On a Monday night in late 2009 I was drowning my sorrows in a two-liter bottle of coke and feeling pretty sorry for myself. After returning to Melbourne Australia for a second-term of service the Lord was doing great things, but part of me knew I could be doing more.
This idea had been growing in my heart for a long time because I truly wanted to do more for the Lord in Melbourne, but there weren’t opportunities to do more in the local Churches. Most missionaries have experienced this kind of frustration that demands new ministries be created, or the unsaved be drawn to Church.
That night an idea began to grow in my mind that has helped guide my ministry since…the Gospel needs a product.
Now that idea may scare some people (it scared me at first) so allow me to clarify what I’m saying. I am not telling you the Gospel has lost it’s power to save people, or transform lives. And I’m not encouraging Churches to leave strong exegetical preaching for a ministry that attracts people. Instead it’s a sad truth that the unsaved are no longer coming to us (the Church) so we must come to them with the Gospel.
In most cases this means creating what my home church calls a “Gospel Bridge” or a relationship built upon common interests and seeks opportunities to share the Gospel. As someone who has tried to do this in the past I can tell you it’s difficult (my being an introvert doesn’t help) but I’ve learned that if you offer a product (something they want for free) then building those bridges become much easier.
Last month I started offering children from local schools five-minutes of iPad time (to the first five) and glasses of juice to the first seven. As you can imagine this resulted in lots of kids, and I ended up turning many of them away 🙂 Along with that tablet time however was a Bible lesson and Gospel presentation.
Yes there are some children who drank their juice or played a game and then left immediately not interested in a Bible story at all. But I also have a core group of five or six children who hang around my house every afternoon to play games, listen to Bible stories, and understand the Gospel. In a way with Gospel bridges firmly built I have entered into a mentoring relationship with them.
This week I began a free computer-tutoring program in the community designed to develop relationships with adults in the community (they aren’t too interested in juice).
There has already been some interest in this program, and some people who are trying to take advantage of it like the man who came by this morning asking me to fix his broken phone 🙂 But out of all those “consumers” there will be a few who God has chosen for Gospel bridges. People who in the midst of conversations about email and facebook will hear the good news that can save their soul.
To be honest I wish the Gospel didn’t need to be connected with a free product, and there are definitely times when this isn’t absolutely necessary. Offering products also can easily emphasize physical needs (giving people what they need) instead of sharing Christ. Yet we must still be faithful because for the twenty who gulp down their juice and run, five will truly listen