If you grew up attending an evangelical Christian church, you probably heard of the need to share the gospel. The need for conversions. The need to save a wicked world.
And so maybe you passed out Christian literature or tracts as a youth group. The “here, take this piece of paper and I’ll leave you alone” approach. Or maybe you invited your friends out to a meeting where a big-name preacher was speaking. Or invited them to a concert. Or just plumb shared your faith and trust in Jesus.
If you’re anything like me, the last approach is the most terrifying. It’s uncomfortable, seems confrontational, and in our every-man-is-an-island Western way of thinking, offensive. Why would you tell someone else how to live if they’ve already found a way that “works” for them? Why tell someone that they’re missing someone named Jesus in their lives if they seem to be living just fine without Him? It doesn’t help that we see abuses of evangelism all around us. Hateful speech, picketing, “fundamentalists”.
And so when confronted with Scripture that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations,” and “faith comes from hearing and hearing the Word of God,” I try to pray my way out of it.
“God, please drop an opportunity into my lap. Let this random person ask me a specific question about Christ or my faith. And help me not look like an idiot.”
I’ve been going through the book of Acts in the Bible, and last week I ran across an intriguing story: the apostle Paul is giving his defense before King Agrippa, who is King of Judea, great grandson of Herod the Great… The Herod who tried to kill baby Jesus. Also a part of the audience is Agrippa’s sister, Bernice, and Festus, who is the Roman procurator for Judea. So there are some pretty hefty, influential, powerful people in the room. And Paul tells of his conversion and subsequent ministry. He knows Agrippa is familiar with Jewish law, history and custom, and he has also heard of Jesus and this Messiah’s movement. And then Paul puts Agrippa on the spot, calling him out on not being ignorant of these things. And then you’ll find these intriguing two verses in Acts 26:
And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am — except for these chains.” (verses 28-29)
The King pokes fun at Paul’s brazenness, and Paul does not flinch.
Agrippa: “Are you kidding me? Paul, do you really think your story is going to make me follow Jesus? You’ve hardly been in front of me for 10 minutes!”
Paul: “Yup. However long it takes. I’ve got all night.”
He admits openly that he is not ashamed of Christ, and he wishes that everyone would be as passionate and zealous for Christ and spreading the gospel as he is.
Think about it: Paul is looking like a fool, a fanatic before these polished dignitaries. He’s traveling and telling everyone about a guy that came back to life. He’s suffered imprisonment, torture, abuse, ridicule, and much more. And he’s a smart guy, not just some random fisherman with a delusion. He knows how people must perceive him, pitying him in his chains. And that does not deter him. To the point of death, to the point of people saying he has lost his mind (verse 24), he’s calling others to join him in following this Jesus.
How does that fit into our view of Christianity? Into our view of evangelism? Paul is saying not just that Agrippa and all in the room believe in a story. He prays that they are just as moved and passionate about spreading this life changing news. This news that Jesus saves! That He has come for the world!
Not to sit back and keep living their ordinary lives. But to be radically transformed!
Do we have that view of Christ? Has our conversion made that lasting of an impact?
“Look, I don’t care how much time it takes. Whether now, or down the line, I pray that you guys would become Christians like me, except the whole prison part of course.”
Our hope, as Christians, should be that all become followers of Christ! Not just in name, but in life and deed. We do this with “help that comes from God” (verse 22). We truly are weak, but Christ is strong.
I pray that we would all strive toward that goal, of all being zealous for Christ. That the Holy Spirit would awaken that passion in us and work in the hearts of those we come into contact with. That every word and deed in our lives, every encounter, would involve showing the supremacy of Christ. That we would not balk at frustrations or persecution, but press on in the strength of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and the help of the Father. However long it takes, that the world would know the beauty and salvation of the Son of God.
The good news is not that in Christ we can be better people. The good news is that in Christ, we are made new. In Christ, we get to show the world what God is really like.
At work. At school. In the car. At home. In the church. In the ghetto. In the prison. In the palace. In America. In the third-world country. With our friends. At the sports event. At the social event. In your neighborhood. To the stranger.
So… Can I get a true witness?