by Byron Pellecer, Associate Conference Minister (Texas-Based)
Contrary to the idea that the “Church” is vanishing, I believe that evangelism plays a key role in church planting and church growth, they both contribute to the revitalization of the church.
I have come across people that are open to having conversations about Jesus as long as such conversation does not happen in a church building. Consequently, third places are becoming a good place for such conversations.
Engaging people in conversations at local coffee shops, laundromat, parks, community events, local market places and so on, builds rapport and trust. Such conversations are key for connecting and building relationships, creating the conditions to share one’s Jesus story through personal experiences; just like when Jesus responded to John the Baptist’s emissaries.
It is interesting and intriguing to see the interaction between John, the disciples and Jesus as described in Matthew 11.
The reader finds John the Baptist pondering over Jesus’ messianic identity and power; was he the One who will set the captives free? The reader is also challenged to reflect upon Jesus’ answer.
On one hand, John was confined to an underground dungeon, hopeless and isolated. Probably he was expecting the Messiah to deliver him. Thus, he sent his disciples with a question addressed to Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or, are we to wait for another?
The reason that motivated John to send his disciples to ask Jesus that question might not be very clear. Two possibilities come to mind: For the sake of his disciples or his own.
The truth is, that both John and his disciples needed to be confronted with a factual proof.
Locked in that dungeon, John was desperately needing reassurance that indeed Jesus was the Messiah, evidences versus arguments.
Then the gospel writer moves us to Jesus’ response. It contains two main principles: experiencing God’s power, and hearing the word of the good news! These two actions are to be taken as one unit.
It is not about an intellectual debate, but an experience of his transformational power. Jesus moves from a potential emotional attraction to a deeper comprehension of his salvation message and to a relationship with God.
The proof that Jesus presents pointed at the concrete facts. The sick, the suffering, the poor and the blind were experiencing the power of God in fresh and new ways and they were presented with the good news of salvation. It was about a holistic healing, the body, the mind, and the soul. In other words, they experienced evangelism in the flesh.
Now, we need to make room to the possibility that maybe John was expecting another type of answer and action, perhaps a different approach from Jesus. Maybe he was expecting the wrath of God upon those who put him in prison. One thing is for sure, instead of wrath and destruction, Jesus responded with mercy and grace and love.
All these demonstrations of God’s power were another way to answer John’ question: Go back and tell John that God’s love is real, that the Kingdom of God is at hand and tell him that my credentials show that I am the ONE.
People saw in John a man who spoke the truth with no apology. They saw a servant who spoke God’s word with boldness. However, even the least of the kingdom of heaven was greater than he. In Jesus, God lives now amid us mortals and eternity defeated time, something new and different came into the world.
The prophets were courageous and their message was powerful, but with Jesus emerged something greater, people could experience transformation. Consequently, for us as a community of believers, it is important to share Jesus’ story, God’s story. Our ministry is not about ourselves, it is about Jesus. It is not about any church, it is about the kingdom of God.
We are called people to God’s mission, to announce and denounce and to serve.