So, all of us have likely been in a situation at one time or another when a stranger approaches us, probably on a city street, and asks for money. What should we do? On the one hand, we know that Jesus is our model for living an authentic, obedient Christian lifestyle and He explicitly calls on us to have a special passion for those in need (see Matt. 25:31-46, for example). However, I, for one, am always a bit hesitant to just give money to a stranger on the street. I feel that it risks having that money used for something other than sustenance; maybe drugs or alcohol, for example. So, while I certainly want to help a person in need, I don’t want to risk contributing to the already significant problems in their lives by simply giving them some money and sending them on their way with nothing more than a kind word and a smile (and the hope that they will use those funds wisely). These situations actually present wonderful opportunities for us to reach out and not only help someone physically by providing for a basic need such as food, but to actually share with them the most important message of all, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
With this as a backdrop, I wanted to share with you an experience I had a few months back. I was taking a great course called Contemporary Evangelism and one of the best features of this class was that it was designed to get students out of their comfort zones (reading books, writing papers and taking quizzes). This course called upon students to get out there and actually demonstrate Christ’s love, then document the experience. While I was a little apprehensive of this course and actually avoided taking it until toward the end of my degree program, I find that, looking back, it was my favorite class at Seminary and I was truly convicted by God as a result of his leading me through this course to put my faith in him into action that demonstrated my obedience. That said, our first assignment in the course was to conduct something known as servanthood evangelism.
What is servanthood evangelism, you might ask? Well, it is the intentional sharing of Christ by modeling the biblical servanthood that we find practiced by Jesus and his disciples. It is simple acts of kindness with an eye toward personal evangelism. In this world, people are often pleasantly surprised but also quite skeptical when they are the recipients of random acts of kindness. The great thing about spreading Christ’s love with a purpose is that believers are always ready to respond when the ultimate question comes: “Why are you doing this?” The response is that we are doing this to demonstrate Jesus’ love in a practical way. The hope is that this conversation then opens up the opportunity to talk more about Jesus and the Gospel but, if not, then the believer moves on to the next act of kindness, resting in the knowledge that they have been obedient to The Great Commission.
Now, I live in southern Maryland and my work brings me into Washington, D.C. as one of many thousands of other commuters each week. Since I rely on public transportation instead of driving, I am often afforded the opportunity to walk the city streets as I move from one mode of transportation to the next. In doing so, as I alluded to above, I sometimes come in contact with the city’s poor and homeless who are wandering the streets in search of their next meal or, in some unfortunate cases, their next high.
In light of the assignment and having been struggling for some time with just what to do in these situations (I often just carried snack bars at the ready to hand out), I determined that I was being given a great opportunity for service to the Lord, as part of my daily routine. As I mentioned, I am hesitant to give actual cash for fear of it being used to support an addiction, so I began considering another way to help. It occurred to me that some restaurants offer gift cards that can be purchased and distributed freely. This seemed like a great way to help ensure a gift of food would be used for food and not something improper. However, although beneficial, simply giving the gift of food to the hungry does not move beyond the Social Gospel. It does not bring Jesus into the conversation. I knew that I needed to make that connection with people. When I shared the gift card, I wanted to also share the good news of Jesus Christ.
This led to my decision to incorporate a “business card” with a brief Gospel message into the gift card package. The cards I used were from McDonald’s. They were purchased for $5.00 each (not sure what the smallest denominations are but this is the one I chose) and I have included a picture below. Each card comes inside a small foldout. On the inside of the foldout is the gift card on the right side and an open area on the left. This area opposite the gift card is where I placed the Gospel business cards. Across the top of the card, I wrote, “Christ died for our sins and rose from the grave.” Below that, I placed Romans 10:9 (NIV), which states “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Across the bottom, I included the address to a website that provides instruction for new believers. It is called www.crosswalk.com.
It didn’t take long for this to become a great blessing to me. After I made the cards, I asked God to bring me into contact with those who need this gift and its message. Almost immediately, I was able to share them. I met a young man named Julius on the Metro. He was homeless and walking the aisles asking for money or food. I offered him the card and explained it to him. He was quite excited and very thankful. A few days later, I met another man on my way to the bus stop who was seeking assistance. At the time, I was in a rush to catch the next bus and actually walked right past him along with everyone else before the Holy Spirit immediately convicted me and turned me around. Once again, I gave him a gift card, had a brief chat, and prayed God’s blessings upon him before going on my way.
I continue to carry these cards with me on my commute and have had many additional opportunities to help others over these past few months. My hope is that I will have opportunities to become even more engaging; spending additional time with the people I assist, gauging their interest in the Gospel, and sharing my testimony. I believe God will continue to use this avenue as a means for numerous opportunities to witness while also offering much-needed sustenance to those in need.
This is only one example of what you can do with servanthood evangelism. It is fun to think of different ideas or read other peoples accounts and try them out for yourself. As someone who previously generally avoided personal evangelism, I have found it to be a wonderful means to open doors with people and engage in meaningful conversation with the hope of showing Christ’s love and sharing the Good News. I would welcome your thoughts on other ways to participate in The Great Commission through servanthood evangelism and I hope that God will spread this concept throughout his church such that random acts of kindness and a message of eternal life in Christ becomes a common occurrence throughout this world.