Lesson in Evangelism

I've done many things to make myself available to people who need the Lord with the intentional purpose of giving the gospel message when opportunities arise. I have served as a bus-driver, helper at a free-lunch program, and as a substitute school teacher. It is in this last venue that the Lord sent me to a child who taught me a valuable lesson.

My substitute teacher assignments often sent me to special education or behavior-disorder classrooms. Great opportunities to show that you care about someone as a person and reflect God's love. In one memorable assignment, I had a class of one - an eight-year-old boy named David. The lesson plan for that morning was not challenging, that is, not for you or me. David needed to learn collating. His assignment was to learn how to pick up papers from ten stacks, one at a time, in order, straighten the little bundle and staple it. We had all morning to help David master this exercise and then he was allowed to color as a reward. As I prepared to meet David, I wondered in my heart how I could convey God's message to him.

As I entered the classroom, David immediately greeted me. He said cheerfully "Hi! My name is David. What's yours?" I did not know it yet, but today david would be the teacher and I would be the student. David was teaching me about soul-winning in four sentences. This first sentence taught me that names matter. Jesus calls us each by name. How can you have a close relationship with someone whose name is a mystery?

The second sentence said everything about David and his anxiety about our time together. It is not so much what he said but how he said it. With a face deep with compassion and a deep searching gaze into my eyes, he asked "Do you know God?" For David, it was clear that the quality and substance of time we would spend together hinged on my answer. He really wanted to know about my relationship with God, because it mattered so much to him. He wanted to know about my relationship with God because it affected David's relationship with me. His inquiry was a voicing of his profound concern for MY soul! My soft answer "Yes, David, I know God." Brought a flood of relief and joy to his face. But he wasn't done teaching me about God's ways.

The third sentence David spoke to me was "What will we be doing today, Mr. Sapper?" He was teaching me that what we do in the short-term within our relationship to each other and to God matters. He wanted to spend it well. His fourth sentence sealed the lesson, because when he uttered it I knew that my lesson had come from God through the lips of this child.

The fourth sentence extended the commitment for a relationship beyond a short-term interaction to a long-term commitment. I feel certain he would have asked the same question even if my answer to his second question were negative. David invited "Would you like to come to church with me sometime? I'd really like that!" He was teaching me that a relationship with a loving God is something that is not only to be shared, but on which we build long-term relationships. God makes a life-long investment in us. We should be prepared to do the same for each other, for those we invite and those we disciple. Jesus said "I will never leave you or forsake you."

Gary Sapper preacher@udnet.net

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