by Rick Richardson
(Editor’s note: This is the 1st post in a series called “A Journey of Evangelism in Scripture,” where we travel from Genesis through Revelation to look into the intersection of evangelism at various points of time.)
As a sophomore in college, I rededicated my life to God. I began to pray for my friends. God laid Scott on my heart so I looked for opportunities to be with Scott. He liked to ski; so did I. Unfortunately, I had Christian activities when the ski club went skiing, so out went a few Christian activities! Sometimes, in order to get to real Christian community, we need to cut out some of our endless Christian activities!
On the slopes with Scott, I totally botched starting a spiritual conversation. Looking up at the stars, I tried to talk about the beauty of Creation and he had no idea what I was going on about. So then I tried talking about the amazing human body that we were using on the ski slope and promptly fell on my face getting off the lift with that amazing human body! I felt humiliated and vowed never to try again. But we did have some great time to share our struggles and our experiences growing up.
On the last run, after I had given up all hope of conversation about spiritual things, Scott skied up to me and asked if I was involved in that fellowship group on campus and asked if we did anything with the Bible. When I said we did, he shared how he had been thinking about things and wondered if the Bible could help him. The problem was he had never read it. He had no idea where to start and asked if I could help him. “Sure,” I responded. That was the amazing contribution I made to my first evangelistic conversation.
We met that next week in Scott’s room (because I figured that he would have to show up if it was in his room). In light of his admitted confession of biblical illiteracy, we started at the beginning of the tale, at Creation. We studied in Genesis, about God as Creator.
Why start evangelism with Creation? Let me count the ways…
In a less and less biblically-literate culture, people need the whole story and not just the bit about salvation. To understand how God has forgiven us and delivered us and given us new life, we need to understand that God first made the world and that God loves the world that He has made And that the world He has made, with human beings in it, are accountable to that Creator. And that the natural human state from the beginning is closeness and relationship with God. And that we have lost that original innocence and closeness through our sin as we have chosen to go our own way without God.
All of those truths are the very foundation of the gospel. And people today need to grapple with those truths first if they are going to make sense of the rest, and of Jesus.
Additionally, postmodern people today tend to honor the world God has created and believe we should all honor and care for it, even if they do not honor the God who made that world. Too often, Christians have been too spiritual to care about the world. When we start the Story at the beginning, we too are reminded of just how much God loves and treasures His creation.
There was a happy ending to Scott’s story. He was so moved by the truth of Creation that he cut right to the chase. At the end, he piped up, “This is great, but how do I do it?”
“How do you do what?” I wanted to know.
“How do I get God in my life?”
“Well,” I reflected, “you just get God in your life.”
“Just do it!” I exclaimed.
“That’s not helping, Rick.”
Finally, in exasperation I turned to him. “That’s study number six. We’re on study number one. Can’t you wait?” Fortunately for me, another friend who was with us had a booklet to give Scott that explained how you “do it.”
The next day Scott called. “Rick, I did it.”
“Fabulous, Scott. That’s just great. I’m so happy for you. Uh, by the way, what did you do?” Scott went on to explain how he had come into a relationship with Jesus. He taught me how to become a Christian!
We started at the beginning of the story, which made Scott want to know the rest of the Story. That day, he found and was found by Jesus. He walks with God to this day.
Where do you start in the great Story of God’s love for His world and for Hos humanity? Do you start the story at the beginning?
Rick Richardson (@reimaginer) is evangelism fellow at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College, and director of the MA in Evangelism and Leadership and the MA in Missional Church Movements degrees. Rick consults widely with churches on evangelism and healing and reconciliation for the emerging generation and on contemporary missional churches and missional movements.