Friday, November 09, 2007

A conversation with Balin

I was talking with Arwen the other day and we were discussing our frustration at how little we knew about how to share the Gospel effectively here in Gondor. I must admit that after ten years of working here I had hoped for a little more illumination than we currently had. Arwen, my lovely wife suggested that I talk to Balin about this. Balin is one of the most effective national evangelist we know. He has worked with us for over five years in our prison work and for the last year and a half he has worked with his church as a traveling evangelist.

I asked Balin how he shared his faith in Chirst. As I expected he did not hesitate to answer. He did not need to think over what he would say. Balin is one of those individuals who do not need to think before answering- he speaks straight from his heart. He said,

Strider, what people need to know about God is that He loves them. Just last week I walked into a local market and saw a woman selling grapes. I asked her how she was and she told me that she was really struggling to sell her grapes. She was poor and needy and she needed to sell quickly and it just wasn't happening for her. So, I told her that God loved her very much and that he cared about her and her grapes. I prayed for her that God would reveal himself to her and that she would sell her produce quickly. I came back an hour and a half later to see that she was selling the last of her grapes. She smiled broadly as I walked up and she thanked me for praying for her. I told her all about Jesus and how he not only loved her enough to help her sell grapes but he died for her. This is what people need to hear. They need to know that God loves them and they can only know that if you show that you genuinely love them.

He told several stories just like that in quick succession. Each time he listened to people in need, prayed for God to meet that need and then assured them that God had most truly loved them through Jesus Christ. This is both simplistic and extremely complex. It is simplistic because as a formula this simply falls short. You can not just do this as I have written it and expect any results at all. You see, actually this is a very difficult formula to follow because what Balin actually does is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in what He is already doing. After going through a couple more stories like this he stopped and looked at me very seriously and said, 'Don't misunderstand me here, Strider, I don't do this everywhere I go. Many times I go somewhere and look around and I don't say anything to anyone. Sometimes the Holy Spirit just does not want to me speak to anyone at a given time.' Ah, so it is not all up to us! Well, I thought that but sometimes you wonder. Sometimes you see a great evangelist talking about how he leads everyone he knows to faith and you think, wow, I sure am a loser. No, it is not all up to us but as you read the Word they spend a lot of time pleading with men and women to repent and follow Jesus. Like I said, it's complicated. What it is really about is a relationship. A relationship between you and God Almighty. As you go deeper with Him He fills you with His love and compassion and power. He fills you and annoints you to go out and share with others, yes so they will come to know Him to, but also so that you will get to know Him better.

If you ask me that's what this whole messed up world is all about. It is a giant, violent, difficult adventure for us to share with Him. As we share the adventure together we bond, we love, we grow and change until we become His true children. Children whom He is pleased to call home and sit down at His table and eat and drink with. Children who are growing up to be just like dad, full of faith, and hope, and love. As I learn to be this kind of child He will work with me to be a part of a community of faith. A community that proclaims the love of God in such a compelling way that even strict Muslims can't help but sell all, pick up their crosses and follow Him.


Angie said...

Hi Strider, no worries here :) Happy all of you are doing good and NOT STRESSED OUT :)Can you imgaine if we were all a little more like Balin? WOW! Yes it is complicated and yet not complicated at all are you following me? We make some of the simplest things the hardest always analyzing everything, but we must keep on trying. In my very bias opinion you and Arwen are doing a fabulous job! Sincerely, Angie.

Paul Burleson said...


I've believed for some time now that true evangelism is EXACTLY what you said about cooperating with the Holy Spirit in what He is about. This means, to me, I never start with the asumption the person with whom I'm communicating is a "blank slate." God will have already been at work as evidenced in what I view as a divine appointment in my being with them.

The level of that acomplished work already done in them by the Spirit is as varied as a sunset and one has to be in touch with the Spirit, as your friend Balin obviously is, to sense that level.

But to "be ready to give an answer" may be far more than verbal communication. It may involve being ready to hear THEM, see THEM, and know where THEY are in that journey and respond appropriately which will sometimes be a harvesting moment. But it will always be an evangelism moment which is what loving people is all about.

This Balin sounds like one of my brothers I'd like to get to know.

Great post.

Strider said...

Thanks for the comment Angie, I always like to hear from you because it means that at least one person is reading this! I will reply to your e-mail soon.

Paul- Good thoughts here. Thank you for chiming in. Yes, people need to be heard. I have found- especially in our disaster response work- that this is the biggest ministry that we can do. People don't know they are loved until they are heard and known. Evangelism and Ministry in general is much more than giving a good verbal answer. Love is deeper than that and the Holy Spirit's methods for showing love are as varied as He is creative.

BKC said...

"simple and complex" does describe it. This is a challenging post.

I really like that Balin meets people right where they are-selling grapes or whatever-and lets them know he and God care. That lady may have told a dozen people that same story that day but I bet she didn't get a response like this from anyone else.

Anonymous said...

I only just discovered this blog. I was looking for something totally unconnected on Google. I am moved by your words. I will come back later.

Angie said...

Hey Strider, Our PC was busted we are just now back up and running so if you responded to my e-mail here since Tuesday I did not receive! It's amazing how much one can miss it even if all they do is e-mail read a blog and look for recipes.....

Take Care, Angie :)