HOUSTON, TX (ANS) “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.
Being Alert to Fertile Soil
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 a major long-term impact.
God Directs our Paths
The Pray-Care-Share lifestyle is an excellent and simple way of connecting with people in everyday situations that can change lives and have a strategic impact. As we pray for God to prepare our own hearts and give us a sensitivity to the needs of others — 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.
Connecting with People’s Needs
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 mealtime 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.
Living in Our Mission Field
It is important for all of us who are followers of Jesus to realize that each of our lives in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Furthermore, those short encounters we have with people in our normal traffic patterns can become divine appointments and life-changing experiences. We often think of it as more complicated and complex than it needs to be. In our work with Living Water International, we regularly see the impact of combining demonstration with the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus. In our Orality Training programs people gain confidence that everyone can learn and share the stories of Scripture. Then, with the appropriate questions and discussion, they can 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. This is how the gospel spread throughout the entire populated world during the First Century, before radio, television or the printing press.
Returning to the Roots of the Original Jesus Movement
Church and mission leaders around the world seem to be recognizing the need to return to the roots of the Jesus Movement started more than 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 today is to leave, or change some of our modern Western church traditions and get back to the basics:
* What is the essence of the Gospel?
* What is a Disciple?
* What should Disciples 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 it’s important to rethink, even unlearn and relearn certain things, in order to make our message and methods cross-cultural, transferable and reproducible to the ends of the earth. Some valuable lessons we are learning is the power of connectivity; along with small, simple and reproducible systems and structures. Those of us in the Western World sometimes tend to live in isolation, loneliness, and alienation. We all have a longing for belonging and have a need for community. The Kingdom of God is built on relationships –first of all, a right relationship with our Creator, and then being in right relationships with others. Connecting with the Lord and each other changes us and the people around us.