About a year ago, I heard a knock at my door. I just got out of the shower and frantically dressed while my baby napped quietly.
I peered through the peep-hole. A girl I didn’t know, about nine or ten years old, stood there. Weird. I thought, but opened the door. Maybe she needs help.
As soon as the girl began talking to me, her grandmother appeared from behind the corner where she was hiding-yes, a grown woman hiding. As soon as the spiel started, I knew what was happening. They belonged to a cult and wanted to make me a follower.
I invited them in to talk, as I was willing to engage in a conversation about Jesus. It only took me a few minutes to realize they did not really care about me or my soul. I was a project to them-not a person. They wanted to speak their message, convince me, and leave. I was simply a means to an end and it left me feeling icky.
As a person who is usually on the giving end of ministry, it was a strange feeling-and an acute warning from the Lord never to do that to anyone myself. I am sure I have and I repent.
It seems obvious to say we need to see people as humans and not as projects. But, it’s also easy to get caught up in the zeal for our message or the desire to be right. In our culture of consumerism and instant gratification, it is easy to fall into the mindset that if we follow steps a,b, and c, then results d, e, and f will follow. If I say the right thing, share these four points, challenge them to pray, then I will get the results I desire. We may truly care about the person, but in wanting a result, we may forget to treat them as such.
Photo by Joe Gardner on Unsplash
We MUST guard against treating people as projects. In the case of winning souls to Christ, the end does not justify the means-especially when the means lead us to not love others as ourselves. People are not stupid. We know when we’re being treated as projects. We know when someone truly cares. Why would someone believe Jesus cares for them if the messenger fails to care for them?
We are ambassadors for Jesus, therefore, we are called to love others as Jesus loves them. Jesus never saw people as projects, but as souls with a deep longing and need for him. Jesus took the time to learn people’s hurts and needs and he met them where they were. He preached to them the gospel in a way that met the deepest soul need of each individual.
Jesus could do this in a matter of minutes because he was God with us. It may take a little more time and intentionality for us. People’s souls are not boxes to be checked off a to-do list, but a garden that requires time, tending, and care.
We can guard against seeing people as projects by asking ourselves some questions:
1) Is my evangelism motivated by love for this person or by fear?
2) Am I listening before speaking?
3) Do I know what this person needs? How can I learn?
4) Is this a mutual discussion or am I preaching?
5) Will I continue to pursue this person if they don’t believe in Jesus?
6) Am I willing to admit that I don’t have an answer?
7) Am I trusting God’s timing or am I trying to force the message onto them?
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Walking the tension of boldness and loving care in evangelism is not an easy one. But, it is a walk me must take-and with complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. We may mess up-we will probably mess up. We will probably have to apologize. But, when we set our minds to view people as people, not projects, we start the walk on the right foot.
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