Every college has one – that lethal combination of professor and course which inspires dread and is the bane of degree-seeking students. At Erskine College, it was Mr. Bittinger’s Finance class. He alone taught this course required for Business majors. Many attempted to evade this threat to their GPA by taking it elsewhere during the summer and transferring their credit.
Mr. Bittinger was not an academic. He was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense former corporate comptroller who had little time or patience for ill-prepared future business leaders. Class days alternated between lecture and exercises. On exercise day, Mr. Bittinger would randomly select students to demonstrate the solutions to assigned homework in front of the class. And his selection was remarkably random.
If you looked at him, he would choose you. If you looked at your shoes he would choose you. If you sat in the front of the class and looked keen, he would choose you. If you sat in the middle behind the class brain, he would choose you. He had an uncanny knack for choosing you for that problem that had given you fits. Cutting class was not an option at Erskine. There was nothing to do but gird up the loins of your mind and face the music.
Christians often view evangelism with the same dread and evasiveness. What should be one of our greatest joys becomes our greatest fear. Unfortunately, evangelism has become a technique to be mastered or a ministry to be exercised rather than a lifestyle of telling others the remarkable story of deliverance. The story of the power of God to deliver us from our own broken selves and make us whole and new both now and forever.
Perhaps the reticence of some professing Christians for evangelism is because they know about God but do not know Him savingly. For others a lack of time spent with Him through diligent use of the means of grace – the Word, prayer, worship, and fellowship – means that they know too little of Him to introduce Him to others. And in evangelicalism, the influence of Arminianism and classical apologetics makes evangelism fundamentally confrontational. The pressure for success is placed in the evangelist’s power of persuasion and not in the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. All of these make evangelism intimidating.
But what if evangelism is as simple as telling others what God promised and then accomplished in real time? And leaving the rest to the Holy Spirit? This is the model of evangelism we see in the Bible. And in Exodus 18 in the middle of the journey from deliverance at the Red Sea to the receiving of the law at Mount Sinai, we find the curious story of Jethro, the priest of Midian and Moses’ father-in-law.
Through hospitality and conversation, Moses gives Jethro a detailed account of all that God has done to deliver Israel. Jethro has already heard some of the epic tale through word of mouth. But as Moses recounts the whole story of redemption, Jethro is converted. And he immediately worships and exercises his spiritual gifts to the great edification of the people of God. The story of Jethro’s conversion is an important encouragement to us. It reminds us that the power of salvation is in God’s Word and work, not in our presentation or persuasion. We are called to faithfulness, not success in evangelism. Evangelism is to be a way of life and conversation, not a program or a niche ministry.
Are you intimidated by evangelism? Join the club! But it need not be that way. Evangelism is as simple as having a story to tell and telling it. Do you have a story of deliverance and redemption to tell? Are you telling it? Join us as we examine Exodus 18:1-12 and consider the conversion of Jethro and learn “Evangelism 101” from Moses.