If I were to ask you to tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “evangelist”, what would it be? Any chance that word feels a little tired, a little old, outdated, confusing and maybe even a bit scary? You wouldn’t be along in feeling that way. It’s a word that has largely been hijacked and shunned from our culture. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, in the last chapter of Paul’s final letter he tells his spiritual son Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:2).”
When Paul says these words, he is begging Timothy to “make the good news his life’s work.” If Paul were standing before you I think he’d invite you to do the same thing. Every Christ follower has been given spiritual gifts. Most people think that if they don’t have “evangelism” in their top three gifts then they’re off the hook. But doesn’t every spiritual gift point people to Jesus and good news?
Think about someone with the gift of hospitality. They open up their home, their table, their lives and welcome neighbors and strangers to come in and be seen and known. Hospitality points people to Jesus.
Think about someone with the gift of mercy. They have the biggest hearts on the planet. They see a need and they emphatically run to it. With rolled up sleeves, they see someone who is sinking and offer help. Mercy points people to Jesus.
Think about someone with the gift of leadership. They have the ability to create culture, taking an idea and building a vision, strategy and team to accomplish it for the betterment of society. Where there was a void chaos and even darkness, the gift of leadership brings good news. Great leadership points people to Jesus.
Think about the gift of administration. Administration is a boating term that means to steer people toward a common goal. It’s the ability to keep people on track and help create structures that actually bring freedom to an organization. They sweat the details because they know without them it can affect the culture, team or goal. When you have the right person steering, championing and building the right structures, it allows the creatives to freely dream and make their best work. Administration points people to Jesus.
Evangelism is a gift, but it’s also the purpose of every gift. When people tell me their spiritual gift, I quickly begin asking how they can leverage that unique gift to help meet a need in the world. Every person you walk pass or interact with has a need. When you make the good news you life’s work you are constantly on the lookout for how you can meet someone’s relational, physical or spiritual needs.
A few weeks ago I was spending time with my intern, both of whom have the spiritual gift of helps. We met for lunch and ended up wandering through a local book store. As we browsed through the aisles, I overheard what sounded like an emotional conversation happening in the next row. I quickly realized one of the voices was my intern’s as he said to a sobbing woman, “Excuse me, are you finding what you’re looking for?”
What an interesting question! She responded, “No, not really. I’m looking for a book on grieving.”
And this twenty year old intern gently asks, “Why are you grieving?”
She tells him that recently her twenty-two year old son passed away unexpectedly. She told him how painful it had been for her and her husband, she talked of how lost and confused they felt. Desperate even. Desperate enough to be browsing the Grief section of a book store on a random Tuesday afternoon.
At this moment, my twenty-year-old intern’s thinking: Whoa. God, I can tell you want to do something but I’m way outside of my pay grade now. He’s not sure what to do but he says, “Let me look. I want to help you find the right book.” He starts looking through the shelves and then he walks over to me and asks, “Do you know of any good books on grieving?”
I remembered Colors of Goodbye by September Vaudrey, which is an incredible book about how she and her husband journeyed through their own grief of losing their daughter. So we began searching the shelves hoping to find it. We couldn’t locate the book but wrote down the information and encouraged her to look for it online.
Feeling like she was so much more we wanted to do, my young friend asked if we could pray for her. She said she would really like that. So, we pray. In a Barnes & Noble, standing there between Grief and Spiritual titles. No sooner had we said ‘Amen,’ when my intern blurts out, “There’s the book!”
“What?” I said.
He is now pointing and jumping a little. “There’s the book! It’s out of order. In the wrong aisle. In the wrong religion.”
We pulled the book out and handed it to her as she started to weep. “It’s like God sees me in my pain, even here in Barnes & Noble.”
I responded, “Absolutely. God sees you, He is for you and He wants to walk with you through this pain. He understands what it means to lose a son. Please read this book.” We gave her our contact information and went on our way.
As we were walking out I asked my intern, “How did you start that conversation?”
He said, “I saw the woman was looking in the section of books under death and grieving, and I felt God whispered to me to strike up a conversation.”
So my intern saw someone. He notices a need. He started a conversation. All of this redemptive potential came rushing in and as a result, someone who was hurting suddenly felt seen and known by a living and present God.
This is good news.
When you make the good news your life’s work you are constantly on the lookout for these opportunities, those divine moments, where someone can encounter a God who loves them.
Today, may you recognize that every moment is an invitation to evangelize. Every environment you enter is brimming with redemptive potential. May you not just know your spiritual gift – but may you seize opportunities to leverage your unique gift to meet a need and proclaim good news.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: December 12, 2016