In the last half of John chapter 2 Jesus did some very unusual things. Nothing improper and definitely within the law but very much out of the ordinary. No one saw it coming. He threw everyone and everything involved in commercial activity out of the Temple. We usually say He “cleansed” the Temple but that is just a nice way to say He caused a ruckus.
Taking a homemade whip He drove out all the sacrificial animals and the people selling them. He also turned over the tables on which they were exchanging money and doing business.
At first glance His actions seem a little out of character for the One about whom children sing “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” but it was exactly what the situation called for and served an important purpose. Not only did He right some very serious wrongs but once done He had everyone’s attention. The only people unhappy about this were the religious leaders, who no doubt benefited from the business, but even they could not ignore Jesus after this sensational happening. I’m sure the crowds and the disciples waited with bated breath to see what came next.
And what did He do next? He performed miracles. We don’t know the number but we are told many people, seeing this, became believers.
The interesting thing is, the Bible says Jesus did not commit Himself to any of these new believers. That also seems a little bit out of the ordinary especially for One who was known for disciple making, but the fact is, He hadn’t yet committed Himself to anyone, including the already named disciples: Peter, Andrew, John and so on. It wasn’t till much later (Luke 5) that Jesus called the disciples into full time service and He didn’t appoint the twelve as Apostles until even later.
He waited until the more fractious moments had come and gone like the people of Nazareth attempting to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4) before calling and appointing Apostles. By then they were beyond infatuation. He didn’t want anyone misunderstanding the call to service.
But, we learn a very important lesson about evangelism from what Jesus did here. Even though the time was not right for Him to commit to disciples the time was right for Him to call the masses to salvation, an exercise we usually refer to as evangelism. His approach to evangelism in this chapter is was I call the 10-90 rule of evangelism. Following explains why:
It involved 10% theology and 90% strategy
As Christians we love theology. It is at the heart of what we believe and how we live. We think and write in theological terms and assess each other on the basis of theology. The more theologically articulate and accurate one is the more respect they receive. We would never say theology is not important.
Theology, however, was not the predominant feature of evangelism as Jesus conducted it. In this example Jesus said very little and what He did say confused everyone, even His disciples.
To say 10% of His method involved theology is actually being generous. Jesus didn’t need to explain theologically why He drove the animals out of the Temple. He actually had very little to say and most of it had nothing to do with theology.
The disciples of Jesus did not understand what Jesus was doing or what He meant until much later. John, the writer of this Gospel, even admits the disciples (himself included) were confused as to the meaning of Jesus cryptic statement about the destruction and rebuilding of the temple until after He rose from the dead.
Even though Jesus involved very little theological discussion in this first series of events He did demonstrate a strategy. In fact, He is teaching us much more about strategy than about theology. He was provoking the disciples to think and grow spiritually and He was challenging the religious status quo. His strategy made people think and it got everyone’s attention.
The point of course is this. You can be right theologically but you will not be effective until you are also right strategically. Theology helps you understand truth. Strategy helps you use it well.
In that sense, evangelism is very much like war.
Soldiers are taught how to use their weapons but more importantly they are taught how to work together as a unit. Strategic maneuvering and unified action wins wars not knowledge or sophisticated weapons. Even Shaka of the Zulus defeated a mechanized army using only spears, shields and great strategy.
To be a good evangelist you must know your strategy as well as your Bible.
The crowd was 10% Christian and 90% non-Christian
This is a very important observation. Most of the people witnessing this event were not believers, which means Jesus didn’t spend His time in the inner sanctums of schools for higher and deeper spiritual learning away from the crowds. He got right in the middle of the streets of life and did what everyone could see and anyone could respond to.
The truth is, you cannot win the lost at a distance. Evangelism is up close and very personal. People must hear the Gospel before they can believe it. We must convey the message openly enough for everyone to see and loudly enough for everyone to hear.
There are three absolutes in evangelizing the lost people of this world:
- You cannot win the lost if you don’t engage them.
- You cannot win some of the lost if you don’t engage many of them.
- You cannot grow disciples if you isolate them from evangelistic effort.
The primary purpose of building disciples is to enable them to evangelize and to do that properly we must involve them in evangelism. In keeping with that truth, Jesus kept His very small number of disciples constantly surrounded by crowds of people most of whom were not believers.
He wanted it to be this way for a reason. He could not win those who were lost or train those who were saved by staying isolated. The crowd with whom Jesus mixed was 10% Christian and 90% non-Christian. That should be true for us also.
Evangelism is 10% articulation and 90% challenge
Jesus declared the truth and never spent time explaining Himself. He opened the door and invited people to come. He allowed people room to make a choice. He never begged anyone to believe and never treated answers like confetti.
Jesus would often answer questions with questions and rarely made an effort to explain His actions or statements. He credited people with enough sense to figure things out.
Not attempting to explain Himself and the truth was one way of suggesting that truth is more findable than most people think.
The way Jesus responded to questions was a compliment to the human ability to understand. He did on occasion challenge their attitude but He never became condescending.
If Jesus had constantly attempted to explain Himself or restate His thoughts it would have been an insult to those who didn’t believe and patronizing to those who were seeking.
Jesus declared the truth He didn’t explain it.
Strategy is 10% effective and 90% ineffective
Our strategies always honor the truth completely but they are never considered inerrant.
In fact, long before people succeed they may employ many strategies that are absolute failures.
- Truth is inspired strategy is not.
- Truth never fails strategies often do.
- Truth is to be learned strategies are to be developed.
- Truth never changes strategies must.
We will fault a person because they distort truth but we should never consider anyone at fault because their strategy doesn’t work or they attempt to find a better one.
Because strategies are not inspired we are constantly attempting to develop better ones. We loose the battle when we fail to develop strategies not when our strategies fail.
People who stop strategizing are people who begin to move backwards. As J. Frank Norris said, “consistency is the virtue of fools.”
Thomas Edison tried over a thousand different materials when developing a filament that would work in the electric light bulb. When asked if his many failed attempts were discouraging he said no. He considered the experiments that failed to be a part of the elimination process. Every time a different material failed he was eliminating things that didn’t work and getting closer to the material that would.
If we were capable of developing the right strategies easily and immediately then all churches would be bursting at the seams.
Effective strategies need 10% discussion and 90% activation
Inertia is one very large barrier to executing strategies and endless discussion is one way to maintain it.
I would never minimize the need for discussion but no idea can be fully analyzed theoretically before you take action. Actions should be planned well and the risks should be measured well but at some point everyone must move out of their contemplative complacency and into synergistic relations organized around pre-stated strategies. This type of cooperation requires Emotional Intelligence not the academic kind.
We need to discuss a particular strategy only sufficiently enough to understand where we are going and then trust each other enough to give it a try. Believing in the message and in Jesus are given. We also must believe in each other enough to work together effectively.
When each person does their own thing you have confusion at best. Good strategies are ones that involve as many people as possible and they become effective only when good people learn to work the strategy rather than criticize it.
Strategies never work out exactly right the first time around and sometimes actually require practice. There must be a high degree of dedication to finding and working the strategies together.
It is not enough to be a “faithful” evangelist. We must measure evangelism by its effectiveness not by endless effort. A person who is genuinely faithful will not rest in the same fruitless rut. He or she will continue to look for a strategy that effectively gets results.
How about you? Are you satisfied with no results or declining results? Are you willing to stop where you are or can you see the necessity to strategize till you find a way to be effective?
The thing Jesus taught us well was how to evangelize. If we follow Him closely we will become evangelists.
What do you THINK!AboutIt?