I finished an awesome book a couple of weeks ago called Evangelism without Additives by Jim Henderson (not to be confused with the creator of the “Muppets,” Jim Henson). The book describes a post-modern, non-confrontational style of evangelism. It sounded like evangelism I could do, a lot easier than approaching people on the street to ask them if they know Jesus. Henderson’s suggestions include using the same stores and restaurants and getting to know the folks who serve you week after week (it’s hard not to use the same restaurants and stores when you live in Connell). He also talks about giving “free attention giveaways,” which he describes as simply treating people as if they are genuinely interesting, not just nuisances or unimportant.
As a pastor I have been trying to emphasize the importance of meeting the physical needs of people in our community. We’ve done a great job of this, buying tons of groceries, clothes, diapers and electricity for families in Connell. Reading the book made me realize that a lot of the work I have done to meet needs has been more selfish than truly in the interest of reaching out. My motivation for meeting needs in our community has mostly been in order to flee from the wrath to come. I have not been all that interested in the souls of those whose physical needs we are meeting. I guess I have been over emphasizing Matthew 25:31-45, the story of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats based on who gave a cool cup of water to the least of these.
If asked to tell you which is more important, a cool cup of water or a saving relationship with Jesus, I would quickly respond, “a relationship with Jesus.” But when asked to meet peoples’ needs I often act as if groceries and baby wipes are more important than salvation. I am much quicker to ask about, and respond to, physical needs than spiritual needs.
I never want the help our church is able to provide families in our community to come with strings attached, but I should be doing more to let people know that we do care about their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs. Henderson offers a lot of non-threatening, helpful solutions for letting people know that I care about more than just their need for flour and eggs. Simply telling people that you will be praying for them (and actually praying) is a great way to let people know that you care about them.
For me there is a difficult balance to strike. I am resolving to care for the spiritual needs of people in addition to their physical needs. I hope I am able to express my concern for peoples’ spiritual needs as genuine concern for the whole person, and not seem as though I’m just looking for sinners to condemn.