by Gary Corwin
In the realm of persuasion, we take great comfort in the concepts of friendship evangelism, friend raising (for missionary support), and modeling the Christian life for those around us. And yet we have this nagging feeling that we ought to be saying more.
While it probably seldom crosses an extrovert’s mind, we introverts wrestle regularly with how much to say. It’s true socially. It’s true in decision-making meetings. It’s true in admonishing sin, exhorting courage, offering comfort, and in sharing the need for prayer. Most profoundly, however, it is true in evangelism.
While words seem to flow off the tongues of our extrovert colleagues, we often hold back for fear of being rude or insensitive, or of exhibiting a lack of humility. Beyond that, we know the power of words and fear that something we say may be counterproductive to achieving our worthy ends.
In the realm of persuasion, we take great comfort in the concepts of friendship evangelism, friend raising (for missionary support), and modeling the Christian life for those around us. All good things. And yet we have this nagging feeling that we ought to be saying more.
Our extrovert friends, by contrast, float or blaze through life (depending on their temperament), jabbering to all who cross their path. Some of what they say is really good, with lots of eternal value, while some really misses the mark. Amazingly, though, they seem able to carry on without a trace of internal angst regarding the fruit of their flow. And stranger still, they seem to enjoy it.
What’s a card-carrying introvert to do? I’m not sure I know the complete answer, but I have discovered at least one thing that is a significant part of the answer. We need to focus on the “supply side” of the equation. While that may sound a bit like modern economic theory, the meaning is much more profound. “Supply side,” as used here, doesn’t refer to production versus consumption, but to input versus output.
Now on the surface that may sound like counter-evangelism heresy, and your mind may be picturing spiritually fat Christians who take in every seminar and new teaching but never engage in the joy of outreach. That’s not what I have in mind, however. Instead, I’m thinking about the vine and the branches (John 15). It’s not how much people know that counts, but how connected they are to the Savior. Any believers, extrovert or introvert, attempting to evangelize in their own strength, with great confidence in their own power to influence, are almost certainly mistaken regarding the importance and value of what they are doing.
Though God can use donkeys and stones to declare his salvation, in the normal course of things, effective evangelism is the product of overflow. The better we know God, the more effective we will be in directing others to him. That’s not to say that our efforts will always be understood or appreciated. They will have a ring of truth and genuineness, however, that dependence on methodologies, or performance motivated by duty, cannot duplicate.
There are very few things that are done better when they are not scheduled and planned for. Romance may be one. Sympathy may be another. And, oh yes, evangelism. All three certainly can be planned for, and that is obviously better than not doing anything. But, in each case, added power and blessing are present when the act is simply overflow from a heart full of love. That must include love for the object of one’s communication, to be sure. But in evangelism it must be, even more, a love for the subject of our evangelism, Christ.
So how does one develop that kind of overflow? That’s just the point; we don’t. We simply sit at the Savior’s feet, spending time with him, waiting on him, and focusing on his greatness and goodness. Then our hearts cannot but overflow with his love, and those around us cannot help but receive the overflow.
One of the greatest missionaries to the Indian subcontinent was John Hyde, perhaps better known as “Praying Hyde.” He regularly spent days and weeks praying for the peoples of western India. He would not venture out in evangelism without a sense of God’s overflowing blessing in answer to his prayers. As a result, one can hardly travel throughout what is today Pakistan without meeting believers who trace their spiritual heritage from the Sialkot revivals at the beginning of the 20th century. These were the direct result of John Hyde’s prayer life, a simple branch connecting with the vine.
While good methodology and proper planning, like extrovert personalities, can be great assets in evangelism, there is no substitute for abiding in the vine. When we do, evangelism happens because of Who we have been with, and who we have become as a result. Let’s remember the origin of our evangelistic impulse, therefore, and not neglect the Giver of living water, Who is the source of that overflow.
Gary Corwin is associate editor of EMQ and missologist-at-large for Arab World Ministries, on loan from SIM.
EMQ, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 154-155. Copyright © 2000 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.