By Jerry Wiles —
“Is it true that in America, there is a church in every village?” That was a question a lady asked me while I was traveling in one of the creative access countries of Southeast Asia. Her questions and subsequent conversations led me to think about how easy it is to make certain assumptions and how those of us living in the free world take so much for granted. The young lady was a well-educated professional translator. It was insightful to discover the many false assumptions she had about the rest of the world. Sometimes misconceptions are because of a lack of access to real news and information. Others are simply misled with wrong or false information.
False assumptions are common all over the world. Many of us make false assumptions on a regular basis. For example, I have often assumed that someone working at a church, or a Christian institution would be a believer, a follower of Jesus. Many times, that has turned out not to be the case. It has been a misconception or false assumption.
A Reproducing Life
While serving for several years with two different Christian universities, I interacted with a good number of students, staff, and faculty members. During those years I had the opportunity of sharing and praying with many of them. One of those was a young man on the janitorial staff. We frequently had casual conversations about various topics. After a few months I finally asked him about his relationship with the Lord. It turned out that he came from a religious background, but he had never placed his faith and trust in Christ. However, I was able to clarify what is means to confess, believe, and call on the Lord, from Romans chapter 10.
The Seed tests the Soil
Not only did the young man receive Christ that day, but he immediately began sharing with others. Over the next year or so, several of his family, relatives and friends came to the Lord. It was a joy to see how he grew in his relationship with the Lord and was fruitful in his witness and ministry to others. We often do not know how people will respond to the Word of God, but we can have confidence that by sharing often, His Word will occasionally connect with receptive hearts, take root and produce much fruit. The seed of the Word tests the soil.
Benefits of Orality Training
I recently needed to have some auto repair work done. In a conversation with one of the repairmen, I learned that he immigrated from Argentina. In an effort to open up a spiritual conversation I mentioned the name of the late Luis Palau, who was a world-renowned evangelist from Argentina. The man said he had never heard of Luis Palau. I told him that he was like the Billy Graham of the Spanish speaking world. His response was, “Who is Billy Graham?” Of course, those kinds of conversations can lead to spiritual matters and sharing the gospel. They can also reveal how we can often have misconceptions or false assumptions about what other people know or don’t know.
Power of Observation
One of the benefits we have found in our Orality Training is equipping people to seize those opportunities and maximize one’s impact for spreading the gospel. Many times, it’s simply observing and being alert to our circumstances and people’s interests and needs can become life-changing experiences. When we realize we are on mission with God, and are intentional about our God given purpose, we will be able to better connect with His redemptive activities.
Power of Prayer
A friend and I were at a medical center reception area and engaged in casual conversations with some family members and relatives of patients. We simply asked how their loved ones were doing and if we could pray for them. Those connections resulted in several fruitful conversations. Most people are quite open and eager to receive prayer, especially in times of sickness or need. It is amazing how those simple gestures can open new witness or ministry opportunities and sometimes results in creating long time relationships.
Another misconception is assuming that people are closed or resistant to the Gospel. It is so easy to prejudge people based on outward appearances. The fact is that many people are much more open and receptive than we think. We sometimes have preconceived ideas about how people might respond if we make the effort. So, we don’t even make the effort. It is normally easier not to say anything, than it is to reach out and say something. Therefore, many opportunities are missed.
Connecting with God’s Purposes
A shop keeper I engaged in conversation at a mall told me he had been in this country 15 years. He immigrated from what we often refer to as a creative access country, where there are few churches and a very low percentage of Christians. I could have assumed that surely in those 15 years someone would have shared the gospel with him. That, of course, was a false assumption. He said that no one had ever told him about Jesus. He was very open and eager to learn about what it means to know and follow Jesus.
With all the churches, Bibles, the internet, gospel radio and television programs, there are still more than two billion people in the world today who are unreached. Many of those may be people we rub shoulders with every day. Sadly, studies have shown that more than 90 percent of professing Christians in the USA never share their faith or lead others to Christ.
Outpouring of the Spirit
All that is going on in the world these days seems to be creating a greater awareness of the spiritual vacuum in many people’s lives. It’s causing many to think more about their need for the Lord. We hear reports that more people are turning to the Lord now than at any other time in history. Hopefully, followers of Jesus are beginning to see more opportunities to reach out with the love and message of Jesus. The prophet Joel spoke of a time when the Spirit of God will be poured out on all humanity. He said it is a time to put in the sickle, because the harvest is ripe (Joel 3:13). In other words, seize the opportunities. Wherever we connect with people, virtually or personally, we can be salt and light to those around us and around the world.