By Bob Andrews, in the February 1992 World Mission Prayer League Newsletter. Andrews served as the General Director of the Minneapolis based World Mission Prayer League from 1985-1987. www.wmpl.org
About three years ago I slipped into a meeting of Twin Cities pastors to hear a well known theologian speak on the topic, Preaching Christ in an Age of Religious Pluralism. An inner-city pastor asked, “Should I really be trying to convert the Asian Buddhists who have moved into our neighborhood?” When he received a solid “Yes” to his answer he went on to ask, “How?”
The theologian’s response surprised me and warmed my heart. Many missiologists and theologians would have said something like “dialogue, build a relationship, start with the known and work toward the unknown, or find some common ground.” His answer: “Just tell them about Jesus.”
Just a month ago, on the other side of the world, I saw it happen. From a human point of view the circumstances were all wrong. The speaker was a Western female in a male-dominated society in the Eastern world. She was not a native speaker of the language she used. Only about half of the listeners spoke that language as their first tongue. The audience, with the exception of two small girls, was made up of adult males. The traditional stance of all was anti-Christian. The story was told with a flannel graph, an aid normally used with children.
What could one hope for under these circumstances? Heckling? Boredom? Walkouts? Antagonism? Indifference? There was no introduction. No invitation: “Let’s talk.” No apology for taking their time or interrupting their activities, not even a “thanks for coming.” The storyteller walked into the hospital ward and announced to the patients and to the relatives who were accompanying them, about 50 in total, “We are going to have a lesson now.” She set up a flannel board and started telling the story of Jesus.
In half an hour she took them from the angel’s announcement to Joseph, all the way to the resurrection. From the first sentence she spoke to the final word, the audience was enrapt. I did not understand the language, so I occupied myself with observing the listeners. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was at work. There were no objections. No questioning of motives or authority. The only reaction was a drinking in of the Word, and many request for the written Gospel in their mother tongues.
The theologian was right. Just tell them about Jesus!
John 14:6 — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 12:20-21 — Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”
1 John 1:1-3 — That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
John 20:30-31 — Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Lord Jesus Christ, you said that you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Help us not to stray from you, for you are the Way; nor to distrust you, for you are the Truth; nor to rest on any other than you, as you are the Life. You have taught us what to believe, what to do, what to hope, and where to take our rest. Give us grace to follow you, the Way, to learn from you, the Truth, and live in you, the Life. –Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)