taking the words of Jesus seriously

Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimal means. In the digital and information age we live, things are to be more simple. And, practically speaking perhaps they are. But, in the big scheme of things it seems life has become much more complicated. When given a simple task or a project, committees are formed, multiple documents are created, and strategies are outlined. Budget plans are drafted, polls are taken, and branding packages are visualized. It seems this carries over into ministry and church too. Not to discount these things, but I wonder if we tend to over-complicate things that don’t really need complicating. Are churches and ministries any better off today than they were during the early church years? We go to conferences, read books, and learn how to become better equipped. But, what Christianity needs are less conferences on how to become better equipped and more action with what we’re already equipped with.

There really is no right way or wrong way of doing ministry if we truly walk in the Spirit and let the Lord take the lead. Written almost like a Psalm, God declares through the prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) We may think we know how to do things, but may find ourselves wallowing in many failed attempts if we do it our way. Sometimes we just need to dive into the trenches, get our hands dirty, and do as the Spirit may lead.

In the seven months that I have lived in Albania and do ministry amongst the Roma, I have found that the most effective way of doing ministry is… get ready for it… grab a pen and paper… steady yourself… are you ready? Developing relationships. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. Simple. Getting to know people, entering into their world, and being real and transparent with them. Sure, some are guarded and others may thumb their nose at me. But, most are not and are actually excited about this new relationship that may or may not lead them into an even greater relationship with God.

Looking back through the Gospels, it seems this is how Jesus’ ministry was most effective… developing relationships. Simple. He didn’t have committees, daily planners, and proven methods and strategies. He didn’t hang pretty brochures on doorknobs or iPhones to resort to for His next plan of action. Sure, He was God… He didn’t need these things. But, He was also a man… in many ways like you and me restricted by time and place. And yet, He managed to bring thousands of people near to Him, healing them, feeding them, and expounding deep spiritual truths upon them that transformed their lives forever. How? By engaging people, talking to them, dining with them, holding them, and loving them.

I’ve argued that evangelism is much more than mere proclamation of the Gospel. Evangelism is what we do in both word AND deed. People will respond to the Gospel by hearing it and others by seeing it in action.  If we truly emulate Jesus in all things we do, people will certainly inquire. Joseph Aldrich in his book, “Lifestyle Evangelism” says, “People don’t care how much we proclaim to know until they know how much we care.” Sure, I tell people about Jesus. But, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the Lord may lead me to simply help them with something. Sometimes this may involve having a cup of coffee with someone at a local cafe and just listen. Other times it may involve driving someone to a nearby clinic. Or, handing an apple to a malnourished child. Getting rid of a hornets nest from a single mother’s home. Raking a neighbor’s leaves or trash pile. Little things like these tell a lot about Christ. And, they’re simple.

I’ll close with another one of my favorite quotes that I believe hammers this point home: “Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.”  (St. Francis of Assisi)

Do we substitute telling people about Jesus by always meeting a need? No. But, what I am saying is that not every moment may call for a presentation of the Gospel. Instead, it may just require getting to know someone and see where a need is. You may or may not meet the need, but at least you’re showing you care… and that alone speaks volumes. Simplicity.

Greg Dill, along with his wife and three kids are missionaries serving amongst the Roma (Gypsies) in the country of Albania. Their mission is twofold: to introduce the Good News of Jesus Christ and to help move them from abject poverty into productive and self-sustainable lifestyles through education and the development of simple business skills. Their ministry website is www.fivedills.com.

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