I’m someone who struggles with evangelism. I tried to reach out in all sorts of ways when I was in college; I kept at it as a campus staff worker for six more years. I never felt like I saw much “success” and really resented the numbers game at the end of the year when we had to count the number of conversions in our ministries. Don’t get me started on all of that.
Did I struggle because I was an Asian-American whose general framework for motivation came out of duty and obligation? Was it because I was an evangelical, and come on now – it’s in our name? Did I genuinely long for every single person I came across to meet Jesus and revel in life in his kingdom…?
Was I being bold in proclaiming Christ or actually offensive? Were people compelled by my witness or quietly annoyed? Am I an evangelist? Why aren’t others at church doing more in this area? And on and on… the questions run.
It helped to write a long paper for my seminary class on the ethics of evangelism. It also helped to teach an evangelism class for church this spring and distill for others the best wisdom, training, and concrete action steps I’d come across. The energy from the class ended with myself and a few others starting seeker studies. The two seeker study gatherings I hosted for friends and neighbors brought forth some of the most rich and “soulful” conversations I had had all semester.
But tonight, I got home and my husband handed me a present that floored me. I had to simply pause in gratitude and wonder for the ‘work’ it is to be about evangelism.
One of his co-workers, who I have recently claimed to be ‘my friend too,’ had sent him home with a belated birthday present for me: a beautiful music stand which folds neatly into a black case, topped with a bright green bow. No doubt to encourage me to play the violin more. I’d invited her to do a violin-cello duet with me at an Acoustic Café our church was organizing—and we had an amazing time connecting over music and performing together. I probably would not have made such an effort to include her if I didn’t care about the work of evangelism generally…
But seriously?! This lovely friend had already made a cake for my birthday party two days earlier, brought extra food and drink that she’d had on hand, and stayed to the end to help clean up! This additional gift, so thoughtful, so unexpected… I was utterly disarmed.
Immediately, I felt a flood of emotions: God, you show ME way more love than I expect from people I thought I was reaching out to with your love. Lord, you are much kinder to me than I realize; loving others with you is actually a gift to me! What have I done to deserve her generosity? Clearly, you are working through her… to bless me.
Jesus, can you keep reminding me that this is how life in your upside down kingdom works? That conversion starts with my heart being changed, and I am still a recipient of the Evangel? I’m struck that I would not love people the way I do, as much as I try to, if it were not for your strong command on me to love others. So THANK YOU for calling me to this work, whether I’m an evangelist or not. Thank you for the gift it is to me to love and serve you and all your people.
Tina Teng-Henson has been blessed to learn + grow alongside so many different people, in so many places: Long Island, NY — Harvard College + the South End of Boston — Nairobi, Kenya and Lanzhou, China. She is presently enjoying her studies at Fuller‘s Northern California campus and internship at Jesus the Recreator Covenant Church in E. San Jose.