powerful thing which can go anywhere and move people along in their spiritual journeys.
What kind of evangelism do you do?
The evangelist DL Moody, when an armchair critic attacked his methodology, famously replied that
“I prefer the evangelism I do to the evangelism you don’t do”.
I’d always identified with Moody when I read that quote in the past, but now I also see something of myself in his critic.
I’ve had to realize afresh that speaking in an OK way about Jesus with people who need him is better than only speaking on those (less frequent) occasions when I can do so excellently.
Avoiding conversations and speaking opportunities out of regard for my own high standards may actually be a way of exalting the theory of evangelism over the pressing need to actually do it.
I wonder if I’m alone in this or if there are many talks, conversations, events, and even churches and church movements, which never become real because people exalt maintaining their own standards over actually doing the thing.
Obviously we need to do the best we can (and my next talk was well-scripted again!) but ultimately I prefer the evangelism I do to the evangelism I don’t do.
What about you?