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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I have a good friend whose name is Jonathan. Jonathan is five years old. He was one of my best buddies at New Hope Baptist Church in Georgia where I was pastor. I got lots of great hugs from him and also some of the most profound philosophical statements on life. Jonathan knows no strangers and has the most amazing way with words. Recently his grandfather told me about his latest words of wisdom. While doing his kindergarten homework, Jonathan said, “I was just thinking, being human beings is a lot harder than I thought. But it’s OK. That’s just the way it is.”

Ever feel that way? Maybe every day lately? It is not an easy time to be a human being. World events are ominous. Our culture seems to be nearing moral collapse. The church appears to be either sleeping through the storm or constantly creating its own storms that the rest of the world watches with detached amusement.

That’s why this week comes for me like a spring in the desert, reminding me that I never have to “be a human being” alone or without hope. It’s Easter week! God is human, too! And He is with us. Even in the midst of all the death and darkness of this world. He has entered it on purpose. He has come to us. He has beaten death back. And He has filled our humanness with all the purpose and passion of His resurrection power.

You’re right Jonathan. It’s OK. That’s just the way it is!

I could not have had a better reminder of the meaning of Easter than at the hospital recently. My wife and I went to visit our friends, Billy and Marketa. A few years ago I met Marketa, a Buddhist, while she was serving me in a restaurant. I simply asked if I could pray for her as I thanked God for our food. This began a friendship that ultimately led to her embracing a relationship with Jesus. Her husband, who was an atheist, also accepted Christ. I have baptized them, married them, shared holidays with them, laughed and cried with them and loved them.

And that day at the hospital, I held their newborn child, Ella, in my arms. I looked at her through teary eyes as her mother said, “Meet your Uncle John!” That’s what Jesus does. He takes people with almost nothing in common and makes them family. And now I have the privilege of watching this precious child grow, and hopefully see the same resurrection power that reached her parents touch a new generation.

As my wife and I placed our hands on little Ella and her parents and prayed over them with joy, I could not help but think that this was really the essence of Easter. New life from those who have found new life! And in God’s amazing, mysterious ways, He lets us be His messengers of this life, and then see the joy He brings to all He touches.

You still have time, you know. Easter is still a few days away. There is time to make a friend. Time to touch a life. Time to follow Jesus away from the comfortable crowd you know at church and to those who might be with you there Sunday –- if you will only meet them, care about them –- and ask! Can you think of anything that could give you more joy than that? Rejoice! He is risen! For Easter, let’s make evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant