The Evangelist

After I had preached on Sunday morning a man swaggered up to me. He looked mid forties, stocky and like his nose had been broken more times than he could remember. I was talking to a member of the church and he joined our conversation.

“So, does anybody do any witnessin aroun here?” he asked.

It felt like a loaded question. I don’t think either of us knew quite what to say…

“I guess it depends on what you mean by that” I said. I sensed that he meant standing on street corners and preaching, or stopping people in the mall.

“Well I mean going out in the street and talking to people about Jesus. There’s a whole world out there of needy people who aren’t gonna come in here and without Jesus they’re goin to hell.”

He was clearly edgy and wasn’t feeling like we were receiving his question real well. The fact that I had lampooned the wacko street preacher during my message may not have helped either.

He talked for a little bit and told us his story. He had been sent to prison several years ago for violent crime. He had lived a violent life and was a street fighter. But during a stint in solitary confinement he had met God in a ‘damascus road’ type of way.

He then started sharing his faith in prison and just before he got out he was leading a Bible study of over 200 men in the prison. His approach to evangelism was much like his approach to other things in life – no holds barred and no prisoners – pardon the pun.

After a short conversation where my friend spoke of the church’s craft group, and kids ministries I could see him glaze over and zone out. This wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

He had come looking for a church that would support him in his own evangelistic work, post prison and that would also be a church that would welcome his new converts. He hadn’t found one anywhere.

He drifted off from the conversation clearly frustrated. I was frustrated too.

Partly because I had encountered someone with raw passion and it had exposed me as having gone soft in some ways. I was frustrated because I knew what he was on about – there simply aren’t too many churches where people like him are welcome and where he would be understood and encouraged and where his friends would be accepted. He is a strong character with lots of opinions and he would be a handful. His friends would change the tone of the average middle class church.

As he drifted off I sensed God saying ‘go and have lunch with him’. I think it was partly so I could learn more about evangelism from someone who was naturally gifted and partly so I could encourage him not to give up on the church. In his zeal he was convinced that anyone who wasn’t doing evangelism like him was not serious about God and he had little room for those with any fear.

I have shared this frustration over the years and at times have been guilty of projecting my own passions and gifting onto others. Maybe I could help him see the value in sticking with others and helping them develop.

I caught him as he was walking down the street to his beaten up white ford meteor. I invited him out and he took me up on it.

We had a great time together and I found myself driving home inspired by this left field Jimmy Swaggart fan who wept over people who didn’t know Jesus and who went from half way house to half way house until someone would listen. He had clearly had such a life changing encounter with God that nothing was going to stop him or slow him.

I was rebuked for my lampooning of the street preacher and reminded that the kingdom of God is very very diverse. As he treads the streets of Fremantle he will connect with people who would never give me the time of day.

I pray he finds a community of people who will welcome him and his friends and who will support him in his passion for helping the broken and messed up follow Jesus.

I pray the evangelist won’t get tamed.up in smoke free

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9 thoughts on “The Evangelist

  1. Thanks for sharing that Hamo. It’s a much-needed reminder for me and others like me who out of rebellion against those who “do it the wrong way” have pretty much quit doing it al all.

  2. Unfortunately, serving outside the box often means you will not have a place to hang your hat or lay your mat (sounds Biblically familiar). Hamo, did you give up on the evangelist fitting into your ministry? Or, did he give up on y’all fitting into his? Divisions work both ways.

  3. Hamo,

    one of the most challenging questions you pose here is “how would I react to this bloke”.

    truth is at church he probably would not approach me as I am obviously “mr suburbia” and i would feel threatened, or at least very uncomfortable, with him. (Not proud of that but it is true)

    the question of “what would i have done” is one that i am asking on a regular basis more and more and finding that my default reaction does not reflect Jesus at all



  4. Thanks for the clip around the ears Hamo – many faithful people doing stuff with nothing but raw passion and a mighty desire – the Kingdom ogf God is diverse indeed!!!

    Take a look at us!!! Peculiar people, yes we are – at least we got that part down pat!!

  5. For most of my walk I have felt a bit like this evangelist. That is my calling/gifting and at times I have struggled that others don’t seem to get that is a major reason why we are here. I have mellowed a bit over the years, but I still am involved in evangelism.

    One thing I have found is that if I hang around other Christians then my zeal for evangelism rubs off on them and their zeal for compassion ministries, teaching the Word and fellowship rubs off on me.

    I hope your friend finds a place to fellowship, however I suspect he won’t find somewhere he completely feels at home. Because like most full on evangelists he might only really feel at home when he is sharing Jesus with others. And that might be on the streets and in the prison system.

    Personally I think there might be value in meeting with someone like that once per month for lunch for mutual encouragement.

  6. Perhaps the reason this guy is so passionate about evangelism is that he really believes in the traditional eternal fire and brimstone hell, and the only way to keep out of there is to repent and believe. Turn or burn, no other options. Maybe the rest of us don’t really believe in hell, at least not in the traditional concept of it. If hell doesn’t really exist, what are people being saved from? Does this guy’s apparent zeal and urgency to reach the ‘lost’ reflect his belief whilst our apparent lack of desire to evangelise at every opportunity reflects our unbelief in hell?

  7. I still hold to a pretty conservative view of hell, but I have always felt it to be a bad motivator in evangelism.

    Calling people to the life Jesus offers seems much more inviting that simply avoiding hell.

    Then again, I am less firey on this issue these days so maybe I have shifted unconciosuly

  8. What a gracious thing you did Hamo – good on you.

    If we’re not so motivated by hell, we have to believe that the church offers a taste of the kingdom now, and that the fact Jesus is Lord is actually good news. (Maintaining our eschatology at the same time, of course! Even conditional immortalitists like me.)

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