I’ve been told by some of my friends that I’m an evangelist. I’m not so sure about that — but I do want to share the gospel wherever and whenever I can. But how are we to share the gospel when we are to stay at least 6 feet apart from others, not gather in groups of more than 10, and never, ever touch another human?
Yes, I’ve overstated matters a bit. But here are a few ideas that occur to me of how we can “do” evangelism in this “new normal”:
1. Nothing, I repeat, nothing should keep us from the imperative of being a friend of sinners like Jesus was! This has been my kind of ministry mantra for the last few years. We Jesus-followers fail miserably at developing deep relationships with lost people and spend all our time in Christian meetings, talking only with Christians, and eating only Christian casseroles!
2. This Covid pandemic has driven many of us to our computers and smart phones and to see them for what they are — incredible communication tools that can be useful in the Kingdom! Have you taken the opportunity during this strange period to connect or re-connect through email or text with those you haven’t seen in years? Why not?
3. Where are you and I showing the kindness of Christ during this challenging time? As an introvert, in some ways this period has been a blessing. But for my extrovert friends and family members, this has been tortuous. Am I choosing to reach out in my introvertedness? If you are an extrovert, is this social distancing time encouraging you to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ Himself? Has it driven you to His Word?
4. Are we using this time to serve others? I hate wearing a mask, but why flaunt my freedom at the risk of the health of others? What kind of witness am I if I enter a grocery store or business that says “Mask required” maskless?
5. What happens when this pandemic is over? When we don’t have to wear masks anymore? When we can fully meet together as churches and friends? What will be some of the changes in a post-pandemic society? I don’t know, but I do know that I will value my friendships much more than I did pre-pandemic. My life will ssslllooowww down some and I will relish conversations much more than before. Life is too short to rush about, treating others as unimportant, ending conversations prematurely.
6. My last thought: What will church be like? How has this pandemic been a wake-up call to God’s people to get the gospel out in new and creative ways? Will we be less self-absorbed and more Great Commission oriented? When will we begin to talk about and pray for our lost friends? Could it be that in the sovereignty of God this pandemic’s partial purpose was to get the church to THINK? To think about reaching those who are far from God. To think about starting evangelistic Bible studies (either in person or online). To think about genuine fellowship where we talk about what we have in common in Christ.
My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
CEO’s are now playing miniature golf.
Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.
If the bank returns your check marked “Insufficient Funds,” you call them and ask if they meant you or them.
McDonald’s is selling the 1/4 ouncer.
A picture is now only worth 200 words.
SOME LESSONS I’VE LEARNED — AND AM STILL LEARNING!
1. I’m feeling much better about being an introvert. In some ways, for me this has been a dream. Social distancing — what could be better than that!?
2. I really need human companionship — far more than I realized pre-pandemic. Yes, it’s great to use my laptop to view the Sunday morning church service (and I love that I can fast forward past the sermon’s boring parts), but it’s not the same. Will we ever feel free to shake hands, hug one another, and (God forbid) greet one another with a holy kiss?
3. Being retired, I have a lot of time. Time to get serious about Bible study, devotions, producing blog posts worth reading, connecting with others who are already socially and geographically distant to me.
4. Lastly, plagues are nothing new to the Lord. I’ve done a preliminary study of plagues in the Bible and I’ve found the following (read at your own discretion — there’s a lot here!):
In Exodus, chapter 5-11, God sends plagues on Egypt for not releasing His people. We have the plague of blood (Ex. 7), the plague of frogs (Ex. 7), the plague of gnats (Ex. 8), the plague of flies (Ex. 8), the plague on livestock (Ex. 9), the plague of boils (Ex. 9), the plague of hail (Ex. 9), the plague of locusts (Ex. 10), the plague of darkness (Ex. 10), and the plague of the Firstborn (Ex. 11).
Moses and Aaron said to Pharaoh, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” (Ex. 5:3). Sometimes God sends a plague — on His own people!
God’s plagues against Egypt were not just for the purpose of getting His people freed. God says in Exodus 9 that if Pharaoh does not listen, “I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.” In fact, in Exodus 9:15 God says, “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.”
In Exodus 32 we read that “the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.” God’s people are not immune from His judgment! He threatens to send both “the sword” as well as “a plague” against His people for their breaking of His covenant (Lev. 26:25). The priestly tribe of the Levites were given by God to make atonement for the people “so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.” (Num. 8:19). God struck His people “with a severe plague” in Numbers 11 for their demand for meat.
We learn in Numbers 14:36-38 that “the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it— these men who were responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived. In Numbers 16:49 we learn that “14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah.”
Numbers 25 has the following story: 6 Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.
The book of Deuteronomy has much to say about God’s threatening His people with plagues. In 28:21 we read, “The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.” In 28:22 we are told: “The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.” We are also told in 28:59 that “the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We don’t want to think of God as One who inflicts diseases and plagues upon His own people, but listen to these verses from Numbers and Deuteronomy: Numbers 31:16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people.
Deuteronomy 28:21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.
Deuteronomy 28:22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.
Deuteronomy 28:59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.
Deuteronomy 32:24 I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.
We have the infamous passage: 2 Samuel 24:13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
2 Samuel 24:15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.
2 Samuel 24:25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
1 Kings 8:37 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come,
1 Chronicles 21:12 three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
2 Chronicles 7:13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, Psalm 78:50 He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. Jeremiah 14:12 Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.” Jeremiah 24:10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’” Jeremiah 27:13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, famine and plague with which the Lord has threatened any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? Jeremiah 29:17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. Jeremiah 34:17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 38:2 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ Jeremiah 42:17 Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ Ezekiel 5:12 A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword. Ezekiel 5:17 I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the Lord have spoken.” Ezekiel 6:11 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Strike your hands together and stamp your feet and cry out “Alas!” because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the people of Israel, for they will fall by the sword, famine and plague. No social distancing will help! Ezekiel 6:12 One who is far away will die of the plague, and one who is near will fall by the sword, and anyone who survives and is spared will die of famine. So will I pour out my wrath on them. Ezekiel 12:16 But I will spare a few of them from the sword, famine and plague, so that in the nations where they go they may acknowledge all their detestable practices. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 14:21 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals! Ezekiel 28:23 I will send a plague upon you and make blood flow in your streets. The slain will fall within you, with the sword against you on every side. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 38:22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.
Hosea 13:14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? “I will have no compassion, Amos 4:10 “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
Revelation 6:8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Revelation 9:18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths.
Revelation 9:20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
Revelation 11:6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
Our latest book, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World is a call to becoming a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was! You can order this through Amazon or directly from me (send $10 [which includes shipping] to my address).
Dr. Larry Dixon
117 Norse Way
Columbia, SC 29229 Cell: 803-201-9745