When I think of amazing evangelists, people gifted in witnessing to others about the saving reality of Jesus Christ, I don’t think of the biggies like Billy Graham. He is too far up in the stratosphere of superpower evangelism. I think of people closer to my bit of earth, whose love for God is so pure, so radical they exude it. I don’t come close to their level, but I want to keep them close, because being around them is infectious, convicting, and compelling.
Rev. Cherry is a person I just met. He is 78 years old and has been a pastor for over four decades. He parks his car as far from his church as he can on Sundays so he has opportunity to run into people as he walks toward the building, asking them if they know Jesus, inviting them to church. My friend James says he met Rev. Cherry at a barbershop recently, and the pastor was busy making on impact on all the young men in the place.
Susan works tirelessly to love on her section of the city—she and others created a flower garden at a corner that once held weeds and garbage; she and her crew renovated a section of the library, created a beautiful children’s section and began a story time; her block association holds a bike rally and a block party every spring and summer. She also knows the drug dealers in her neighborhood. Susan is slight in build, a harpist, and yet walks right up to these dealers, letting them know she knows what’s happening. They move on.
Michael and Julia are also pastors, but they don’t work for a church. They and their team mentor neglected and disadvantaged city children from the age of 6 and work to get them through high school and then hopefully into college. Every one of the kids they have mentored have graduated from high school. That is an amazing statistic, given the dropout rate in Rochester is abysmally high (in 2011, the graduation rate was 46.1%).
All of these dear people are evangelists and they each do it differently. They live out the scripture from James 1:19 (above)--they listen to God, listen to people, then act. They check the pulse of a hurting community and respond. Behind their ministry is a rock solid faith in the God they serve and they want to touch others with God’s love and the message of salvation. I can’t hold a candle to them: they have poured out their lives very much so like the prophet declares in Micah 6:8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
I only hope that as I evangelize in my own distinct way—which includes loving, listening and writing—that I will do so in a way that honors God and honors the people he brings across my path.