Mark 5:19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
This is the first time that I’m aware of that Jesus gave instructions for personal evangelism, and it certainly contains lessons worth applying. In the first place, Jesus didn’t tell him, “Follow me for three years and then you will be fit to tell others about me.” That’s what we tend to do today, sending people off to seminary. It’s not that seminaries are bad necessarily, though some are, but that they aren’t a prerequisite. When we confuse faith with academics we get into real trouble. What Jesus did tell the man was to go to the people who knew him best and tell them what had been done for him. I find that people often have the greatest reluctance to evangelize their own families. That comes from a failure to take the focus off of ourselves. We know we aren’t perfect, and those closest to us can see that most clearly, and we think that disqualifies us from witnessing. How foolish! It shows we have forgotten what a big thing the Lord has done for us in saving us, and how much mercy was involved. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need mercy! This particular man had something of an advantage in that area, because everyone knew what a state he had been in, and the change had certainly been dramatic. That called for humility on his part; it would have been emotionally easier to go somewhere people didn’t know what a raving lunatic he had been. However, that’s precisely why Jesus told him to go home: there would be no room for pride, so all the glory would go to God. (If it were today, the owners of the pigs would probably try to sue him for their financial loss!) We need to let go of our fear of how people will see us, and honestly share the magnificence of our Savior’s grace.
This issue is one I have certainly struggled with as a pastor. Japanese have a great reluctance to talk about religion, and tend to be very private people in general. There is a strong awareness of how they appear to others, and a desire not to be seen as strange. (Actually, that attitude isn’t unique to Japan!) On top of that, there is a national tendency to leave things up to experts. I find that the believers are more than willing for me to evangelize, but doing it themselves is an entirely different matter. I’ve got to come back to what Jesus said in Acts 1:8, because the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us power to be witnesses. Trying to browbeat people into evangelizing is total futility, because even if they go through the motions it won’t be effective. I need to remind them of what a great thing the Lord has done for them and how great God’s mercy has been toward them, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there.
Father, today is Pentecost. I ask You to pour Your Spirit out indeed on the Body of Christ world-wide, and very specifically on Your children in this city and in this church. May we catch fire no less than the early church, having our own impurities burned out and being a bright beacon to draw many into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!