We recently learned that one of our long-term friends who used to be homeless has lung cancer.
We longed to be with him, but we were several hours away at church retreat, so we did the next best thing – we called some of the other homeless friends we have discipled for a couple of years.
I caught Melanie just as she was about to go to a local church that provides weekly showers. I asked her to pray for Bob.
A couple of hours later we pieced together an amazing, miraculous scene that occurred at the showers.
Melanie and Rebecca, two long-term homeless women who have struggled for years with substance abuse and other issues, stormed into the church building and began shouting for people to drop what they were doing and join a prayer circle.
“Don’t worry about the food, it’ll keep!” Melanie roared at the church members who dawdled in the kitchen.
“Bob’s got lung cancer and we need to pray right NOW,” Rebecca shouted.
Soon, dozens of people were gathered in a prayer circle and were led in a prayer for Bob’s healing.
This is not how we envisioned God working when we first entered this ministry. We thought we would be grabbing “sinners” and getting them to repent and accept Jesus and come to our church and get baptized and somehow turn into miniature versions of suburban churchgoers.
As usual, God’s way was much, much better.
Luke 10:5-8 gives us a model of evangelism that turns the traditional model on its ear:
"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'”
My wife had a great metaphor for how this works and, as the guy who often forgets to water the plants in our house, I see its wisdom.
When you water a potted plant that is in very dry soil, you can’t water from the top. The soil is so hard that the water spills over the edges of the pot and (in my case) down to the floor. Instead, you put a shallow bowl under the pot, make sure there are small holes in the bottom of the pot, and fill the bowl with water.
Then the soil gradually begins to soak up the water, at its own pace, until it is saturated.
So often, evangelists pour out tracts and sermons about Jesus onto the parched souls of people who can’t see any farther than their next meal, or the depression of loveless lives.
Luke 10 turns things upside down. We are told to meet people where they are, speak peace to them and fellowship with them, “eating and drinking whatever THEY give you.”
It is great to bring a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to a homeless family, but beyond the blessing of the food lies a curse that says, “You have nothing to offer us.”
If we are going to disciple people, rather than preach to them, we must be in fellowship with them. That means seeing them regularly, visiting them in the hospital, giving them our cell phone numbers.
Following Luke 10 further, when we fellowship with people, we get to know their needs. As they express these needs – for food, for clothing, for a job – we have the opportunity to offer to pray with them that God provide.
God, with His wonderful love for the lost, can be relied on to answer these prayers. Then we can tell them, “The kingdom of God is near you.”
Even then, we need not rush into sharing the Gospel. Once they know us, trust us and see that God answers prayer, they will ask for more information about God.
Then the soil is ready to be soaked in the mercy of the Lord.
We don’t want to only plant seeds. We want them to grow and bear fruit, the way Melanie and Rebecca did. We don’t want them to adopt OUR faith. We want them to develop their own; to build up a passion for the Lord that makes them want to share it with others.
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