Connecting for Change — Ways of Recognizing and Connecting with God’s Divine Purposes
By Jerry Wiles, President Emeritus, Living Water International, Special to ASSIST News Service
HOUSTON, TX (ANS – May 20, 2015) – “Have you noticed any signs of spiritual awakening in this part of the country?” That was a question I asked a road worker who was directing traffic at a construction site. He responded by saying, “What do you mean?” I replied, “Have you noticed how many people these days are coming to an awareness of their need for the Lord?” The road worker said, “I don’t know about anybody else, but I know I need the Lord.”
Well, that brief exchange opened up an opportunity for me to share the Gospel with the man and discover his eagerness to hear more about Jesus and what it means to know and follow Him. God had obviously prepared the man’s heart. I explained more about what it means to believe, confess and call on the Lord, from Romans 10. I sensed that the Holy Spirit was dealing with his heart, so I suggested that we include the Lord in our conversation and encouraged him to call on the Lord and confess his faith in Him, which he did.
That experience, years ago, impressed upon me how the Holy Spirit can work in people’s lives in those short encounters. We seldom know the condition of people’s hearts, or if they are fertile soil, until we connect and engage with them in conversation. Simple greetings, comments, questions or stories can open opportunities to connect with people and connect with God’s redemptive activities. Some may think of spiritual awakenings, revivals or movements of God as sweeping, sensational or spectacular transformational movements. In reality, seemingly small and insignificant conversations or acts of kindness can have major long-term impact.
The Pray-Care-Share lifestyle promoted by the LOVE2020 Strategy of the Mission America Coalition is an excellent and simple way of connecting with people in everyday situations that can change lives and have strategic impact. As we pray for God to prepare our own hearts and give us a sensitivity to the needs of those around us — that He would direct our paths and bring us in contact with the right people — we can expect the Lord to answer those prayers. Another important part of the prayer aspect is simply asking people we connect with how we can pray for them. That question often leads to significant witness and ministry encounters.
I was recently in a restaurant with some friends. As we were placing the order for our meal, we asked our server if there was anything we could pray for her about. She opened up and shared some things in her life, and we included her request in our prayer over our meal. The ongoing conversation during our meal time was a great encouragement to our waitress and a wonderful experience of how prayer-care-share can be a part of our everyday routine. Being alert to God’s activity in the lives of people around us and being willing to connect with them is not difficult or complicated. The more we see the work of the Spirit in those situations, the more confidence we’ll have to reach out with expectancy and faith.
It is important for all of us who are followers of Jesus to realize that each of us lives in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends. And, those short-term connections that we make every day in our normal, routine traffic patterns, can become divine appointments and life changing for many. One of the things I’ve run into over the years is people who have a fear or reluctance about sharing their faith and introducing others to Christ. We often think of it as more complicated and complex than it needs to be.
An exciting aspect of our work in Living Water International is discovering how effective integral mission and witness can be. In our Orality Training Workshops people gain confidence that any and all of us can learn and share the stories of Scripture and ask questions that connect with people and often have reproducing impact. The lessons we learn from Jesus, Scripture and the Early Church are methods that will work anytime, anyplace and with all people. Orality-based methods were how the Good News of Jesus spread throughout the entire populated world during the First Century.
Churches, ministries and mission organizations everywhere in the world are discovering the need to return to the roots of how the Jesus Movement started 2,000 years ago. A mission leader has said that the Gospel started out like a ping pong ball, now it’s like a bowling ball. So, one of the big needs in the Church World today is to get back to the basics: What is the essence of the Gospel? What is a disciple? What should disciple do? What is a church? Why do churches exist? The answers to these questions and the discussions that they provoke can have a transformational impact on people’s thinking and actions. Sometimes we may need to rethink, even unlearn and relearn certain things, in order to make our message and methods cross-cultural, international, reproducible and transferable to every place and all people groups.
One of the many lessons we are learning in the Orality Movement is the power of connectivity. Sometimes in the Western World people live in isolation, loneliness, and often alienation. A friend of mine often says we all have a longing for belonging, and we know that the Kingdom of God is built on relationships –first of all, a right relationship with our Creator, and then being in right relationship with others. It is so important to understand how connecting with the Lord and each other changes us and the people around us.
God is doing an amazing work in the world today, and He desires for each of us to connect with Him, connect with one another and connect with those who need Him. To learn more about how you can improve your ability in connecting, relating and sharing with others, you might consider participating in some Orality Training. It is a modern-day phenomenon which is bringing transformation to many, and the movement continues to build momentum.
For information about Orality resources and training opportunities, visit www.water.cc/orality.
Photo captions: 1) Small groups, telling stories and asking questions are connecting people and changing lives. 2) Prayer, Care, Share lifestyles are cross-cultural, simple and reproducible, anywhere and with all people groups. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
** You may reproduce this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)