The question “What do you do?” will get a different response from me, depending on who I talk to, their awareness of Biblical Christianity, and inevitably what mood I’m in.
“I run community spaces to help people think through the big questions of life”
“I work with clubs and societies in universities and colleges, equipping the student leaders”
“I persuade people that Jesus is more true and beautiful to live for than anything else out there” (that’s when I’m feeling bold or want a provocative conversation!)
“I help people know to read the Bible properly for themselves as rational adults – and cut out extremism”
But it’s the bottom one I turn to today, as we look in our theology of travel at what we can learn from the disciples on the road. If I’m being honest, there weren’t many conclusions about Jesus’ travel time and from the outset I’ll be honest, I’m not sure we can conclude much from here either.
Only the disciples’ way of spreading the good news of Jesus seems to build on Jesus’ relational approach, and takes it from door to door throughout neighbourhoods, making sure everyone gets a chance to respond. It appears to be what the early church did too as they sent a mission team (Paul et al.) of evangelists and supporters around many places.
And so that’s perhaps all I’ll conclude that we should take away from this. That travelling for evangelism should always be done in teams. I could tell sad stories of burnt out, lone-wolf evangelists who still are heralded by many in modern day evangelicalism as “the” ones to look up to. Some of the most famous evangelists and pastors sadly fall in to this category.
Why do I not take away more?
Modern mission agencies are increasingly forcing strategies such as “find the person of peace and let them lead you to hundreds of people” onto their staff (Disciple Making Movements or Church Planting Movements). They quote Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel to his follower’s before they go out (Luke 10:6). And I’m not saying I don’t look for people who are open the gospel.
But I’m more convinced that a Pauline theology of preaching/evangelism (and by that don’t necessarily assume the disciples’ methodology was similar, even pre-cross) was persuading hearts that weren’t necessarily visibly open to the gospel and seeing God work by His Spirit to make them open people (who could sometimes lead tens of others to Christ).
Paul’s theology of preaching:
- 2 Cor 4:4-6 Spiritual blindness
- 2 Cor 5:11 Godly Persuasion
- 2 Cor 10:4-5 Divine demolition
It reminds me of a CU in England (and many others) I worked with at one stage who were convinced a lady with a red jumper was going to be open to Jesus, if they found her. For an hour they searched, and did indeed find a woman (who was quite perplexed) with a red jumper. In the meantime, the rest of us had spoken to tens of others about Jesus, had some great conversations, and seen the usual responses to God’s Word (Mark 4).
Now I’m not saying God doesn’t lead miraculously to particular individuals (In fact, I taught this in Youth Alpha on Friday with a Methodist Church, and would quite happily teach it to my reformed presbyterian friends that I grew up with too!), but what I am saying is that I don’t see any evidence from the 72 or early church to suggest we should wait around for it!
Oh to have the spiritual wisdom to know how to best hold the tension of wanting to urgently tell everyone the gospel, but knowing that slow, relational seed-sowing, often bears more fruit, and often suffers from abrasive, cold, evangelists who go in with metaphorical gospel bombs!
Of course all of this wouldn’t need to be a tension or a dilemma if we’d continued what the early church started – going to the unreached. Our centuries of apathy has left us in some pickle. Better shape our lives round sorting that one then….