Just Tell Them About Jesus

About three years ago I slipped into a meeting of Twin Cities pastors to hear a well known and somewhat controversial systematic theologian speak on the topic, Preaching Christ In An Age of Religious Pluralism. An inner-city pastor asked, “Should I really be trying to convert the Asian Buddhists who have moved into our neighborhood?” When he received a solid affirmative he went on to ask, “How?”

The theologian’s response surprised me and warmed my heart. Many missiologists and theologians would have said something like “dialogue, build a relationship, start with the known and work toward the unknown, or find some common ground.” His answer: “Just tell them about Jesus.”

Just a month ago, on the other side of the world, I saw it happen. From a human point of view the circumstances were all wrong. The speaker was a western female in a male-dominated society in the eastern world. She was not a native speaker of the language she used. Only about half of the listeners spoke that language as their first tongue. The audience, with the exception of two small girls, was made up of adult males. The traditional stance of all was anti-Christian. The story was told with a flannel graph, an aid normally used with children.

What could one hope for under these circumstances? Heckling? Boredom? Walkouts? Antagonism? Indifference? There was no introduction. No invitation: “Let’s talk.” No apology for taking their time or for interrupting their activities, not even “thanks for coming.” The storyteller walked into the hospital ward and announced to the patients, and more specifically to the relatives who were accompanying them, about 50 in total, “We are going to have a lesson now.” She set up the flannel board and started telling the story of Jesus.

In half an hour she took them from the angel’s announcement to Joseph to the resurrection. From the first sentence she spoke to the final word, the audience was enrapt. I did not understand the language, so I occupied myself in observing the listeners. That the Holy Spirit was at work was obvious. There were no objections. No questioning of motives or authority. The only reaction was a drinking in of the Word, and many requests for the written Gospel in their mother tongues.

The theologian was right. Just tell them about Jesus!

Bob Andrews served as WMPL General Director from 1985-1997. He and Joyce are now retired and living in Little Falls, Minnesota. A former colleague recently asked permission to use this story from The NEWSLETTER (February 1992) as the foreword in a book she is writing; we thought it timely to publish it again as well.

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