Evangelism by the laity is a recurring topic that always left me feeling a bit clueless as to what a practical application of it might look like. In one sense I was quite impressed by the way protestant churches approached this. They trained their congregations, had programs, strategies, were quite creative and yet what emerged was often cloned evangelists with stock rhetoric, there was something missing.
I discovered what it was when I worked for a chemical company years ago in the tea room on one of the plants I visited. One of the managers, who also had his tea break there, was very antagonistic towards God and the church and like many atheists and God-haters would deliver his anti-God sermons almost every day. It was clear that a conversation would be pointless so I prayed for him instead, sometimes out of pity, and other times out of annoyance. Month after month!
I was not the only player in the piece of theatre that was about to unfold though. The next was ‘the tobacco man’ who used to tour the plant selling pouches of tobacco smuggled in from Europe on the Lorries. His role was that he had a full forearm tattoo of the crucifixion scene. Each time he came in, the atheist winced as his eyes were inexplicably drawn to the cross.
One afternoon God fielded a ringer, the head chef of the canteen. A man with a volcanic temperament, made worse by a punitive financial settlement following a recent divorce which occupied his every waking moment. As the atheist began his daily rant against God I could sense that the chef was in no mood for it and without even delaying to put his teeth back in he declared “You ungrateful bastard; He died for your sins’
Whether or not there was silence in heaven, I don’t know; but there was in the tearoom. The atheist was glued to the spot, head bent over and visibly shaken. The chef put his teeth in and thought about his ex-wife. The tobacco man took a long drag on his roll-up and lowered his tattooed arm into position on his knee and the atheist looked into the image of his savior’s eyes without wincing this time.The gospel had been preached to him in its fullness, his own soul’s condition revealed to him like a violent lightning bolt, the sword of the Spirit had found its mark and his life would never be the same again.
God is always looking, always preparing, assembling teams of evangelists, creating a space to do His work and completing the task, often with people who are not religious at all, untrained, and even totally unaware. He is the prime mover in evangelism.