May 1997 Issue
Small Deeds Open Big Doors
by Alvin Reid and David Wheeler
You have probably heard about the
three pastors who met in an accountability group and decided to
tell one another their greatest hidden sin. The first said, "Don't
tell my congregation, but I'm an alcoholic." The next confessed,
"If my folks knew I am a compulsive gambler, they would fire
me." The third said, "I hate to admit it, but I am addicted
to gossip, and I can't wait to get out of here!"
Truth be known, most of us appear to gossip more about evangelism
than to actually practice it. Surveys show only 3-5% of believers
consistently share their faith. It is not due, however, to a lack
of viable evangelism training tools: As Southern Baptists, we
have CWT, WIN, BWR, PSJ, WD40, ESPN ... well, you get the idea.
In reality, while terrific tools are available for teaching various
approaches to presenting the gospel, statistics reveal that there
is a breakdown in the application phase. It seems that in spite
of the training, most people still face the challenge of overcoming
their inertia; actually getting off the pews and into the fields.
Thus, we are left with the question of how to get people in our
churches to actually start witnessing.
At this point you may be thinking, "It's impossible
you don't know my church, they could care less about being involved
in evangelism!" My response is, "Hogwash!!!" The
truth is, many folks in our churches desire to share their faith,
but do not because they are intimidated by the prospect of "in
your face" evangelism. In fact, many church leaders may secretly
feel the same way!
Actually, personal evangelism doesn't have to be intimidating.
Many have discovered new joy in witnessing through an approach
known as "Servant Evangelism." Like many profound things,
this is so simple it is easily overlooked. Here's the concept:
get a group of believers to begin performing simple acts of kindness.
Then, go through the resulting open doors and offer the greatest
act of kindness a Christian can give: share the gospel.
Several Indiana Baptists applied this principle during a recent
evangelism trip to Croatia. They were assigned to minister in
a town of 60,000 that had only one evangelical congregation. Through
washing windshields at the local outdoor market, playing basketball,
providing games and small toys to children, and distributing light
bulbs door-to-door, the missionaries reported that over 1,000
individuals were positively impacted, and between 150-200 of them
made professions of faith.
In each activity, the visitors gave a card explaining that
they were "sharing the love of Jesus in practical ways -
no strings attached." In response, the people asked "why?"
At that point, they delivered the message of Christ through personal
testimonies and a clear, simple gospel presentation.
This concept is also being utilized across America. An Indianapolis
pastor handed out cellophane-wrapped cookies door to door with
a card that described his church's fellowship as "even sweeter
than the cookie." The pastor of a small church in Knightstown,
Ind., saturated his church field with bags of microwave popcorn.
Each bag had a note attached inviting recipients to "pop
in and see us sometime." In both cases, the gospel seed was
scattered, people were reborn, and church attendance grew.
"Too gimmicky," you say I say, "Hardly!"
Ask T. B. Smith, the Associational Missionary for Northwest Indiana.
He took several Christian youth to wash windshields at a popular
parking lot "hangout" one Friday evening, "just
to share the love of Christ in practical ways no strings
attached." By the time they left two hours later, six had
prayed to receive Christ.
If you're still not convinced, go to Southeastern Seminary
in Wake Forest, N.C. You will see students going into their communities,
passing out sodas and the gospel at local businesses. Others are
going door to door with nine-volt batteries, offering to check
residents' smoke detectors. While checking smoke detectors, one
student experienced for the first time the joy of leading a person
to Christ was he ever excited! Other groups offer free
car washes. If the patrons try to pay for the service, the students
refuse. "We're simply showing the love of Christ in a practical
way," they would say. A Hindu man was saved at one of these
free car washes.
Other students have gone door to door, giving away free light
bulbs. "You'll probably have a light bulb go out sometime,
so here's one," they would say. "By the way," they
added, "Jesus said He is the light of the world." Again,
a common response has been, "Why are you doing this?"
which has given the opportunity for personal testimony and the
gospel presentation. A small gift can open big doors.
If you're still not sold, consider that last Spring, a Southeastern
Seminary evangelism class adopted Servant Evangelism as a two-week
class project, and saw forty-three professions of faith. "Embarrassing"
... "silly" ... "would never work in my church"
you might say. Don't believe it!
This simple approach can help motivate your church in several
ways. First, it allows members to witness in a group. There is
strength and encouragement in numbers. Second, it allows timid
people to participate in outreach while learning from watching
those who are more experienced. Almost anyone can provide a smile
and a few kind words while washing a car or giving away a light
bulb. Third, it doesn't require a great deal of time or money.
Think about it how many windshields can a group of five
people wash in two hours at a strategic time and place in your
community? Possibly several hundred, and for very little money.
There is another strength to this approach: it is winsomely
disarming. A survey of Southeastern Seminary students indicated
that unchurched people discussed the gospel more than twice as
often using this approach than more traditional methods (door-to-door,
prospect-discovery, assignment-visitation, etc.). This does NOT
mean that traditional approaches don't work. On the contrary,
if properly applied, Servant Evangelism will both enhance traditional
approaches and help mobilize the whole church to reach its community.
Of course, anything with potential for good has potential drawbacks.
Let me offer two cautions: first, avoid the temptation to neglect
verbal evangelism. There are billboards and commercials imploring
us to engage in random acts of kindness. That is noble and needed.
But this kindness is not random! Jesus' servanthood built relationships
and ministered to needs, opening doors to verbally share the gospel
message. Servant Evangelism is more than social action or ministry.
It is intentional evangelism!
Secondly, guard against the tendency to "go through the
motions" without compassion. Participants must be reminded
that they are representatives of Christ's love and compassion
for the lost. Servant Evangelism is not a "canned" approach.
Go prepared with gospel tracts and a brief testimony, but go also
with a servant spirit and a genuine concern for lost humanity.
If you go out with a desire to serve, God will open big doors
in your community!
Alvin Reid is associate professor of evangelism at Southeastern
Baptist Theological Seminary; David Wheeler is director of evangelism
for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.
New Avenues in Outreach
A church that follows the Lord is a church that goes beyond
its walls to reach those who might never consider attending a
church service. One harvest field often overlooked is the hotel
industry. Joel T. Land, associate director of the Special Ministries
Department, Home Missions Board, offers the following suggestions
for a variety of ministries to hotel employees and guests:
This ministry provides parents some time together without their
children. The hotel may provide space in its facilities or the
activity may be conducted at a nearby church.
Obtain permission and space for a nondenominational Christian
worship service for Sunday morning. This may be held in a conference
room, ballroom, group dining room, lobby, or around a pool.
A coffeehouse located in or near the hotel area can effectively
reach teens, families, or young adults. A hotel recreation room,
pavilion, tent, pool area, nearby restaurant, or church fellowship
hall may be suitable sites.
A day camp at the pool or beach, on the lawn, or in some other
designated area can be an effective way to reach children and
Build relationships with hotel managers and offer a hotel chaplaincy
ministry. Be on call for crisis ministry for employees and guests.
Where there is a concentration of beach or hotel pool lifeguards,
there is potential ministry. Visits on the job with cookies, providing
hamburger suppers, and hosting volleyball games might open ministry
The number of international tourists and hotel workers in this
country increases every day. Inquire about English-as-a-second-language
(ESL) class opportunities and provide Scriptures in other languages.
The Church and Community Ministries Department of the Home Mission
Board has extensive materials and training available.
Abridged from Developing
Hotel Ministries by Joel T. Land. For more ideas and information,
contact Home Mission Board Customer Services, 1-800-634-2462.