by Charles Bello & Brian Blount (taken from From the Sanctuary to the Streets)
As we read through the gospels, we see Jesus doing ministry day to day as He goes about His business. He ministers to the woman at the well while waiting on His disciples to get back with lunch. Jesus raises a young boy from the dead as He happens on a funeral procession as He is entering a town (Luke 7:11-16). But there are also special times when He intentionally sets out to do ministry in a new location. We see both spontaneity and intentionality in the ministry of Jesus.
For some of us, evangelism is as natural as water is to a duck. The joy and excitement of purposely reaching out to others gives us life, and then having them respond positively feeds our soul at a very deep and profound level. For others, our experience of reaching out to those we don't know is more in line with Paul's instruction to Timothy: "endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5). We can think of a dozen activities and jobs we would rather do than evangelize.
Life is filled with activities and responsibilities that we enjoy doing along with things that we don't enjoy as much, even though we enjoy the rewards they give us. We may not enjoy exercising at the gym, but we do enjoy being able to bend over to tie our shoelaces. For some of us, evangelism does not come naturally, but this activity, if done with humility and dependence on the Holy Spirit, brings with it the joy of participating in the great missional activity of God. There is perhaps no greater joy to be had than finishing the day knowing that God used your obedience to advance the kingdom.
The monastic community has a phrase: "rule of life." Rule of life is a personal and corporate regular rhythm that enables a follower of Christ to establish a pattern for living a balanced life. The understanding behind this is life is too important to be left to chance. For people living in monasteries, this usually involves prayer, study of the Scriptures and manual labor.
We all need a rule of life to keep us moving forward. The modern application of a rule of life is routinization. Routinization is the establishment of a pattern or routine. Many of us have established routines that include going to work, engaging in family activities, eating dinner, and worshiping with a faith community. Routines are sometimes seen as hindering creativity and life, but all successful musicians, athletes, and writers have one thing in common: they practice their craft over and over again. They dedicate time for practice by creating structure in their daily lives; they create routine. It is important to establish a routine that includes personal evangelism.
While we should always be ready for spontaneous opportunities that present themselves, for most of us, if we don't routinize evangelism, it will find little expression in our lives. There are simply too many things that will keep us busy and distract us. We will all spend eternity in worship and in deep conversations with friends and family. But this is the only time in our existence we will have the opportunity to participate in evangelism. It is too important to be left to chance.
Practice Evangelism Until Evangelism Becomes Your Practice
We have made a practice of setting specific times aside for the purpose of evangelism. For example, we have people who weekly go to a local homeless mission here in Oklahoma City with the purpose of praying for people and leading them to Christ. Sometimes we set times for teams of people to go out to the neediest areas of our city and go door to door spreading the gospel and praying for people. We go to drug-ridden neighborhoods, bus stations, hospitals â€“ anywhere we can find people who are hungry and desperate for Jesus. We have seen incredible fruit and amazing testimonies of salvations and healings through these regularly scheduled times of intentional evangelism.
There are several advantages to scheduled times of evangelism. First, you can do it with your friends who are on the same faith journey as you. Together you can mutually encourage and debrief each other. You can discuss what worked and what didn't and learn and grow together.
Second, you gain faith and experience in an intentional way rather than waiting for spontaneous evangelistic opportunities. You get more comfortable with failure. You get used to hearing "no" to your offers of prayer without getting offended. You learn to hear and respond to the voice of God over the voice of fear. Then when you find yourself in a spontaneous moment of evangelism, you have a wealth of experience behind you to give you faith for what to say and what to pray.
Third, you learn how to live naturally supernatural. When you intentionally practice carrying the supernatural presence of God into the streets, it fills you with faith to live naturally supernatural in your daily life.
On the Streets of Oklahoma City
One afternoon, my friend, Jim Kimbrough, and I (Brian) decided to cruise around downtown Oklahoma City looking for opportunities to pray for people. We had set out that day with the purpose of practicing power evangelism. It wasn't long before we saw a man on crutches on a sidewalk. We pulled the car up beside him and hopped out of the car.
We approached the man, greeted him warmly and asked what had happened to get him into this condition. He shared with us that he was in a car accident and had to have his bones pinned together around the knee. He had about a six or seven pain level and very limited mobility â€“ probably about three-to-six inches in range.
We then told him why we pulled over and asked if we could pray for him. He agreed. After we prayed, we followed up and asked how his pain level was. He said it was about a three or four. We asked about his mobility. He could move his knee with much more range than he did before. By the time we finished, he had no pain and he was lifting his leg almost as far as you could. He actually left us walking without the aid of crutches across a field.
It is in moments like these that the kingdom draws near to the broken and hurting people that God loves so much. It is also at these times of planned evangelism that we come to know the Father's heart for the lost and wounded. We gain a greater understanding of God's eagerness to touch people, and we also gain experience which sharpens our skills at evangelism.
A Day on Exchange Avenue
I often go to an area in Oklahoma City on Exchange Avenue to practice power evangelism and demonstrate the love of Jesus and the reality of the kingdom of God. The reason I love this place so much is that it's an area that is largely forgotten by the church. It's an area most proper Christians would avoid. Full of poverty, crime, addictions, and sickness, it's the type of place most of us like to pretend doesn't exist. But it's exactly the kind of place where I believe Jesus would hang out if He were here in the flesh today. The people there are hungry. Many of them are satisfying their hunger in destructive ways. The hungry are usually more likely to respond to a divine encounter with the living Christ than people living comfortable suburban middle and upper class lifestyles. It's a gritty place, but I love it.
Over the last several years, I have made a practice of going out to Exchange, and usually I bring a friend or two with me. I love to bring people who are new to power evangelism. It's a way to teach them the art by throwing them into the deep end. Because the people who live on Exchange are so hungry, it's a place where God often does some pretty amazing things. It's a great place to begin learning how to walk naturally supernaturally in power evangelism.
One Saturday, I took a team of four twenty-something women with me to Exchange. Our church had been hosting some power evangelism workshops, and these ladies were pretty excited (but also scared) about attempting to put into practice what they had learned. I was also pretty nervous. No matter how long you have been doing it, you still never know what will happen. I was especially nervous to be taking four young women into a pretty rough neighborhood.
There is never a comfortable way to approach people on the streets when doing intentional power evangelism, but what we have discovered is that, among hungry people like those on Exchange, it really doesn't matter how you approach them. If you can get the first sentence out of your mouth, you will either get the door slammed on you or something amazing will happen. The technique we were trying this day was a new one. We decided to go door to door being very bold and announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand right now.
We went to the first door and knocked. When someone came to the screen door, I said, "Excuse me. The kingdom of God is at handâ€¦" (I'm positive I sounded like a complete nut.) "â€¦ and I would like to prove it to you. If you have any sickness in your body, God is going to heal you." We laid it on the line.
An older lady opened the door and let us in. She was using a cane. She said she had hurt her leg very badly, and her hip had also been injured two years before. "I'm in a lot of pain. I've been praying all night long for Jesus to heal me."
So Jesus showed up in answer to her prayer in the form of four young ladies and a fat guy. Who knew that the answer to her prayers would come this way! She called us angels. We prayed for her and released the kingdom of God on her. She experienced total relief from her pain, and we all praised God for touching her.
Her cane now sits in my office as a reminder of the healing that happened that day. She didn't want it anymore, so I decided to start a collection.
We left that lady's house with a testimony in our hands. We went door to door telling about the lady's healing. "See this cane? We took it from an old lady! She didn't need it anymore."
Nothing seemed to happen at the second door or the third. At one door, we were able to share a prophetic word with a woman, and she was significantly touched by the Lord.
As we moved on, we approached a lady who was putting laundry on a line. We showed her the cane and asked if we could pray for healing for anyone in the house. She responded, "My grandma is sick. She has diabetes and back pain."
"That's great! Can you go get her so we can pray for her?" (I always tend to get overly excited about people being sick. I've learned to see it as an opportunity for them to be healed.)
She went in the house and came back a moment later saying her grandmother was on the phone. We asked how long. She said her grandma might be on the phone for a couple of hours, so I asked, "Are the clothes on your line dry yet?" She said no. I asked her to go into the house and grab a towel. I explained how in the Bible people were healed through Paul's handkerchief. "Let's just believe that God can do something through the towel."
Here were four girls and I praying over a towel with an unbeliever. All of a sudden, a lady came out of the house and grabbed the towel with us and joined us in prayer. I stopped and asked her who she was and found out she was the sick grandma. "You don't need to pray over the towel. Let us pray for you."
We started telling her about some of the things that had already happened, and the four girls began to pray for her. Before we could even pray for her back, the lady started yelling that her back pain was gone. She felt heat all over her body. We asked if we could also pray for her diabetes.
I said, "I'm sure you already know about Jesus, but have you made Him king of your life? Have you given Him everything?" She said no. All of us got on our knees, right there in the middle of the neighborhood with drug deals happening around us, and this lady was born again. Not bad for an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon.
Routinization is important, not just to help us grow in evangelism and the exercise of spiritual gifts, but also for the people who encounter the love of God in a way that wouldn't have been possible without our obedience to go. Maybe there's a place like Exchange where you live, where people are hungry and desperate, and where God is leading you to start your evangelism routine. It doesn't really matter whether you go to urban slums, suburban coffee shops, or rural markets. Just start somewhere and trust the Lord to lead you and teach you along the way.