Sharing the Gospel is not for sissies.
This past Saturday I joined a team of people from my church to go on a afternoon outreach in the community. Our goal was to hand out gospel literature and invite people to our Easter services. I will admit that this kind of cold contact is not one of my strengths, I prefer to build up a friendship and have the opportunity to be an ongoing witness in someone’s life. However, I believe it is still beneficial to have a presence in the community and to try and be a blessing, even to people I’ve never met.
So my partner and I went to the park across the road. There were probably about 50 people out and about. There was a children’s birthday party along with couples romancing, a family having lunch while waiting to fetch a family member from hospital, and a few groups of men getting drunk, getting high, or in some cases both. As a inner city Church, this is our mission field.
I have been reminded about how easily I can fall into naively thinking that most people in South Africa think or believe as I do. In the church, we get so comfortable talking about our beliefs and use phrases that we think goes without saying. “The Trinity” “The deity of Christ” All my views were challenged by the people we conversed with over the course of the afternoon. We had tense discussions with Zionists, Catholics, Muslims and others just not interested in religion. Sharing the gospel is not for sissies. I left feeling the need to study harder, and to think more clearly about how my beliefs comes across to sceptics. I need wisdom. What goes without saying for me is not what goes without saying for others.
One particular conversation really troubled me deeply. I was speaking to a 40 something year old black man who sat on a bench, drinking his troubles away. He refused our literature but was open to talk. His one question still haunts me: “Your daddy and granddaddy killed and oppressed my daddy and granddaddy. So what makes you think we can even have this conversation?”
I was immediately cut to the heart. Now I know that my dad did not harm or persecute any black people himself, but I do understand that we were part of a evil and oppressive system. I was cut because through the smell of booze and slurring words – This man had pain, and he was angry.
No amount of apology, sincerity or payback will ever fix the past. What we need as a nation is the redeeming, unifying, cleansing power of the gospel. My prayer for that gentleman is that he finds the peace that only Christ can give.
My pastor has a saying that he regularly emphasises. “The past is formulative, but it is not determinative”. We do not have to be slaves to the evils of the past, we should not use the past to justify more evil, we should learn the lessons, grieve the hurt, but look forward in hope.
All in all, it was good to go out and speak to people in our community. I challenge you to do the same, but be prepared for uneasy, messy confrontation. Sharing the gospel is not for sissies.