The following is an excerpt from What Great Ministry Leaders Get Right, by pastors Jimmy Dodd and Renaut van der Riet. Here, the authors write about Evangelism and the joy of producing something awesome with God.
Chapter 11: Evangelism
At my house on Saturday mornings we make homemade waffles from scratch. They are awesome! We grind the grain ourselves, harvest the eggs from our chickens, and use kefir we ferment in our own kitchen. We use a variety of chocolate chips, pour the batter into a carefully selected waffle iron, and make the waffles.
My kids, especially the younger ones, absolutely love to help. Every Friday night, several of them will ask if they can help with the waffles in the morning. I choose a few of them and say yes. In the morning they help me prepare the ingredients, mix everything together, add the chocolate chips, pour the batter into the waffle iron, and make the waffles. The result is a great breakfast, a great mess, and some great memories.
The truth is, it would be much easier if I just did it all myself. Without exception, every Saturday morning, my kids do something in the kitchen that isn’t helpful. They mix some wrong ingredients, they fight or fuss, they don’t do what they’re supposed to, or they get bored and head off to do something else when I really need them to finish a task.
In spite of the minor or major catastrophes that take place in the kitchen, regardless of what the kids do or don’t do, one thing is absolutely true: the waffles always end up on the table for everyone to enjoy. I am responsible for the waffles, and I will get them done.
If the children participate, then they share in the joy of having produced the waffles. If they don’t participate, it does not change the outcome. It only changes their contribution. And when the waffles end up on the table, I always say the same thing: “Hey everybody, why don’t you thank Cole and Hope for making the waffles this morning?” I’m not lying. Cole and Hope certainly made the waffles. They participated, served, and helped produce them. However, their great freedom was that regardless of what they did—because I worked to orchestrate the breakfast—the waffles would end up on the table. Because of that freedom, they got to enjoy participating, instead of feeling the weighty responsibility of catering a meal for ten hungry people.
As I studied Scripture, I realized the dynamic between God’s plan and our privilege of participating in it is not so different. God gives us the tremendous privilege of participating with Him in His redemptive story through sharing the gospel with others through our words and actions. When they come to know Christ, we rejoice that we have played a very real role in their freedom. Yet our great freedom is this: if we do not participate, or we participate badly, mixing the wrong ingredients or accidentally stepping away too long from the iron, at the end of the day God will still get the job done. He will not fail. His purpose is not for us to feel the burdensome weight of responsibility over others’ salvation. He just wants to spend time with us in the kitchen.
The logical next question is this: If God is going to get it done anyways, why should we participate? For the same reasons my children do. We love to spend time together. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Dad and participate in something awesome, especially when the risk of failure is eliminated? Secondarily, they take part for the joy of producing something awesome on the table. Both of these are more than enough reason to want to get up every morning and share the gospel. And what freedom there is in knowing we can’t screw it up.
It Really Is Good News
The icing on the cake—or whipped cream on the waffle—is this second moment of clarity I had around the same time: the gospel is actually great news.
Yes, we know it’s great news, but it often ceases to feel like it once we have experienced salvation and the newness has worn off a bit. After a while, it’s common for the gospel to become the task at hand instead of the wonder in hand. The very way we approach teaching people about evangelism is evidence enough. In seminary, I took three entire semesters on different ways to share the gospel, including strategies to make it easier. There are constantly seminars or books coming out to help us get better at “selling” the gospel. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do our best at communicating the gospel, but often our tactics can become the focus, rather than the pure goodness of the message. When we truly delight in the gospel, our tactics become an afterthought. We will find a way to shout our joy from the rooftops.
When the gospel is great news to you and me, we will find ourselves weaving it into everything we say and do, not because it’s our obligation but because it’s our obsession. When this happens, it also changes the way people hear it. It feels less like something sold and more like something shared from good will and love. If we think of it this way, evangelism begins with preaching the gospel to myself. I find as many ways as possible to remember the incredible mercy and grace of God I have received. I remind myself of my great need for that grace and mercy. I remind myself of the implications of that mercy and grace. I remember how free I really am that my sins are not counted against me, that my soul is rescued and made alive, that my future is redeemed and full of life, and that my purpose is restored, which means I no longer unknowingly chase after useless, temporal endeavors that lead nowhere. I remind myself of God’s kindness toward me when I did not earn it or deserve it.