Being an Evangelist can be tough, even agonizing work. I speak from experience. You have to dump everything – all dreams, expectations, pride, and heart. Sometimes you have to cry in front of everybody. Then you let Jesus pick up what’s left of you to use for His purpose and His alone.
I was an evangelist of sorts, once. My relationship with Christ was still new and in the throes of oblivion. I simply adored the One who had set me free and I wanted to serve Him in any way He asked. Washing and ironing clothes for three peer-pressured girls was not my idea of serving in the Kingdom. Nor was making four breakfasts, four lunches, and planning meals for five exactly what I thought the Lord had in mind. Driving from school to school, making beds, chasing three dogs? No, this was not the mission field to which I deserved to be assigned, I was certain.
“…He said to Him, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:15)
Just two months before Easter the call came from Claudia, our adult Sunday School Class leader. Claudia was a businesswoman dressed in tailored grey suits, low black heels, and a tight hair bun. She seemed to me to very disciplined and void of emotion. Every so often I would catch her peering at me through her glasses.
Over the phone, Claudia told me in preparation for Easter, our group would be studying Jesus’ last days on earth.
“We would like you to teach the six week study.” Her voice was monotone. Was she joking, really looking for a childcare superintendent during the session? I would have accepted that request, though not wholeheartedly.
Claudia was serious, “We’d like you to teach the class. Just six weeks.”
This woman had not heard as a kindergartner I had been pulled off the stage wailing, or that I had flunked speech class in my senior year of high school.
What was she thinking? What was Godthinking?
My first thought was “NO!” but I asked the Sunday School Leader what she wanted me to teach. What exactly would be the topic?
“I’ll do it.” Who would turn down Jesus? Either I would fail or Jesus would come through for me.
“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God…”(1Cor 1:30)
Immediately I began studying. I read through every Bible translation I owned, researched concordances, borrowed books, memorized Scripture, and prayed while I made lunches, sorted laundry, and ran the vacuum cleaner. By the time I was ready to teach the Sunday School Class about Jesus, the Savior and I were Best Friends Forever.
“For consider your calling...not many of you are wise according to worldly standards…” (1Cor 1:26)
“We’ve got this.” I told Him. I did not tell Him about my nerves that were beginning to choke me. Burgeoning with facts and burning with passion, I stood before twenty or so adults in our class that included friends, my husband, and Claudia. After a quick prayer and a deep breath, I opened my mouth, and started to cry. Horrified by my behavior, I gulped back a sob, only to start over again. I could not talk; every word brought on a fresh onslaught of emotion. I stood there in my tear-stained mess, frozen, until Claudia led me outside the room to the water fountain.
“You don’t have to go back in there, you know,” she suggested.
I found my voice, or God’s voice found me. “If I don’t try again, I’ll never be able to go back.” With mascara smeared and swollen eyes, I walked into the classroom, apologized, and taught my first lesson.
I wish I could report that the following lessons were easier for me, but they were not. Though the attendees and I never suffered another meltdown, I continued to be jittery, emotional, and entirely dependent on the mercy of Jesus. I felt like a failure in my mission field and was humbled that at least I had not been fired. I was actually glad when Easter arrived and my only responsibilities were to go home to fill baskets and cook a ham. In His wise way, God had shown me the richness of my tasks.
Years later as I stood in line at a bagel shop, the gentleman in front of me turned and greeted me by name.
How did he know who I was and who was he?
“You probably don’t recognize me,” he said with smile, “but I’ll never forget you. My wife and I were new in the area when we attended the church where you taught a Sunday School Class on Jesus.”
“You cried,” he continued, “but we were impressed that in spite of your anxiety, your passion about Jesus kept you with us and you stuck it out. So, we joined the church, and now my wife and I are serving there as its Youth Leaders.”
I stood there, bagel bag in hand, tears streaming down my face.
As Christians we all want to serve Jesus as best we can, even better than we can. He called us to “feed my sheep”, so we try to prepare gourmet meals and travel the earth with riches from America. If it so happens our Lord deems it necessary for us to evangelize, we strive to do it with eloquence, no crying allowed. We must remember, though, it is not our effort He wants, only our willingness to go and serve where and when He calls.
“…‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’ …” (John 1:23)