Matthew 28:19. “Go then and make disciples of all the nations,..” Amplified version.
I am told by a source I trust that the original language is more accurately translated “as you go” giving a different slant to the missions statement. “As you go” implies that we are all missionaries to neighbors, coworkers, any and all people we happen to encounter. Packing and traveling to Africa or China, for example, is a matter of an individual’s calling through the Spirit, not a blanket command for everyone. I used to feel like a failure on Missions Sunday in bible college because I didn’t hear a voice say “Go to Africa” Good Lord, that was the last thing I wanted to hear.
Included in “Go” are the circuit preachers in the wilderness, two of whom noted in my 200 year old bible, riding through Kentucky and Tennessee, tent evangelists, internet ministries, and TVangelists. Evangelism is a calling, a duty, an opportunity, and requires a style. Yes, style. Different strokes for different folks. The least appreciated of these is not the TVangelists although most of their critics seem to be Christians (shame on them), but the much maligned door to door variety. Billy Graham didn’t knock on our door once. Nor did I hear of him randomly marching up one side of the street and down the other, knocking on doors and delivering his powerful “Ye must be saved” (or else) message. His genre was the stadium. Nor do I recommend his type of message for the door to door people.
This morning’s Sunday class lesson touched on the system of presenting the gospel in love with all gentleness over time, making friends and allowing the listener to gradually inch closer according to his comfort level and curiousity. A big factor — the factor — is whether or not the Spirit is drawing him or not when the street/door witness is just dying to drown him in Jesus. If he’s not ready, back off.
Then there was Billy Sunday, your extraordinary in-the-face traveling preacher who had a few nights in a tent to get your attention and close the sale. He did not go door to door shouting his message and waving his hands. He let the curious and interested come to him. Biiiiig difference. His showmanship style was part of his mission, effective in his day. You see, God has all sorts of Christians in all sorts of places to minister to whomever He is drawing to Himself in the manner that will convince him to accept the free gift of love through His Son, Jesus. I get it. I always did get it. There’s more than one way to win a soul.
The following is my dad’s conversion experience. His vision will follow in another post.
At the age of 18 yrs in the fall of 1925, during a Billy Sunday crusade, I made my public confession of, and my commitment to Our Lord Jesus Christ, by going forward and shaking hands with the Rev. Sunday, as was the way of confession and commitment at that time. About a year or so later, at the age of nineteen years, I felt the urge to be baptised. I turned to the Christian Church in Monmouth for baptism. I was baptised by the minister of the church at that time, with Charles Britt assisting and in the presence of my uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. C. Ernest Parrish. Having been given to understand that the Church was a New Testament Church, I acquired a pocket sized Red Letter New Testament and was very avid in study of the Word and in prayer.
I have established access to other cousins in the Rachel Cook lineage who have marvelous stories with details I didn’t have. I saw that my 4-great grandfather Wm. Murphy planted churches one of which is down the road in Jonesborough, pastored churches, and preached on the road. His son John was a preacher, and John’s son, the reverend who moved the clan from Kentucky to Illinois. He too, founded congregations where I grew up. I doubt he went door to door but I’ll bet his flock did, extending invitations to come and join.
If you check out some of the images from Billy’s meetings and the two sermons listed, you will get the very clear image that this guy wasn’t operating a Crystal Cathedral or a Joel Osteen service. This guy was intent on presenting Jesus as a savior not a buddy. This guy made it clear that there was indeed a hell, that it was hot, that we’re all sinners, that all sinners are headed there, and that Jesus was the loving and the ONLY escape plan. On target! To say he scared the hell out of them wasn’t his goal. He was up there on the stage to do and say anything it took to scare them away from hell and into Jesus’ arms.
You see, there is a place for each and every tactic, every style. Those who came to the tent meeting were volunteers. (Ok, some of the kids were probably dragged.) Not all accepted the message, but not one of those who rejected it was puzzled about hell and salvation when they left. Later, in their homes, they had the time and hopefully the privacy to think.
If anyone takes the message from Matthew 28:19 door to door, the key words are gentleness, sweetness, kindness, brevity, and style. When we went door to door in North Minneapolis in 1971, it was to identify ourselves, our purpose, and invite people to the new church in the neighborhood. On other occasions, we did the Salvation Army music on the street routine and passed out leaflets, witnessing to only those who wanted to talk.
There really is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. There’s a place for frightening the snot out of people who need to be frightened and you need the Spirit’s leading to know who they are. If they don’t know the consequences for rejecting Jesus, they literally don’t know half of the message. For the most part, don’t throw it at them right away.
Where are you? Where’s your mission field? The neighborhood? The internet? Work? What’s the style necessary to reach those whom He is drawing and directing toward you? Let the Spirit tell you.