While on a road trip a few years ago, I encountered a road construction worker. Being stopped for a short traffic delay, I asked one of the road workers the following question: “Have you noticed any signs of spiritual awakening in this part of the country?”
He responded by saying, “What do you mean?” I replied, “Have you noticed how many people these days are coming to an awareness of their need for the Lord?” The road worker said, “I don’t know about anybody else, but I know I need the Lord.” That brief exchange opened an opportunity to share the Gospel with the man and discover his eagerness to hear more about Jesus and what it means to know and follow Him. God had obviously prepared the man’s heart. I explained more about what it means to believe, confess, and call on the Lord, from Romans chapter 10. I sensed that the Holy Spirit was dealing with his heart, so I suggested that we include the Lord in our conversation and encouraged him to call on the Lord and confess his faith in Him, which he did.
Short Encounters — Eternal Impact
That experience, years ago, impressed upon me how the Holy Spirit can work in people’s lives in those short encounters. We seldom know how God is at work in people’s lives, until we connect and engage with them in conversation. Simple greetings, comments, or gestures of kindness can often open opportunities to connect with people and connect with God’s redemptive activities. Some may think of spiritual awakenings, revivals or movements of God as sweeping, sensational or spectacular transformational movements. Ordinary everyday conversations or acts of kindness have the potential for significant connections and long-term impact.
Seeking out Prepared Hearts
There are many simple ways of connecting with people in everyday situations that can change lives and have strategic impact. As we pray for God to prepare our own hearts and give us a sensitivity to the needs of those around us — we can expect the Lord to answer those prayers. Another important part of the prayer aspect is simply asking people we connect with how we can pray for them. That question often leads to significant witness and ministry encounters.
Alertness to God’s Activity
I was recently in a restaurant with some friends. As we were placing the order for our meal, we asked our server if there was anything we could pray for her about. She was open and receptive and shared some things going on in her life. We included her request in our prayer over our meal. The ongoing conversation during our mealtime was a great encouragement to our server and a wonderful experience seeing how the Lord answers prayer. Being alert to God’s activity in the lives of people around us and being willing to connect with them is not difficult or complicated. The more we see the work of the Spirit in those situations, the more confidence we’ll have to reach out with expectancy and faith.
Living in a Mission Field
We all live in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers and friends. Those short-term connections that we make every day in our normal traffic patterns, can become divine appointments and life changing opportunities. One of the things I’ve run into over the years is people who have a fear or reluctance about sharing their faith and introducing others to Christ. We often think of it as more complicated and complex than it needs to be.
The lessons we learn from Jesus and the Early Church are timeless and can work anytime, anyplace and with all people. Those simple orality-based methods were how the Good News of Jesus spread throughout the entire populated world during the First Century. That of course, was before radio, television, the internet, or the printing press became available.
Ping Pong – to Bowling Ball
Many these days are discovering the need to return to the roots of how the Jesus Movement started 2,000 years ago. A mission leader has said that the Gospel started out like a ping pong ball, now it’s like a bowling ball. So, one of the big needs in the Church World today is to get back to the basics. Some of the important questions are the following:
- What is the essence of the Gospel?
- What does it mean to be a disciple?
- What should disciples do?
- What is a church?
- Why do churches exist?
The answers to these questions and the discussions that they provoke can have a transformational impact on people’s thinking and actions. Sometimes it’s necessary to rethink, unlearn and relearn certain things, to make our message and methods biblical, cross-cultural, reproducible, and transferable to every place and all people groups.
Overcoming Loneliness and Isolation
One of the many lessons we are learning in the orality movement is the power of connectivity and simplicity. Many people are living in isolation, loneliness, and alienation. A friend of mine often says we all have a longing for belonging, and we know that the Kingdom of God is built on relationships. Most importantly, a right relationship with the Lord, and then being in right relationship with others. It is so important to understand how connecting with the Lord and each other changes us and the people around us.
Openness to the Gospel
With all the negative and discouraging things happening in the world today, God is still doing an amazing work. We just need to have spiritual eyes and discernment to recognize God’s redemptive activities all around us. The Lord desires for each of us to connect with Him, connect with one another and reach out to those who need Him. Some have observed that more people are open to spiritual conversations these days than there are believers actively reaching out to share the Gospel.
Jerry Wiles, North America Regional Director of International Orality Network, and President Emeritus of Living Water International. He is an author and radio program producer and has been a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows and traveled extensively as a public speaker.