For the last two Sundays I have been speaking about evangelism.
Evangelism simply is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is spreading the good news that God is with and for us in Christ.
Evangelism is showing others that God is for shalom and peace in the world.
Two weeks ago, I began by speaking how this message of Jesus is meant to be shared with all people.
We learned that from Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman whose daughter was in need of healing.
In the encounter with the woman and later in his traveling to minister to the non-Jewish people we learned that God is for everyone.
Last week I spoke about embodying the Gospel with our actions.
There is a way in which we speak the Gospel without even saying one word in the ways that we live.
Something about the reality of Jesus shines through us as we live our lives.
The Bible verse of letting our light shine before others comes to mind here.
It’s the Bible verse that I say after a baptism.
“Let your light so shine before others!”
Now I really focused on the importance of living our faith by our actions in my sermon last week.
That is also one of the major themes we hear about in the book of James.
Again, James said that faith without works is dead.
When the Spirit is moving in us then the Spirit compels us to live out our faith within our families, in our jobs, in our connections with the people that we encounter.
Today I am going to move in a little bit of a different direction while still speaking about evangelism.
But to begin I am going to share a personal story.
When I was around 18 or 19, I became very zealous in the work of evangelism.
I can remember passing out these little evangelism tracts.
Evangelism tracts are short pamphlets that summarize the New Testament.
The point of tracts is to convert people to Christ.
I don’t even remember how I got them but I must have ordered them from somewhere or maybe someone gave them to me.
Anyway, I had them and I was passing them out.
I remember feeling really good about my work of passing them out until one day I found a small pile of them burned up behind the church where my father was serving at the time.
To say that I was devasted is not going far enough.
I felt like crawling into a little hole in the ground and never coming out.
In time though I began to reflect and to think about the situation.
And I came to an epiphany that there most be a better way to share the Gospel.
I actually learned two things at that time.
First, only God can move and change a person’s heart.
Only God can create that new birth within a person that Jesus speaks about with Nicodemus.
Secondly, I learned that sometimes we are called to simply accompany people on the way.
And that is what I want to talk about this morning – evangelism as accompaniment meaning we develop connections, relationships with other people as we share our faith.
To accompany someone is to walk with that person through the ups and the downs of life.
We all know that if we stand on a street corner and start shouting at people with the Gospel that God can use that method of evangelism but probably what is much more effective is to share the gospel with people we already know and people that we are working on getting to know.
For example, if you have a trusted relationship with someone then you are much more likely to be effective on sharing the Gospel with than if you approach a stranger.
I am not saying we should never approach strangers with the Gospel because that would be limiting the Spirit’s power but what I am saying is that in many cases to share the Gospel we need to do it in a way where we can accompany, to walk with, that person over time.
That is what Jesus did.
Yes, he did attract and speak to large crowds but he only had twelve close companions that he accompanied in his three-year ministry.
These twelve he walked with, ate with, lived with, these twelve he accompanied and they accompanied him until his death on the cross.
He taught them in today’s Gospel reading about his betrayal and death.
He taught them about service and about the importance of welcoming children.
Last week Jesus spoke to his disciples about picking up their cross and following him always no matter what.
And all the while, through it all, he accompanied his disciples.
He developed a closeness with the twelve that became an unbreakable bond.
When I learned about evangelism as accompaniment it changed the way I understood evangelism.
We too are called to walk with others and to show them where we find life and hope and love.
We speak about what we have seen and heard.
We say nothing and simply live our faith in our actions by caring for others, by listening to others, by praying for others.
Another way to name this method of evangelism is to call it relational evangelism meaning we develop a friendship with, a caring connection with, the person that we share the Gospel with.
Lastly, I want to tie in a point I made earlier in my sermon.
You may develop a connection with someone and share the Gospel with that person and the person never comes to faith.
When that happens do not be discouraged, do not force Jesus upon that person, or try to find a more compelling tract to share – instead give it to God.
Give it to God and remember that only God can change a person’s heart to faith and belief.
Continue living your faith, when necessary, use words to communicate the Gospel, don’t give up, and above all trust in God’s power to change and to move hearts.
In my life I have not led one person to Christ.
I have shared the Gospel but it is God that changes and leads people to his Son we are only servants.
A servant only follows their master.
The master is the one who gets the praise, the glory, and the honor.
May we all be humble servants who follow in our Lord’s footsteps of grace and peace.
May the Lord work in people’s hearts and may the Lord receive all the credit.
For he alone deserves all praise and glory.