The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part VIII
Ephesians 4 says that we are to “equip the saints for the work of the service”. What “service” are we equipping believers who have the calling, passion, and point of view of an evangelist for?
I have never thought of an evangelists as one who “serves”. My prior context of an evangelist is someone who comes into the church or area for special meetings, is the center of attention, one whom everyone else serves while he is there, and then leaves when the meetings have concluded. Other than “preaching”, I am now sure how the stereotype evangelist “served” the 20th Century local church.
How can “service” be part of an evangelist’s ministry?
I teach public school, and for the last 15 years or more a student/parent Christian based club, called 1st Priority Club, has met in my classroom on a weekly basis before the school day begins. I have had well intended, enthusiastic Christian club advisors who just want to come into the school and begin to preach to the kids, calling it evangelism. This is the very attitude and practice public schools fear, dread, and avoid. Ron, one of my early club advisors set the proper tone. He was determined to make Christian students “serve” non-Christian students to win them for Christ.
1st Priority Club began to bring in “goodies” for the Faculty Room in a Faculty Appreciation Day. The teaching staff now never criticizes the club as a “religious” club, but thinks of it as a “service” club. The club also gave out hot chocolate and cookies to every student who got off the buss on the last day before Christmas vacation as well as a candy cane with a simple one line gospel message. The faculty has even joined forming The Snow Flakes to play and sing Christmas Carols at the students enter! During Valentine’s Day they had a “heat seeking” leaflet that acted like a thermometer when one’s finger was placed on it, making it a “love God” thermometer while attached to a candy heart. The leaflet told student’s how to contact student club members if their “Love” meter did not rise properly. Pieces of candy have also been placed in lockers during the year with a “Jesus loves you” message with 1st Priority Club information. The club also washed windshields of faculty members as a “service” gesture like Jesus “washing feet”.
The “service” by this club opened doors for evangelism. The principal, not an outward religious proponent, has promoted the club as a “service oriented club” at Orientation Night. Feeling comfortable with the club and its leadership, the administration has allowed the Club to meet during “Club Period” during the school day without any school supervision by a staff member having to be present. Here the “gospel” was shared “unashamedly” and “boldly” to anyone who would come. It became the meeting point for all the “hoods” in the school, students who had spent all day in In School Suspension, and any student wanting to get out of homeroom period at the end of the day. The Faculty would look at the group as the Study Hall from “hell”, while 1st Priofity Club looked at it as a chance to share “heaven”! Even a “concert” was offered at the end of the year with a strong gospel message.
Because of this club, the “gospel” has been heard by 80% or more of all students who have attended our school in the last 10 years! Tough kids from dysfunctional families, un-church kids, and “tough” students, have flocked to hear “Turkey Tom” as we called him, our evangelist! Tom still hears kids say, “Hi Turkey Tom,” when they see him out in public.
The doors to evangelism opened, because we built a foundation over years of “serving”. I have been frustrated begging Youth Ministers, Advisors, church people, etc. to come “eat lunch” in the cafeteria with our kids, offer “tutoring” time to spend time aiding and getting to know the tough kid, and work with our Guidance Counselors when needed, most of the time to no avail. If they came, the school would not look at the Church as an “outside influence of radicals” to be feared, but as a “friend” coming inside to help, to “serve” the students and the teachers.
There is a direct correlation between “evangelism” and “service”.