We look to Jesus as the example of how we should live our lives and how to work in his father’s kingdom. When we think “evangelism”, some of us might have a bad taste in our mouths from what we’ve seen on television and how people in other traditions have done it. But how does my church, the Vineyard evangelise? Or, more importantly, how did Jesus?Well, on many occasions, Jesus walked and talked with complete strangers and ended up eating with them at their houses. Basically, he simply spent time with them, got to know them, listened to their stories of their lives, about their children, wives, husbands, grandchildren, worries, hopes and dreams. This is how Jesus made it clear he cared about them, by listening to what they had to say and then praying for those things that were bothering them, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual trouble. This is what we do on one of the ministries at the Vineyard, Street Teams. Here’s how easy it is. Step 1: Ask them “Do you want some lemonade?” or if it’s cold, “Do you want some hot chocolate?” Usually, they’ll say yes and be grateful. Sometimes, they’ll say no. But the best part is, you can still chat with them. Step 2: All you have to do is ask “so, how’s it going tonight?” 9 times out of 10, they’ll actually tell you how they’re doing. Step 3: Listen. What next? Listen some more, ask more questions. They just...tell you things. They tell you about their lives, about the guy they’re seeing or the woman they had a kid with or their parents, or their jobs that suck or the new movie they just saw. People really like to tell you about themselves, if you give them the chance. Step 4: Then, if you feel the Spirit leading you to ask if they want prayer, you do. If not, that’s ok, you just met one of God’s children, and they’re really neat.
There are many amazing stories to share, but recently I have personally met a few women who’s stories touched me deeply. (To be respectful of their growth with God and where they’re at in life, I won’t use their names).
One of the most important things to do in our daily walk, but especially when we’re out representing and spreading God’s love, is to listen to the Spirit. Another guy who comes out on Street Teams is Clint (he’s pretty dang cool if you haven’t met him yet). One night, he looked at two women and thought to himself “there is no reason why I wouldn’t go over there and talk with them.” And normally he would, he’s a very approachable, outgoing guy. However, he felt the Spirit tell him no. Later, I asked him “Did they get some lemonade yet?” He said no and watched me put together a few cups for them. Later he told me that he thought in his head “Oh, of course, Nate is supposed to go over there and talk to them.” So, I did. I walked over, asked if either of them wanted lemonade, they both accepted and I started asking questions. It didn’t take too long for me to see that one of them wasn’t doing so well. Her voice was a bit shaky, I could tell something was up, so I asked her about it. She explained that she and her husband were having troubles. He had just came back from Iraq and had really bad PTSD, and he was staying with his mother and for whatever reason, wasn’t speaking to her. She was really worried about her marriage, I offered to pray for her and she accepted. She teared up, passersby asked if everything was ok, I explained I was praying for her and that I was from the Vineyard church. They said, “Oh yeah, you guys are cool.” We ended our prayer, talked about it for a bit, but then I changed the subject to happier things like her tattoo on her ankle and movies. Before we parted ways I told her I’d keep praying for her and that I hoped the best for them both and I gave them a card for the Vineyard and if they got to the place they could both attend the Vineyard together, that’d be a good place to start.
Another night I was chatting with the volunteers in the Democrat volunteer office across the street (over the past several months I had been forming a good friendship with them). I was getting to know some of the regulars, and I sat down next to a few of the new faces. I asked a woman how she was doing, she explained that she had just gotten out of a second, very abusive relationship and she was still a little shaken up. She explained that not only was he verbally abusive but he also controlled how much she ate. I agreed with her that this was not the way a godly man should act, and that I was glad she got out of that relationship and that she was in a safer place. Then I asked if I could pray with her. She didn’t agree at first, mostly because she had a hard time trusting men. I told her I totally understood, but one of the volunteers there came over and said, “Honey, if we didn’t trust someone in here, he’d be out the door faster than you could blink.” She said this as she put her hand on her back and she began to cry. So I asked if I could put my hand on her shoulder, she nodded, and I began to pray. She cried as I prayed, I thanked God for getting her out of that relationship, for her growth in her relationship with him, and for her future and hope and joy. When we were done, we ate pizza and talked about music we hated, she shared a video with me from smart phone. I check in with the Democrats to see how she’s doing, they tell me she’s going better.
Another night a woman came up to us just before we were going to pack things up and head home. She asked if we had any food. We didn’t, so I said “Let me think about that, but would you like some prayer?” Looking back on this, I probably sounded like an idiot, as if prayer met her hunger need! However, she did accept the prayer and after asking if it was ok, Clint and I put our hands on her shoulders. Right after I said “Holy Spirit, come...” I had a instant thought in my brain: The Democrats have food! They always had snacks and things in there and always offered me some when I brought in lemonade to offer. Jackie, the woman in charge, was just locking up as I ran over and explained the situation. She immediately agreed and unlocked the door again, leading me back in and filled two plastic bags with meat, cheese, bread, cookies, a tomato, vitamin water, and she made her a sandwich. I brought the bags back as Clint was finishing up praying for her. We explained that the Vineyard has a food shelf if she can get up there, gave her the Fruit of the Vine card, but also gave her the two bags of food and I also told her she should eat the sandwich right away. She thanked us, said God bless to us and she went on her way. I don’t think she realized we felt more blessed than she did.
Another night a woman who attends church at the Vineyard decided to join us guys Thursday night (it’s usually just us four guys, we need more ladies!) We went down to the Holiday Center and ended up praying for several people.I prayed for a man who wasn’t doing well after his wife of several years died two weeks earlier. He was unfortunately finding solace in alcohol instead of God, so I prayed that God would show him how to mourn well, he drunkenly agreed. Right after I was done prayer for him, I was sent for by one of the people who had come out with us that night, saying “Nate, nate, we need you!”. I went over and found the woman who had came out with us from the Vineyard sitting next to a woman wearing high heels and a short skirt who was slightly inebriated. Clothing like this doesn’t normally mean anything, female attire varies greatly. However, after the woman from the Vineyard and I began talking with her we learned that she danced at strip clubs around town and, although she never said it out right, we read between the lines and understood that she was seeing guys on the side for extra money. Yet, she explained that she had been praying for us to find her (us, meaning Christians). We prayed for her, she cried and then prayed with us. The woman from the Vineyard invited her to church. They later formed a friendship, went out to dinner and had many phone conversations. The woman we met that night is now in a better place and going back to school, turning away from the her old ways and turning towards God and what he has for her.
These are just a few of the many amazing stories we get to hear from people we might not ever get to see again. But we plant the seed God waters later on. It’s not about adding to the numerous people who attend our church, but to the number of people who follow God. Not everyone can make it to our building, but, since the people are the church, we can bring the church to the people on the street.
If you're interesting in what the Vineyard is doing in Duluth, or the Street Teams are doing, take a look at their site.
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