Two friends gave me a hat recently that had “Hunting the Light” sewn on it.
Being the founder of “The Light Project,” light references often come my way, as do the occasional light-bulb sales calls and emails from various factories and electrical fitters.
That phrase got me thinking again about pioneering – finding creative ways to share the gospel in day-to-day life – in post-Christendom.
In my own role as pioneer over the past 20 years, I have observed a striking change in how I do what I do: an emergence from educating and bringing knowledge of the gospel to seeking out that which God is already doing in someone’s life.
While teaching what Jesus teaches us is integral to the Great Commission, the teaching aspect has changed from the premise that “people know nothing” to helping people make sense of the experiences people have of him, ministering some clarity to strange thoughts, encounters and feelings.
I wholeheartedly believe that faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17). Yet this hearing seems to take on many guises, and it strikes me that more and more people are encountering the presence of God before knowing what that actually means or where “it” comes from.
In the book “Vanishing Grace,” Philip Yancey comments on the transition in approach Henri Nouwen encountered when it came to evangelism.
“Nouwen changed his approach from ‘selling pearls,’ or peddling the good news, to ‘hunting for the treasure’ already present in those he was called to love – a shift from dispensing religion to dispensing grace,” Yancey writes. “It makes all the difference in the world whether I view my neighbor as a potential convert or as someone whom God already loves.”
This “hunting for the treasure” seems to me a vital role in pioneering. As a city center chaplain, this often takes the form of listening to people’s stories, then speaking words of truth about Jesus into peoples’ heart.
The most dramatic example of this approach happened last year when a lady on the street asked what church we represented.
We politely answered her questions and then asked her one. “Do you want to talk and have a cup of tea?”
Over a brew we listened to the messiest heartache and pain-filled story you could imagine.
After which, the lady confided in us that she had everything she needed to end her life that evening and had made plans to do so.
We held her hand and with tears explained that it didn’t need to be that way, and that we believed in a God of miracles who could change stuff in her life.
Her response shocked me. She explained she really knew what we were talking about, as she felt God must have brought her to us.
She explained that she wasn’t even meant to be in town that afternoon, and on seeing us she felt compelled to approach.
“I’ve never stopped to talk to a stranger ever before in my life,” she said.
This lady has now been baptized and is part of a city center Baptist church. Gloriously saved through two pioneers willing to shut up and seek the treasure of what God was doing in her life.
I wonder what would have happened if this lady had approached us and, in answering her question about church, we didn’t let her get a word in edgeways, but rather sent her off with a pile of booklets and tracts?
Even in such a messed-up life there was light. In this lady I regularly now see an exuberant disciple shining out with good news, and so the hunting of light lives on as some people in her family have encountered what she has and have seen that God has been working in them, too.
When Jesus declared, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), who was he addressing? Matthew 5:1 reveals it was the crowds.
Being light in this world isn’t a “sorted disciples-only” club. Every human being is called to be light in this world. We are called to hunt for that light in everyone we meet.
Chris Duffett is a Baptist minister and evangelist in the United Kingdom. He is a former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and an adviser to the Pioneer Collective, which has a vision of releasing 400 Baptist pioneers over the next four years. He blogs at Be the Light, and you can follow him on Twitter @RevDuffett. A longer version of this article first appeared on The Baptist Times, the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It is used with permission.