by Samuel Chiang
Recently, I sat in the Wittenberg Cathedral where Martin Luther had nailed his 95 theses. I was with the Lausanne Movement leadership reflecting on the 500th anniversary celebration of the Protestant Reformation. It was a privilege to be there in the church pew and receiving a homily on Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Listening to the expository preaching, my mind multithreaded in several different directions.
Twenty-one years ago was my very first encounter with this easy-to-remember verse. I recall it was on a Saturday evening that my software partner was challenging me to do a Mandarin recording of a short evangelism message that would go with the software so that people could hear the gospel. We were planning to showcase the software at China’s very first computer expo (Comdex) to be held in June of that year.
My partner told me that this would be a great privilege and I must do it. I wasn’t so certain: What if the government caught on that the evangelistic presentation was in the software? What if the government analyzed my voice and triangulated back to me? What if I was not allowed back into China? Healthy doubts subverted my mind’s good intentions.
In turmoil and with the entire family having gone to bed already, I knelt at the sofa praying and asking God where in His word would He speak to me. Uncharacteristically, I played Bible roulette. Without intention, I opened the Bible, and I allowed my eyes to float over to the right topside of the page, and noted that I was in Romans.
My theological mind wondered what Romans had to do with this. As my eyes glided downwards, right at the top of the page I focused on the words of Romans 1:16. I knew the Lord was speaking to me and I was under conviction.
One can be under conviction, but still dither, however. The next day was Sunday, and after church our family typically took a stroll around the park that was near our village. Usually, I would have a grand time with the family; however, while I was physically present, my mind was absent. My wife Robbi finally stopped and asked me what was going on. I explained what happened the night before. Finally, she asked me a simple question: Do you think it is you getting yourself into China to do ministry work, or is it God?
Under conviction, we made a U-turn and headed home. That afternoon, I look four hours to make a proper audio gospel message (with materials from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), and we embedded the message into the software, which ultimately became known as FirstLIGHT.[i]
Over the years, God has moved me into personal evangelism. While many may think this means tracks, digital tools, the Bible, videos, etc. (all of which are important), I would counter that personal evangelism means personally giving the very good news of Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of the message of God, to individuals.
Even as the pastor preached Romans 1:16 in the Wittenberg Cathedral, he asked us to pray for Germany, and especially for reaching out to the refugees. He had indicated that they needed to overcome societal attitudes, language barriers, and personal witnessing matters. My mind multithreaded again: Do we know how to do personal evangelism? Do we know which tools to use? Would the usage of different media tools create greater barriers than we realize?
I left the cathedral that day thinking about Romans 1:16, and with a deeper personal conviction about my earthly responsibility. How about you? Are you “ashamed of the gospel”? How will they hear?
[i] This software innovation and its use was described in chapter 8 of ‘Innovations in Missions’ by Jim Reapsome and John Hirst, published by IVP, 2007.
Samuel Chiang is president and CEO of The Seed Company. Born in Taiwan, he grew up and worked in Canada and formerly served as COO of TWR. He has authored book chapters in diverse genres including innovation, orality, and persecution.