We’re having a Julie Andrews moment here. I’m sure you remember that song:
“Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start. When we read we begin with a, b, c; when we sing we begin with doe, ray, me…”
But when we’re sharing the gospel of Jesus with someone, where do we start?
Have you ever thought about in what order we should present Bible truth? Do you think it matters? I mean, it’s all truth, right?
Apparently, it is the order matters. I’ve worked in education for enough years to know that almost everything we do needs to happen in a particular sequence, and every step in that sequence is important – not just for what it is, but also for where it falls. For example, babies learn to roll over, to crawl, to pull up on furniture, to walk and then to run. Each one of those steps is important because of the way the muscles and the brain work together to make each one happen.
Actually, Paul talked about that very thing:
“I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able;” I Corinthians 3:2
Ellen White describes the process like this:
“Christ drew the hearts of His hearers to Him by the manifestation of His love, and then, little by little, as they were able to bear it, He unfolded to them the great truths of the kingdom. We also must learn to adapt our labors to the condition of the people—to meet men where they are.” (Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 57.)
How do we know where to start, then? Well, if we look at the way Jesus worked with people, we can see that He almost always started at a purely physical level: If someone needed healing, He healed them. If they needed feeding, He fed them. Only after a person’s physical needs were met would Jesus talk to him or her about His and His Father’s love.
My aunt and uncle have an amazing ministry that follows the example of Jesus. Twice a year for as long as I can remember, they have gone to little villages in Mexico with bus and van loads of doctors, nurses, dentists and assorted volunteers. They spend a week or two meeting the physical needs of hundreds of villagers with every kind of ailment you can imagine – and some you’d rather not. Every day the medical folks work to comfort, if not heal, the people who come to them. Then, in the evenings, they share the love of Jesus. Thousands of people have met Jesus and given their hearts to Him because they experienced the love of people who love Jesus.
I’m not saying that everybody needs to pack up and take a mission trip; there are plenty of folks who are starving for Jesus all around us. Not everyone has a medical need. The point isn’t what you do – just that you do something to show someone else how much Jesus loves him.
“Doe a deer, a female deer;
Ray a drop of golden sun.
Me, a name I call myself,
Fa – a long, long way to run…”
You know when we’re just discovering the world around us, as children, we experience things very simply – the sky is blue, the sun is yellow, all trees are apple trees, and all houses are two stories, have a peaked roof, chimney, a front door and five windows. Do you doubt it? Ask a six or seven year old to draw you a picture of a house and that’s almost certainly what you’ll get. If you ask a child to sing you a song, you’ll probably hear them sing “Jesus Loves Me.”
Is there anything wrong with any of that? Not at all. But as children grow, their understanding grows with them. They learn why the sky looks blue. They realize that all houses and trees aren’t the same, and they’ll begin to understand why those differences are important. It wouldn’t do anybody any good, though, to sit a six-year-old down and try to explain to him the finer points of architecture or the layers of the atmosphere. You’d both end up frustrated and chances are that the next time you asked that child to draw you a picture, he’d be less likely to oblige.
When we introduce someone to Jesus, it’s important that first and always foremost, he knows that Jesus loves him. What’s the best way to show Jesus’ love? By loving that person ourselves. As we build a relationship with him or her, he will begin his relationship with Jesus as well.
Little by little, as the Holy Spirit leads, the person will be able to understand more and more Bible truth. How fast will you progress? Probably everybody understands at a different rate. As the Holy Spirit works on his or her heart, new truths will sink in.
It’s important to remember, though, that relationship comes first – a relationship with you and then one with Jesus.
Check out these statistics from the Institute for American Church Growth. That organization asked 10,000 people how they came to join their church.
- People who started coming to church because they had some special need: 2%
- People who just walked in: 3%
- Folks who said they joined because of the pastor: 6%
- Those who joined a church because somebody came to visit them: 1%
- Folks who joined because they liked the church study program: 5%
- People who joined through an evangelistic crusade: 5%
- Those who joined for a particular program: 3%
Now, here’s the biggie! People who joined a church because they had a friend or relative in that church: 79%1
Everything builds on the foundation built through a personal connection with someone who loves Jesus. Everything else builds off of that foundation. As he becomes a more mature Christian, he will have to make the decision to follow Jesus for himself. Every person comes to a point when he or she has to decide to continue to follow Jesus or to walk on by himself. But a belief built on a relationship with Jesus will stand that test.
“Doe a deer, a female deer; ray a drop of golden sun. Me, a name I call myself, fa – a long, long way to run. Sew, a needle pulling thread. La, a note to follow sew. Tea, a drink with jam and bread. That will bring us back to doe!”
We begin and end with Jesus. In between there are truths and trials, heartaches and hopes, but Jesus is the constant. As the Holy Spirit leads us to people who are starving for Jesus, we just need to remember to start at the beginning. Find out what that person needs – healing, help or just someone to listen – provide it and then tell him or her the amazing things Jesus has done in our lives. Then hang on as the Holy Spirit works through us to help this baby Christian grow. What a miracle!
- Wayne Zunkel, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3 ↩