Servant Evangelism 2009
Rev. Lonnie Honeycutt
Serving Others With the Love of Christ
In an age of cynicism, where people doubt just about any and everything -- especially if it's supposed to be 'FREE' -- one way that Christians can impact their society and the church at large is through Servant Evangelism.
While Steve Sjogren (http://www.servantevangelism.com) is credited with having coined the term many years ago, I've been actively involved with Servant Evangelism of nearly 2 decades. In fact, I discovered it when I was just 2 years old in Christ (at the age of 23). Even though we didn't have a formalized title to go along with our actions, the actions themselves proved to be fruitful.
Defined, Servant Evangelism is: Showing God's love in practical ways with no strings attached." Kind of sounds familiar doesn't it? It should because we see the same actions in Jesus Christ's ministry here on Earth. In practice I'd have to agree with the Servant Evangelists motto of: "Small Things Done with Great Love Are Changing the World."
Servant Evangelism is a 'power evangelism' of a different sort. Traditional evangelism is often see by the 'world' and even by the 'church' (i.e., those of us who are Christians -- Saints) as being pushy and, as such, people are repulsed by the thought of evangelism. Now, this isn't to say that the actual thought of evangelism is repulsive by the masses just the way in which we as Christians go about evangelizing. Again, traditional evangelism isn't as effective as it once was because people are more skeptical, jaded, guarded, and, quite frankly, 'used to' the normal methods of evangelism that have been used for years (e.g., tracts, rallies, standing on the street corner yelling through a bullhorn that sinners are going to go to Hell if they don't accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, door-to-door surveys (the ones where you ask questions such as "How many people are in your home?" "Do you watch more than 10 hours of T.V. a week" and "If you were to die tonight do you know for certain that you'd go to Heaven?), etc.). Obviously, some people need to be told 'how the cow eats the cabbage' when it comes to spiritual matters. I know that prior to becoming a Christian I certainly needed the 'two-by-four' method of evangelism to get my attention. Still, like almost everyone else (Christian or not), while I 'woke up' to the realities of Heaven and Hell after being called on the rug for my behaviors, I responded to the loving kindness that was shown to me afterwards and that's what eventually led me to read the New Testament in it's entirety and, subsequently, giving my life to the Lord.
While I could go on and on trying to define for you what Servant Evangelism is, I'd rather illustrate it in action by relating to you a true story. You can find the story in it's entirety in my book, "Death, Heaven and Back" by me (Lonnie Honeycutt). It's available through Amazon.com.
At the tender age of 8 years old (the same age as I find my own son today), around the time of Christmas, my family and I were living in the foothills of the Carolinas in a one-room shack (it was literally a shack that had been designed not to house a family but to serve as a repose for hunters). To say that we were poor would be an understatement of grand proportions. The floor on which we walked was made of warped 2" x 4"s so unevenly spaced that you could see the earth below them as you moved. My Mother, in an attempt to reduce the cold drafts as much as possible, stuffed newspaper in between the boards. A single wood stove stood alone in the center of the one-room shack and served as both heater and cooking stove. When it came time for baths, my sister and brother (two and four years younger than I am respectively) and I would build a small fire in the backyard, fill a #3 washtub with a couple of inches of water (as much as two waddling toddlers could manage to carry without spilling it), warm the water, and then carry it inside to a small porcelain tub. This procedure would be repeated four or five times until there was enough water to soak all of us. It became my 'job' as the eldest child, and as the resident pyromaniac, to chop wood, prepare fires, and, make coffee. I can't help but imagine that to most children the preparation of a cup of coffee would rank somewhere around tooth extraction and fingernail clipping on a 'fun scale.' As I grew older I came to realize that the reason I relished making coffee for my mom was because in doing so I could show her a modicum of love. You see, we didn't have a coffee pot in my youth. Instead, I would fill a small tin cup with water, scoop a small amount of Folger's instant coffee into it, stir it slightly, and patiently hold it over the flickering flame of a single candle, my fingers wrapped in a washcloth so as to not be burned, until the dark, bitter liquid bubbled. I'm quite certain that Mom never even got an adequately tasty cup of coffee from my hands but she never let on. To this day, making those cups of coffee ranks high on my favorite list of memories.
It's rare for me to share what I've just
shared with you concerning my early childhood days because the memories are
sometimes painful and difficult to relate. The reason I've chosen to
do so is because I sincerely believe that the events that took
place during this period of time helped to mold me into the man I am
today. It's important for us to remember that the seemingly small, almost
insignificant actions we take can have a major impact. Read
Even though our home didn't have a television
or, from what I can remember, even a radio it was evident
that Christmas was right around the corner. The children of our
neighbors, who were ostensibly just as poor as we were, had done what
kids do – they made ready for the special day of presents with what
they had at hand. Colorful bottle caps from soft drinks and beer were
pierced with a nail (there were no pop-tops or plastic tops then) and strung
together with yarn, brightly designed paper snowflakes of assorted sizes were
taped to windows and on windowsills there were propped, looking outward, a
hodge-podge of Christmas elves, Santas, evergreen trees, and reindeer, most of
whom looked either horribly skinny or bloated from too many Christmas
cookies. The memory of these trinkets along with
the expectant excitement of the children who lived on our side of town, has
seared into my heart an almost palpable sense of what Christmas feels like
– in two words: hope and wonder.
Though I didn't realize it fully at the time,
the reality of what Christmas morning was really going to look like for my
family was bearing down on my parents. My father, a full-time, long-haul
trucker had been out of work, except for the occasional monthly run between two
states, for nearly three months. My mother, having three young children to
care for and no transportation had done what she could to earn money so that she
could keep us fed, however leanly, for weeks. Still, while we had shelter
over our heads, drafty but warmish beds in which to sleep, and two parents who
loved us dearly, Dad and Mom knew that this would provide very little solace the
morning after Santa was supposed to have arrived.
Unbeknownst to anyone (even my parents) a
small group of people had other plans for our home and several of those in our
neighborhood. Late on Christmas Eve, it must have been nearing 5 PM
because the sun was going down and most of the stores in town were closed or
closing, three grown-ups appeared at our door. Mom knew two of them as
members of a local church from where we occasionally collected food
stamps and they were invited in. As I remember it, within minutes my
sister, Lillian, my brother, David, and I were all bundled up tightly and herded
into a waiting station wagon. Even though I know it took
much longer to arrive at the five and dime store (having driven to it as an
adult), we seemed to only be in the backseat of the car for seconds.
As youngsters, the time simply flew by.
Prior to departing, the grown-ups in whose
temporary care we were had quickly gathered notes on our sizes of shoes, pants,
underwear, coats, and other essentials from our parents. As my brother and
sister were taken to and fro throughout the store in search for presents, I was
asked by a young husband and wife what I'd like to get for Christmas? My
question, “Can I get anything? “ might have seemed a bit impertinent or even
impolite to those who were there to serve me but, if so, they never let
on. When they answered “Yes,“ I immediately found what I'd been mentally
drooling over. It was a small, acrylic, paint-by-numbers set for ages 12
and up. I remember the age grouping because the lady helping me mentioned
it at least twice. The second time she asked me about my proficiency
at oil painting she inquired, “Sweetheart, are you sure you can do this, it
says for boys ages twelve or more and you're only eight?“ It was then that I truly realized what
she was asking and was able to give her a reasonable answer.
“No, Ma'am,' I can't do
these pictures but my Momma can and she really likes doing them. This is
what I want to get her for Christmas.“ She objected kindly, “But, this is supposed to be for
you...“ I nodded my head and smiled as if what
she and I were saying were one and the same, “I know. This is what I want my present to be but I want to
get it for my Mom. Painting makes her
In my mind, the issue was settled. If
they wanted me to receive a present that would make me happy, then the
paint-by-numbers set was it. Period. End of discussion. Maybe
it was my determination or the fact that I had been continuously nodding my head
up and down in a manner that declared, ‘Yep, this is what we've been looking for
all along' or maybe it was just that the man and woman with me understood that
Christmas simply wouldn't be Christmas if I weren't able to get my mother a
wonderful present. Whatever the case might have been, that night I was
able to wrap-up a 25-cent paint-by-numbers set for my mom.
Honestly, I don't remember a single item that I personally received that Christmas although the small tree that bedazzled us on Christmas morning seemed packed to the hilt with gifts. While I don't remember the names of the man or woman, I do, however vaguely, remember their faces. More than anything though, I remember the way they helped me feel. I remember and I cherish the fact that they took the time to enter into a young boy's heart to see what was important to him and then to help him deliver a Christmas present that he will never forget. It's been 33 years since that happened and the memory has never faded.
SERVANT EVANGELISM IS ALIVE AND WELL
So, now that you've read my story, you know what Servant Evangelism is all about. It's about showing the love of Jesus in everyday situations. For you this might mean buying a cold drink for someone or giving a burger to a man begging on the street or sharing a jacket with a prostitute or even giving the socks you're wearing to a homeless person. The ideas of limited only by what you believe or don't believe Jesus would do for you if you were in need and He were personally around you at that time.
If you're looking for a very easy, extremely nice, and an altogether fantastic way in which to evangelize someone, why not try Servant Evangelism? At the very least you'll make some new friends and plant a seed (we call people who practice Servant Evangelism 'seed flingers') and, if the time is right, you'll reap the harvest of helping a person make a decision for the One who loves them more than anyone else in the world -- Jesus Christ.
Remember, we (as Christians) are called to be the salt and the light of the world and that we are, in essence, His hands and feet here on Earth. If we aren't willing to show someone the kindness we know Christ would show them are we truly being His ambassadors? More to the point, if YOU aren't willing to show God's love in practical ways with NO (ZERO) strings attached, how do you think Jesus is going to react when you and He are face to face?
In Christ's Love,
Rev. Lonnie Honeycutt
Author: Death, Heaven and Back (The True Story of One Man's Death and Resurrection)