A few years ago, I was standing on a street corner giving away cans of soda. Traffic backed up as people stopped to get their free soda. While most people were pleasantly surprised, one man stood out as particularly unhappy. He pulled to the corner, the windows of his big dark blue Buick rolled up, with an annoyed look on his face.
“Diet or regular?” I asked. He took a diet soda – though he was not appeased.
Several weeks later I was washing cars at a business near the same intersection when who should appear? The same annoyed man in the big Buick!
|You are causing a traffic jam!
My job that day was to be the “wheelman” – that is, to wash tires and whitewalls. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the grim from the annoyed man’s tires, when I looked up to see him towering over me like a vulture. He had the same annoyed look on his face. I figured that I needed to say something before he did.
The first thing that popped into my head was this: “If Jesus were here, what would you ask of him?”
The question seemed to disarm him, and for a moment he forgot that my act of kindness had annoyed him. He offered money for the car wash, but I refused. I continued my offer to pray for him. He asked me to pray for his family, so I prayed a quick prayer and he was on his way.
A few weeks later, low and behold, I was shocked to see “Mr. Buick” and his family seated on the front row at our Easter Sunday service. At the end of the service, he and his wife came forward and asked me to pray with them. We prayed, and he accepted Jesus as his Savior.
In more than 20 years of serving others, I have learned a few things that have helped me enjoy the ride.
Servant Evangelism cannot be delegated!
People will follow what they see their leaders doing. Leader must be involved in serving others as a completely natural lifestyle – an overflow of their living, vital relationship with Jesus. If you are the lead pastor you don’t have to be the one developing the ideas and doing all of the legwork, but you do have to be the lead server.
Start small with out-of-the-box ideas.
Often when we start a new project we think of starting something that is creative and dazzling. The power of serving is not in the size or “uniqueness” of the project. Projects that capture the inspired, creative attention of your people don’t need to be “sexy” or have a lot pop and sizzle. Simplicity if often the best approach to take. If you get nothing else in this article get this: The essence of the power of serving is in showing up in unexpected places. It is a simple act of compassion shown in a place where it is completely unexpected. Keep it simple, and the creative things will follow.
Listen to your community.
Every community is different. And those unique needs that can and will be met by the unlimited resources of the kingdom of God flowing in and around us. The key? To find a need and then meet that need. The best ideas for reaching the people in your city are to listen to the people in your city – understanding their rhythms and needs.
While shopping at a local grocery store, I overheard two single mothers discussing what groceries they had put back in order to get the oil changed in their cars. The thought popped into my head, “I can do that! I can help them change oil in their car!”
So I went to a local mechanic to ask if he would be willing to help. “Now that is what the church should be about!” he said, blowing a puff of cigarette smoke in my face. We now change the oil in 300-400 cars a year, and we are beginning a new, broader ministry to single parents.
Servant Evangelism is like growing asparagus.
|When thinking about evangelism, we often think of wheat, but I have discovered that it is more like growing asparagus. When a gardener grows asparagus it takes three years before he can yield a crop.
Pastors often ask, “If I do this serving thing in my church how many people will come to my church?” That is the wrong question to ask, and really reflects a “me” mentality. Servant evangelism is about the Church being the Church and serving others. If I try to grow my local church things just get mucked up. But if I serve other people, seek to expand the kingdom of God, and do the deeds that Jesus did I find that God brings the people. In the end it is not about the size of our congregation or budget, but about the number of people we have loved along the way.
Gene, the annoyed man in the Buick, has been part of the church for more than 10 years now. He and his wife lead a small group. This once annoyed driver now helps me give soda away to other annoyed drivers.
“You know that day I stepped out of the car while you were washing the tires?” he asked one day.
“Yes,” I said, very clearly remembering it.
“I was going to chew you out for having caused such a traffic jam the day you gave out the sodas,” he said.
“What stopped you?” I asked.
“The fact that you wanted to pray for me,” he said. “I still have the can of diet soda you gave me sitting on the mantel of my fireplace. I kept it because it was the starting point that brought me to Christ.”
People may not flood into your church because you gave them a soda, but their lives will be changed because you were willing to share God’s love with them.