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Whenever I hear the word “evangelism” I think of my pastor during my university years. He was one of those natural-born soul winners, if there is such a thing. He practically filled an entire church building with people he led to the Lord within just a few months of his coming to Christ. And he never ceased to talk about it, Sunday after Sunday: how we ought to be “evangelizing;” how easy it was to do it; how we would have to give an account to God one day; ad infinitum.

His preaching, however, didn’t motivate most of us. It made us feel bad, guilty, and like incomplete Christians. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered how one-sided that pastor was. What he called “evangelism” had little to do with the biblical teaching on the subject.

What I find in the Bible is that everyone who says s/he is a Christ follower must be involved in some aspect of sharing the good news of the gospel, but the styles and approaches vary as much as the individual personalities of those followers.

First off, if you are a believer in Christ, you ought to be sowing seeds of hope everywhere. Jesus said as much in John 4:37-38: “Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” Notice that he even calls sowing “the hard work,” a correct translation of the Greek here. I understand this passage to mean that not everyone will reap but everyone must sow.

But the process of sowing takes different approaches. Some are more direct like Peter, others more indirect, like Matthew who threw a party for his friends or the woman at the well who gave an attractive invitation to the people in her town: “Come and meet this man who told me everything about my life. He couldn’t possibly be the awaited Messiah, could he?” Paul used the more intellectual approach and Dorcas became a community activist for the destitute.

The beauty of the Body of Christ is that people come in all color and shapes. God wants us to use our unique make-up and experience to leverage our lives into the lives of Christ’s other friends, so instead of worrying to paralysis that we may not do it right, how about this? Let the Spirit guide you into an approach that most naturally fits you and leave the results up to God. He is the one who makes all things grow.

If you want to hear more, come Sunday morning. I guarantee you: what I have to say will change the way you think of evangelism once and for all.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

What do these words have in common: devise, scheme, conspire, plot? Obviously, they all denote something negative. In English, that is…

This is the case most of the time this Word occurs in the Hebrew Bible as well. For example, Proverbs 6:14 talks about the individual “who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil.” The same is true in Proverbs 3:29; 6:18 and Micah 2:1. But there is a notable exception and that is found in Proverbs 14:22.

This verse put a totally different spin on the meaning of “scheming” and allowed me to finally put my conspiratorial skills to good use. Yes, I was known for being creative and bold when it came to scheming as I was growing up, but all my efforts were naturally geared to the Proverbs 3, not the Proverbs 14 type of scheming.

But before we go too far, let’s us look at the verse. The NIV says, “Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” The NIV is so nice and it tries to be always English-sensitive. Not the NASB, though, they are more Hebrew and Greek sensitive most of the time. That’s why I like the NASB translation here, “Will not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth [will be] to those who devise good.” Did you catch that? The NASB is correct here, even if the English is peculiar: the word for “devise evil” and “devise good” are one and the same in the Hebrew.

So if you ever thought you needed permission to actually sit down and “conspire to do good,” this is it right here. I am sure you know that there are people in this world whose sole activity is plan to do bad stuff. They breathe and weave havoc, whether innocent little computer virus that can wipe out your hard drive or devastating terrorist attacks using planes as lethal weapons. Some people sit around in dark rooms and are paid or think they will be rewarded to think about ways to do evil 24-7. They are the Rasputins on steroids.

The Word is telling just the opposite here: start a quiet revolt, convoke your friends, gather your family, clear the table, sip coffee, and think long and hard of ways you can do good. Yes: conspire to do good!

My mother was and is a master at that. She was a chief good conspirator who kept her ears open at all times and whenever she discovered a real need someone had, she would go behind their backs and meet that need, and then just sit quietly in a corner to watch how the person would react, all the while with that look on her face that said, “No idea how that happened.”

My conviction is that the reason the text reads the way it does is that doing good is not natural after the fall, it is not intuitive, it is not something we can’t wait to check off on our to-do list. As much as wish this were not true, doing good requires some thinking, some volitional effort, some real conspiracy. That is why I love Dorcas, in Acts 9, because the text says there that she was “always doing good.” What a wonderful thing to say about someone who just passed away, as in the case of Dorcas, but I hope you won’t have to wait until you die to give reasons for people to say that about you.

So in 2013 make “plotting to do good” a top resolution. You can do that by setting aside some money in your budget, a line item called “conspiracy money” (I love that way that sounds!). You can conspire by giving people the gift of your time. Surprise them with the graces of your presence. If you do that, Proverbs says here that God’s faithfulness and kindness will meet you at the end of your conspiracy.

This Sunday you will hear me talk about Church the way it should be. One of the things I will mention is the idea of “outdoing one another in giving honor.” Wouldn’t it be great if we had a healthy “competition” in Church to be the first to acknowledge someone when we see them doing good? Or what about writing an anonymous letter, not to criticize, not to hide behind an unsigned missive to say stuff you wouldn’t say in the person’s face, but to praise the person, to validate her/his impact in the church, to elevate her/his service to God, to thank her/him for a generous heart.

That would be a great start to our New Year.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Last Sunday I preached on the brevity of life. Little did I know that just a couple of days later a dear friend of mine, John Weaver, would die suddenly in Wooster, Ohio. John’s funeral and memorial service will be this coming Sunday at Wooster Grace and I will have to miss it because it is my installation service at Grace Church, Lititz.

This turn of events and the coincidence of services have given me much more than pause. What if it was my service in Wooster and John’s here in Lititz? John was a godly man. Though a builder by trade, he could well be a pastor somewhere based on his knowledge of Scriptures and love for people. I, on the other hand, can’t build even walls made of Lego’s.

The last couple of days I have only heard (and seen) positive, God-honoring comments about John and his legacy. John touched literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of people with his gentle ways, his firm convictions and exuberant love for God’s Word. I just can’t help but think about what people would be saying and writing about me if it was my service there and his service here… Do you ever think that way? And do you think that you would be remembered as a godly person who left a legacy of love for God and compassion for people? Would people would not only you but your character and integrity also?

Yes, people miss John’s character and integrity. I also miss his generosity. John gave in so many ways. A thoughtful guy, he never missed an opportunity to bless someone, even if he did it behind the scenes.

Today I thought of Dorcas, “who was always doing good and helping the poor,” according to Acts 9. When she died suddenly, the poor widows who came to her funeral actually brought with them Dorcas’ evangelism tools — the robes and other clothing she had made and given them while she was alive (Acts 9:39).

What would people bring to my funeral? Only the funny jokes I told or a memory of a time I actually went out of my way to make sure that they were blessed? Scraps of memory from a reluctant follower or a flood of vivid reminders of an unwaivering faith in a God who delivers?

What would people bring to your funeral? On Sunday the auditorium at Wooster Grace will be filled with people who loved John and there won’t be a single one who will have any doubts where he stood in his love for God and people. I can’t think of a better memory to bring to a funeral. May it be that way for ours as well.

And sorry for the morbid tone. Death does make us melancholic, especially on the eve of a great celebration.

Ivanildo C. Trindade