“What are you doing here?” the man in the Iraqi hotel lobby asked a guest. “Are you with the American army?”
“No,” he replied, “we followed Jesus to Basra, so we are trying to find out what He is doing here.” The inquirer immediately responded at the mention of Jesus. He knew of Jesus from his scriptures, and had an interest in learning more about him. Thus began the conversation that lead to an opportunity to share the gospel with a group of Iraqis during the time of the conflict.
Survey says – Christianity and the church are turn-offs to many people, either because of a bad experience, or the image they have in their minds of what it stands for, observed Carl Medearis. Conversely, the opposite is true for the person of Jesus Christ. He decided to test this theory with a little survey. He interviewed 50 people on the street and asked for their impression of Christians and the church. 100% responded with negative remarks.
He then mentioned the name of Jesus and asked what thoughts came to mind about him. He was surprised to find that 100% of the respondents had a positive impression of Jesus. Jesus is not the problem – the impression of the institutional church is.
The lesson to take away is that if we want to start a positive relationship with a stranger and have an opportunity to introduce them to the gospel we should start with something they are interested in and have positive feelings towards, rather than turn them away.
It isn’t our job to decide if so-and-so is “in” or “out.” When we do so we’re taking God’s job out of His very capable hands. But if Jesus is lifted up, He draws people to Himself. Our job is to introduce them to Jesus.
“The gospel is not a debate or a list of things to believe. The gospel is a person. Jesus Christ is the gospel. He is the truth. He is the point. He embodies all of the salvation/ redemption/ forgiveness/ freedom stuff. Because He is a personality, He does not require doctrinal mastery to connect with an individual.”
Our problem is, “We don’t trust Jesus with our salvation.”
Test yourself. Are you:
[one_half]Doing this [/one_half][one_half_last]Or, this[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Explaining doctrine[/one_half][one_half_last]Showing what Jesus did[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Teaching about Jesus[/one_half][one_half_last]Teaching Jesus[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Converting people[/one_half][one_half_last]Relating to people[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Building His kingdom for Him[/one_half][one_half_last]Trusting Jesus[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Telling people they are wrong and should become Christians[/one_half][one_half_last]Practicing acting like Jesus[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Telling people they are sinners[/one_half][one_half_last]Telling people what Jesus said and did[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Deciding who is “in” or “out”[/one_half][one_half_last]Following Jesus[/one_half_last]
[one_half]Defending Christian doctrine[/one_half][one_half_last]Seeking a relationship with Jesus[/one_half_last]
We can only speak of that which we know. Do we know Him? Really know Him? What does it mean to know Jesus? Medearis suggests three things to know Jesus:
1. By reading about Him in the gospels. You don’t have to know and defend the entire Bible in order to share your faith effectively.
2. By believing in him and finding our satisfaction in his provision – what Jesus called “eating him” in John 6.
3. By practicing acting like Him.
Medearis concluded, “I now see the simple truth: I had the wrong message. I was giving the wrong gospel. I was so busy trying to convert people to Christianity that Jesus never had a chance.”
Our job is to follow Jesus, like Paul and E. Stanley Jones, refusing to know anything else but the crucified and resurrected Jesus.
Jesus is the good news. Let them see Jesus and Him only. And let God be God.
This article was inspired by the book, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, by Carl Medearis. The stories, research, and concepts presented here are discussed in greater detail in the book.