By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – June 3, 2015) – As I met a man in a revolving door at the entrance of a hotel, I smiled and greeted him. Immediately the man turned around and followed me into the lobby of the hotel and approached me with a question. He asked, “Do I know you? Have we met before?” I replied, “I don’t think so, but we may have a mutual friend.” He said, “Who would that be?” I said, “The Lord Jesus Christ, do you happen to know Him?”
That brief encounter gave me the opportunity to share the Gospel with this man. He had heard of Jesus, but had never personally trusted Him or become a follower of Jesus. He was obviously interested and open to the Lord, and we had the opportunity to pray together and he called on the Lord. I explained that he didn’t have to be in a church building or go through a long religious ritual in order to enter a relationship with the Lord. We discussed, from Romans chapter 10, what it means to confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts in order to be saved, and that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
This man was like so many in society today, he was alienated and separated from God because of sin. We know from Scripture that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. He had heard and knew about Jesus, but just needed a little encouragement to respond to the Good News. It seems that one of the big needs in the world today is for believers (followers of Jesus) to recognize that we are all ministers of reconciliation, as we are told in II Corinthians 5. We are representatives, ambassadors of Christ, and can be agents of change, every day, wherever we happen to be.
Loneliness is a common problem, especially in our modern Western world, where so many are living in isolation and a lack of community or companionship. Alienation and loneliness are causes of much anxiety and lack of connectedness. Research has shown that loneliness is a problem in marriages, relationships, families and even in churches. It has been described as social pain and has been a motivator for people to seek social connections. Realizing that can be a big help in our efforts to minister and witness to others.
I had exchanged a few brief comments with a lady seated next to me on an airplane. I mentioned that I work with an organization called Living Water International and that we help people with clean water solutions and share the love of Jesus with some of the neediest people on earth. Then she said to me, “Can I ask you a question”? I said, “Sure.” She asked, “What happens when a person dies?” Well, it turned out that her mother had passed away that morning, and she was on her way home to help with funeral arrangements. We talked for about an hour, and I was able to share and minister to her during that time of loss and pain.
We seldom know what is going on in people’s lives until we connect with them and listen. It is important to listen, not only to people’s stories and their pain, but also listen to the Holy Spirit. He will often give us a word that is fitly spoken just for that person’s situation. The more we connect with people and listen to their stories, the more the Holy Spirit will open up those divine encounters and many times turn them into life-altering and transformational experiences.
One of the important lessons we have learned over the years in our Orality Training sessions is how the experience connects people in ways that do not normally happen in the big crowds or in large gatherings. Orality Training Workshops allow everyone to connect, participate and engage by telling stories and asking questions. Not only do the participants learn stories, they discover the meaning and applications and they connect with other people’s stories. One Orality Training Workshop in a church group of about thirty people, mostly senior citizens, realized how little they really knew about each other. Even though many of them had been attending church together for more than 25 years, they came to realize that they really didn’t know one another in a deep spiritual way.
By the middle of the afternoon of the workshop, they were in tears at they heard each other’s stories of coming to Christ, how they had endured many storms of life and how God had answered prayer and intervened in their lives. That group, like many others in our church culture in the Modern Western context, demonstrates how we can be part of a large congregation, organization or business, and still be living in isolation and loneliness.
It is an encouraging development that increasing numbers of churches and organizations are realizing the power of small groups and participatory experiences. The Orality Movement is such a significant and important strategy to address these issues of loneliness, isolation and alienation. Even in the business world, there is a growing awareness that community and relationships are very important for healthy organizations.
One of my mentors use to say that one of our big needs is to find out what God is up to, and get in on it. Well, we know from Scripture that He is up to reconciling the world unto Himself, He is about redeeming His creation, and that He sent the Lord Jesus into the world to seek and save the lost. He now lives in us, who are born of His Spirit, to carry out that purpose. In Christ, we are new creations, we are in spiritual union with the Living God, and we are complete in Him. Therefore there is now no condemnation and no separation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What a privilege we have of being joined to the Lord in His eternal purposes.
For information about Orality resources and training opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
Photo captions: 1) Orality Training with small group interaction is transforming lives, churches and communities. 2) Sharing stories, sharing life and experiencing community is the best solution for loneliness and alienation. 3) Jerry Wiles.
About the writer: Jerry Wiles is president emeritus of Living Water International and serves on the advisory council and leadership team of the International Orality Network. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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