We used to have a neighbor, Richard, whom we adopted as our “grandfather.” We’d have him over for dinner, bake him cookies, take him to dialysis, and help him maneuver around his house when he was bed-ridden. He joined us for Thanksgiving a couple years, and he occasionally attended our church.
Richard wanted to believe in Jesus but had a hard time believing it could be so “easy.” He’d done a lot of terrible things in his life and didn’t think he could get off the “hook” so easily.
Still, we loved him and showed him Jesus until his last dying day when I prayed with him as he was lying unresponsive in his hospital bed. Before he passed, he asked me to officiate his funeral.
When my family and I showed up to the funeral home, it was packed with no empty seats. Though he was an old divorcee who was crotchety at times, he’d made a lot of friends over his long life. I gently preached my heart out, talking about the Jesus Richard wanted to believe in.
Participating in evangelism is an all-of-life, fully embodied exercise.
As I was reflecting on the experience later, I realized I’d led probably the cheapest and most “successful” evangelistic meeting ever. There wasn’t a single Adventist in the room, besides my family, and the vast majority weren’t Christians at all. Many spoke to me after, sharing how they were so touched by the message, with a few starting to attend my church on occasion.
Participating in evangelism is an all-of-life, fully embodied exercise. It’s not simply something we preach, talking about propositional ideas. Preaching is good, but we never fully communicate the gospel apart from embodying it.
It’s why John 3:16 doesn’t say that when God loved the world, He sent a tract or handbill or YouTube sermon. He sent His Son—fully embodied, fully enfleshed. It’s why John also records that Jesus “became flesh” and “moved into the neighborhood,” as The Message puts it.
We wouldn’t be able to fully understand God unless we encountered Him in the flesh. And God wouldn’t have been able to save us simply by preaching; it required an embodied act—the death of Jesus—to secure our salvation.
We must be people who not only verbally share “truth” via evangelistic proclamation. We must live truth out as well if people are going to fully encounter God’s love.
Shawn is husband to Camille and father to Camden and Acadia. He lives and pastors in Maine and is editor of the New England Pastor magazine. He loves traveling, but his favorite place to be is New England—especially in its beautiful outdoors. You can find his personal blog here.