Church was supposed to be cancelled. The ice storm that swept thru the area had left the building without electricity. But we didn’t know this. We had spent the day watching the Miami Dolphins win (finally!) and playing with the pups. In the Lancaster area we only received rain with heavy winds so it didn’t occur to me to check WGAL for cancellations or even my voice mail where 2 friends had left messages.
Significant ice accumulation and large fallen branches, as well as the yellow flashing lights of PP&L trucks working on downed lines, greeted us as we crossed under the turnpike. The closer we got to the church, the more doubtful it looked that there would be any service. The dark church confirmed it.
Since we were in the Hershey area and so close to friends who also weren’t going to be at church, we gave them a call joking, “Hey, we’re coming over to your house!” We were surprised to be invited to join a small group that was already gathering. And we thought there wasn’t going to be church tonight!
As we gathered, laughter filled the air. One of my favorite things about 3rd service is the family atmosphere. We truly are brothers and sisters. We settled into the sofas downstairs, anticipating an impromptu Bible study, but instead, the conversation turned toward recent attempts at evangelism, a topic that doesn’t seem to go away for this group, and maybe it shouldn’t.
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 (New International Version)
We had been talking about this for a couple months now, encouraging each other to become more open about sharing our faith. Going around the room, we updated the group on our most recent attempts. Some of them were planned. We had prayed for a man crossing the line of comfortable to witness to a long time friend when they were both at a seminar for work. One woman was starting a small group to introduce some non-Christian acquaintances to Jesus. Other attempts were entirely spontaneous as when one young woman was asked by a drunken couple what she did instead of partying and she answered back, “I’m into Jesus.” We have been sharing our faith and hope at work, at school, at home, at restaurants, with friends, strangers, family, and coworkers.
In an admittedly unscientific e-mail survey of a small group of Christians under the age of 35, the similarities among us in regard to evangelism are striking whether one has been a believer since childhood or just recently converted. We acknowledge it is very important as a whole, but only 20% of us have a spiritual conversation with a non-Christian more than 3 times a month. Ways that we share our faith varies from the more “traditional,” direct discussion of the gospel to a “lifestyle” of evangelism that is reflected in the transparency of one’s life rather than overt conversation. The most common discouragers to sharing the gospel are fear of rejection and fear of inadequacy but actively pursuing God by studying scripture, having a group of friends to encourage and pray with us, learning more about how and when to share our faith help many to brave the challenge.
Although this is just a story about one group of people who call Hershey Free home, a challenge is implied, not from these individuals to you as much as by Jesus to each of us who claim Him. We can blend in culturally so as not to make waves, or we can rest wholly in Christ and fulfill His command. Simply, as one woman pointed out that frigid evening, if she had been crossing the street and a car slid on the ice nearly hitting her but some stranger pulled her to safety, she would tell EVERYONE about him and her experience! If you have been saved, have you told anyone lately?