Jordan Baun, CGO Staff
If you’re like me, you don’t particularly love change. But 2020 has been full of changes. We are now looking at a Thanksgiving and Christmas season unlike any we have ever experienced. No matter where you stand on how things should be handled, this holiday season will be different. For me, it means I won’t be spending hours on end in coffee shops during my weeks of vacation. It also means I won’t be planning or attending near as many Christmas parties.
But as our disappointments and frustrations seem to pile up, let’s not forget what hasn’t changed. A couple weeks ago, I was reminded of a phrase Dr. Bob III would repeat in BJU chapel all the time: “The most sobering reality in the world today, is that people are dying and going to hell today.”
Yes, 2020 has changed our lives significantly in many areas, but the most sobering reality of 2019 remains the most sobering reality of 2020. There are people around us that have not accepted the wonderful news of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. They are living without hope in one of the worst years most of us can remember. And, some of those will die without that hope, not even living to see 2021. That is a sobering reality.
It’s easy to get into a spirit of complaining about the regulations while you are waiting 6 feet away from someone in line at a grocery store. Guilty as charged. However, why not take that opportunity to share some of the hope that lies within you? Why not turn the unfortunate circumstances of 2020 into a joyful gospel opportunity? If the most sobering reality is that people are dying and going to hell today, then the most precious news is that Jesus made it possible for us to escape that eternal death by dying to self and following Him.
Instead of dwelling on all the things that have changed this year, let’s make a list of things that haven’t changed! I shared one, but there are hundreds of amazing things that remain the same. Just a few that come to mind are things like our union with Christ, our eternal security, and the ability to stay in touch even when we can’t travel or gather! Use the comment section below to list some ideas. Then, find someone who needs some hope in their life and share those with them.
A few weeks ago, I realized I had slipped into a get-through-the-day mentality. But hearing the words of Dr. Bob reminded me that I can’t be content to just make it. I have been left here on earth for a purpose—a mission. That mission is to make disciples because people are slipping into a Christ-less eternity. Sticking my head in the sand and just trying to survive the pandemic isn’t being an ambassador for Christ.
So, will you join me? Will you decide it’s time to do more than just make it through the rest of 2020? We have an open door to connect with people and turn the conversation to eternally weighty things. I know, it’s not exactly an ideal time to talk to strangers, knock on doors, gather a crowd of people together, but can you think of a more ideal time than right now that people are looking for hope? So, let’s think creatively. Let’s build relationships. Let’s use the conversations waiting in line for Christ. After all, He gave everything for us, and now, he commissions us to bring that news to everyone we can. That’s something to give thanks for next Thursday!
Elliott Martin, BJU Alumnus
This summer hasn’t been the easiest summer for our outreach efforts at my church in Detroit. We were in the middle of trying a new evangelistic Bible study when everything started getting cancelled in March. Pastors and professors wrote the studies. Ladies at the church volunteered to bring food. Church members invited lost friends. A surprising amount of new faces showed up. Then, they couldn’t come back because our church stopped gathering together.
After that, we thought we could engage the community by bringing sanitation kits to each house in our neighborhood. That way we could make contact with the lost in our community, demonstrate love for neighbor, and seek opportunities to share the gospel. We calculated the cost, drafted a proposal, found the supplies, started writing a tract to include in each kit. Then we got hit with a stay-at-home order.
Eventually, for our Sunday morning service, our church started meeting in our parking lot and inside with limited, social-distanced seating. But the question remained—how could we be well-known in our community as a place that takes God and His Word seriously and is marked by Christ-like love while communicating the gospel to the lost correctly, clearly, and consistently?
In May, our outreach pastor wrote some articles entitled “Pandemic Evangelism” to try to equip others during “these unprecedented times.” Some people in our church made their best efforts to call lost friends to check in on how they were doing. Some found that people were more willing to talk because of being shaken up by everything going on. Others found that some of their friends had dropped off the face of the earth. Last month, we tried door-to-door evangelism with our Spread the Word interns. Some of them were met with coronavirus-related resistance, but, for the most part, it was profitable.
This month, we were supposed to have Fall Fest, one of our biggest church-wide outreaches of the year. Last year, hundreds of people came. We had a straw maze, corn pit, hayride, cider, and donuts. Many church members connected with people from the community. Many lost people heard the gospel or were invited to Christianity Explored. This year--cancelled.
But despite the discouragement of things getting cancelled, the annoyance of wearing a mask, and the uncertainty of whether someone will act like a normal pre-2020 human being or spray you with hand sanitizer and run away accusing you of not caring about people’s health when you approach them, there really have been good opportunities for evangelism this year.
My favorite is one-to-one Bible reading. This is how I’ve seen redemptive relationships most regularly built. Before Covid, I met with individuals throughout the week to read the Bible together at restaurants, coffeeshops, or my house. After Covid, I meet with people outside, at parks, or on Zoom. The location may change, but coronavirus can’t stop this outreach.
It’s pretty simple but very effective (and fun). When I meet a lost person, I ask them if they have ever read the Bible? If they say no, I ask how they come up with informed opinions about God, life, or truth without reading the Bible, which is the #1 bestseller in the world that claims to be written by God, and invite them to read it with me. If they say they’ve read parts of the Bible, I ask how they come up with informed opinions about God, life, or truth without reading the whole Bible and invite them to read it with me. If they say they have read the whole Bible, I say, “We should read the Bible together then! I love reading the Bible with people! You will have insights that help me understand things I didn’t understand, and I will have insights that help you understand things you didn’t understand.”
One example began the beginning of February. A man named Nick visited Inter-City. I introduced myself, got his phone number, and invited him to study the Bible with me. Three weeks later, he accepted the invitation, and we met at a library. He had recently started reading the Bible himself for the first time, so we read the next chapter he was going to read together. It was 2 Kings 20. Soon, I recommended we read Mark. We would read a passage, ask each other questions, and I’d try to explain concepts like Jesus coming for those who know they are sick, not those who think they are healthy. Over the next 8 weeks, we read through a portion of Mark each week. After reading Mark, we went through 1 John. We are reading Ephesians now. It has been amazing to see Nick’s eyes open as God gave him understanding. Nick went from believing that he wasn’t a bad sinner and not knowing clearly who Jesus was, to saying he wants to follow Jesus because obviously he is the only one who can save!
Coronavirus can’t stop this. God’s Word will powerfully accomplish his purpose whether it’s heard in a church auditorium or over a Zoom call. That’s why regular exposure to the Bible is so important for evangelism. Who could you invite to read the Bible with you? If this kind of redemptive relationship building seems too difficult for you, check out David Helm’s book One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian, or try reading the Bible with a believing friend first and commit to praying for each other when you try reading the Bible with a lost person. You could also use a booklet that helps you walk through texts of Scripture like Christianity Explored (which now has a free online version for those who can’t meet in person), Uncovering the Life of Jesus by Rebecca Manley Pippert, The God Who Saves by Mark Gilbert, or You, Me, and the Bible by Tony Payne. Anyone can do this. And it can be done any time, even in a pandemic.
MLK service projects are a wonderful opportunity for students and community organizations alike. First, the students. There is a certain joy that Christians experience from obeying the commands of Christ. MLK service projects provide the opportunity to love our neighbors in a very practical, hands-on way. There is also excitement about serving with fellow students. Finally, students connect with organizations and find ways to partner in the future.
Second, our partnering organizations. Each year, we hear from many of the organizations how thankful they are for our students. All across the community we are able to spend a couple hours here and a few hours there to have a big impact and let these organizations know that we appreciate them and support their efforts to reach Greenville. MLK service projects are loved and enjoyed by everyone involved. Thank you to all the students, faculty, staff, and alumni that invested their day in serving!
We worked with Greer Relief, an organization serving people experiencing poverty in downtown Greer and in several other communities. We moved piles of furniture, clothes, school supplies, and even some TVs and mattresses out of their storage facility. It was great to hear from their director about the various avenues of help they offer to the community. Serving the community does not have to be complicated. It can be fun! (Hannah Lovegrove, Senior)
I had the opportunity to serve with Meals on Wheels for MLK Day. I got to interact with several people when I dropped off their meal for the day. Each person was so gracious and thankful that we took time out of our day to serve them. God taught me to appreciate what He has given me including the comfort of not having to worry about where my next meal will come from. He also helped me realize that there are people who are hungry and hurting even in Greenville, and being able to minister to them is an incredible opportunity! (Jessica Teruel, Junior)
I helped lead a ministry at Griggs Memorial Baptist Church. Our students repainted their fellowship hall and finished painting a classroom. We were thankful for the opportunity to bless one of our local Greenville churches, and we pray that lives will be changed as a result of our humble efforts. (Ben Peeler, Grad.)
I had the privilege of serving the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in Greenville. Upon arrival, my group was instructed to branch out into the surrounding neighborhoods. We were to greet residents on behalf of the school and the center and have them complete a survey pertaining to the activities conducted in the area. Feedbacks from the first set of houses were consistently insightful, but one interaction I had truly impacted my experience. A lady on the last stretch of houses we visited described the murder, prostitution, and drug trade that occurred right before her eyes. This attracted me to the solution she stated next. She suggested, in lieu of continuing down the same path, there to be a mentoring program for the youth of the community. A positive influence in the lives of young people could redirect the footsteps of the minds of the future. If one would just take the time to positively pour into souls whose worldview is still being molded, I believe there will be a decrease in activities similar to what she said. As mentioned, this conversation impacted the way I now view the importance of mentorship. (Noah Jackson, Freshman)
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.