Andy Kind is the evangelist at Redeemer King. In this blog series Andy shares his weekly adventures sharing the gospel.
My friend Steve Wilson is the evangelist at King’s Arms Church in Bedford. In the last year they’ve been running something called ‘Tsunami of Love’, which is a way of mobilising their church family to bless the communities in and around the town. I suppose you’d subtitle it ‘non-random acts of kindness’. What I love about this project is that it encourages people that you don’t have to be a fully-fledged leader or theologian or evangelist to engage people with the Gospel. Little ripples of unexpected love generate big waves of hope and gratitude.
I’m hoping that in the new year we’ll be able to inaugurate something similar at Redeemer King, and so I’m trying to get on the front foot so that I can lead the way on it. As my friend Andy Bannister would say, ‘You can’t lead others where you haven’t been yourself’, so as the evangelist there’s zero merit in me telling others to love their community if they can’t see that I’m doing that in my own life.
We want to create a culture where loving our neighbours and blessing our communities is second nature, but another word for culture is ‘habit’ and habits don’t happen by accident. There’s always a reason not to do something but, like it or not, whatever it is you want to grow or achieve in, what is necessary is what Friedrich Nietzsche called ‘long obedience in the same direction.’
So, I was in my flat reading when I heard vacuuming going on outside. ‘Must be the cleaners!’ I thought, like the absolute genius that I am. Since arriving in Chesterfield I’ve always been impressed by how clean the corridors in my apartment building are, and I’d planned to tell the domestic hygienists as much. However, I was dressed in my grizzly bear onesie and was engrossed in a great book and a greater cup of coffee. ‘There will be another day,’ I thought. But then I remembered the stuff that I just wrote above, so I decided that I would actually go and tell them – now.
I found the cleaning man vacuuming (I told you it was a vacuum!) He looked momentarily startled when he thought a grizzly bear was approaching him down the corridor (it was cold so I had the hood up)…and then, when he saw it was a grown man in a grizzly bear onesie, he looked a bit less startled but a lot more confused. There was also a hint of pity.
I gestured for him to stop. If I’m honest, I probably over-gestured and my attempt to signal him flourished into a sort of Elizabethan bow.
‘Your servant, my liege,’ I might as well have said.
I told him how great it was to come home to clean carpets and what a great job he was doing, during which time his level of startledness grew once more – as though he was used to getting criticism from miserable residents and thought I was being sarcastic. (Alternatively, he was still processing my accidental 16th Century greeting plus bear outfit and was trying to gauge my level of insanity).
‘Thanks?’ he said, making it sound like a question or a plea.
I told him that I wasn’t likely to be around at Christmas, so could I give him his Christmas tip now? I handed him some
‘I just want you to know that God really loves you. Jesus really loves you. Have you ever been told that before?’
He thought about it and said, ‘No, not really’.
‘Well it’s true. When I next see you, I’ll tell you more about it. Take care.’
And off I went. At this point, now that he’d realised I wasn’t disgruntled or insane (any more than anyone else who goes around talking about Jesus in extravagant pyjamas) his face broke into a big, generous smile.
Next week I want to talk a little bit about embarrassment, so let’s not dwell on what an awkward person I am here. For now I’ll just ask another question: how is it possible that a man from the United Kingdom can have gone through several decades of life without being told that Jesus loves him?! This is not his fault, nor the fault of the education system nor the government nor Brexit – it’s ours. Have we strayed so far from the Great Commission that we don’t think it’s worth telling people that there is hope and freedom beyond what they see? Are we really that short on numbers, when you consider that the whole Gospel-preaching entreprise started with eleven blokes in a function room above a pub?
I reflected on my own life, and the number of people I’ve been close with who never really heard me talk about why Jesus was central to my life – and it grieved me. Why would I keep that to myself? So as not to offend?
‘Hi, can I tell you about where I found true love and purpose and freedom?’
‘No, you bigot’.
I don’t tell people because I don’t want to feel awkward and I want to be liked and for things to be easy. But Christian, that’s not the deal. That is not the deal.
It has to change in my life. People can reject and disagree and wonder why you’re dressed like an animal at 11:30am on a Thursday, but everyone has the right to hear that they ARE loved by a creator who says they are worth dying for. Lots of other conversations will spring from that, but we should start there.
Plus, the look of increased hope on this guy’s face showed me again that it’s worth getting up every morning and sharing God’s love. We have been given a ‘ministry of reconciliation’, not a ministry of ‘if you feel like it and it’s not too much trouble or interrupts your day’. However well people think their lives are going, as Christians we believe that there is always more through relationship with Jesus. And most people don’t think their lives are going very well. But how can they know there is more if they don’t hear?
The great news is that it’s always about what we do from now. Forget what is past, don’t worry about what you haven’t said or done. Channel it all into what you do next. Tell someone this week that God loves them and He says they are worth dying for. See what happens. Watch the hope rise.
Feeling challenged but hopeful, I returned to my flat, sat down with a big pot of honey and settled down to watch that scene in the Revenant where I attack Leonardo di Caprio. Good times.