A Bible Reading: Mark 10. 46 - 52 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Not surprisingly, at the Leading your Church into Growth (LyCiG) conference, it isn’t long before the word evangelism comes up. Many of us are quite frightened of evangelism, because it conjures up pictures in our mind of huge Billy Graham rallies or the like. It doesn’t help that Robin Gamble, the leader of the national LyCiG team, is himself an exceptional evangelist. Now evangelism is definitely about spreading the Christian gospel by public preaching to the crowd, but it is also about personal witness one-to-one. Even then it can seem far too daunting a task to really want to engage with it.
As we read the gospels, we see Jesus talking to great crowds of people, but time after time, we also find him stopping to talk to one individual: the sick woman who touched the hem of his cloak (Mark 5. 25), the woman at the well (John 4), Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19). In each case, Jesus gets into conversation by asking a simple question: Who touched my clothes? Will you give me a drink? Can I come to your house for tea? In each situation, we then see his healing and saving power in action.
So what about another individual, Blind Bartimaeus? Jesus and his disciples are already with a large crowd of people, and Bartimaeus hears them coming and he starts to shout out at the top of his voice. The people around him are not impressed and tell him firmly to keep quiet, but Bartimaeus is not put off and shouts even louder.
Jesus hears him and stops. He calls Bartimaeus, and then asks one of his questions: “What do you want me to do for you?” What sort of a question is that? Isn’t it obvious? The guy is blind! However, Jesus doesn’t make assumptions about another person. He takes care to respectfully ask first.
We think we have to tell people something, when all we really need to do is ask them a question and then listen carefully to their answer. A good question to start with might be simply: “Would you like to come for a coffee?” Be prepared to listen carefully and prayerfully and then see where God leads the conversation.
A Prayer Lord, help me to ask the right questions that will draw those I meet closer to you. Amen.