John 4:27-30: Evangelistic musings.

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ 30 They came out of the town and made their way towards him. NIV

Here are a couple of thoughts about evangelism that have occurred to me whilst reading today’s passage:

  1. Sometimes effective evangelism takes place where someone is prepared to break the mould and part from convention. They may take flak for it. They run the risk of being misunderstood and misrepresented. But they go for it, believing it to be the right thing to do. The disciples were ‘surprised to find him talking with a woman’ (27). That reflects the general Jewish prejudice at the time. Rabbis were not permitted to speak to women in the street (not even their own wives!) and they considered any conversation with a woman to be a hindrance to the study of the law. The disciples, as men of their time, were embarrassed by Jesus’ actions. But His going out on a limb led to a huge spiritual breakthrough. So all our human traditions need to be tested at the bar of truth. Our customs – general ways of doing things and culturally accepted norms – must not be allowed to rule; we cannot afford to permit them to choke off our witness. In short, I’m saying that there are ways of doing evangelism that may earn you the disapproval of others. Someone said to D.L. Moody: ‘I don’t like the way you do evangelism.’ His reply: ‘And I don’t like the way you don’t do it!!’
  2. Might we not consider more fully the place of questions in our witness? (29). The Samaritan woman aroused curiosity in others by her question. She herself was not fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (in spite of His declaration in verse 26), but she knew He was special and very much hoped that He was. Nevertheless, her question got others searching out the truth for themselves. I’ve been thinking a lot of late about the importance for leaders of asking good questions. Often, it is more effective to lead by asking than telling. I’m not saying that there isn’t a gospel to tell and explain. There most certainly is. But might we not also make good use of some well thought through questions (as well as those that may occur in the inspiration of the moment?)

Prayer: Lord God, please give me Paul’s willingness to ‘by all means’ win some. May I not be afraid to pioneer new approaches as your Spirit leads.