Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 25:15, Isaiah 40:10–14, Matthew 12:11–21 (read online ⧉)
The mission statement of the Church of the Nazarene is, “to make Christ-like disciples in all nations.” In case you’ve forgotten, though you probably haven’t, one of the tasks of Christians is to make disciples. The mission statement of the Church of the Nazarene is really the call upon all Christians. For many years, the culture of the United States appeared to have a deep understanding of Christianity and had embraced it. The formulation of evangelism has been firmly rooted in that. Techniques such as the Romans Road and 4 Spiritual Laws were developed for that culture. If these techniques were so effective, the religious landscape of our country would be very different. It is not that they were not effective, it was just that the presentation of their effectiveness is questionable.
The reality is that techniques that rely on a particular time, place, and culture will only be effective for a short time. The time that many were effective was relatively short. There are many, however, that still cling to these ways. Much of the reason is that they were simple and straight forward. On the front end, they also appeared effective in the short term as people “came to Christ.” Yet, over time a large proportion didn’t “stick.” This actually why evangelism in today’s world has far greater potential.
In today’s world, the fact that we can no longer rely on techniques and “quick-strike” techniques is actually a good thing. It’s a hard thing. It’s a very hard thing. It’s still a good thing. In today’s culture, relationship is the single biggest “technique”. If we are honest with ourselves, we can look back even at the evangelism techniques and recognize that when it “stuck” a relationship was involved.
Our two verses from Proverbs address speaking with others. Contrary to Proverb 15:1, the church (generally) has been characterized (with reason) as speaking with harsh words. In our worthwhile attempt to guide/direct people to live a God-honoring life, we instead scarred and hurt them with our words. Proverbs 25:15 shows us that gentleness will win for more people over, and if our goal is to win people over to Christ, then we should follow the wisdom of Proverbs. Here is the struggle point, however, with this wisdom; there is no guarantee and it will take time. In a quick-fix world like ours, the dedication of time becomes a stumbling block to Christians living out their mission.
Gentleness and guiding are part of the image that Isaiah is trying to portray. Isaiah shows God’s heart for people. Who are we to not follow this guidance? Carrying lambs and guiding those nursing is not quick. It requires patience and love. This guidance and care is placed in the middle of verses talking about God’s glory and power. This tells us that power and glory go hand-in-hand with guidance and care. Of course, there is a human tendency towards condescension, of which we must all be cautious.
This view of God is then applied to Jesus by Matthew (who was quoting Isaiah). It carries on the view of God above. There is the preceding story of a “sinful” healing on the Sabbath. Where was the gentleness and guidance in this? There was only condemnation and condescension. The key for our thoughts on gentleness and guidance are really in Matthew 12:20. A bruised reed means the plant is already injured and hurting. One can easily break a bruised reed, rather than bandage and work to heal it. A smoldering wick means that the fire was blown out or the oil extinguished. One can more easily fully extinguish a smoldering wick rather than reigniting the flame or filling the lamp with oil.
1) Due to many issues (both past and ongoing), evangelism needs to occur in the church, as much as outside of the church. Who is someone struggling with their faith or beliefs? Who can you stand next to and lift up?
2) Many of the people that we meet outside of the church have been hurt by it. This can be by words or spoken actions taken. It can also be by stories told of the church. How can you work to build a bridge to those that have been hurt by us?
3) When being confronted with a challenge to your views, especially your world view, how do you respond?