Evangelistic outreach is about one thing: making Jesus known. Sometimes, though, we place more focus and attention on the messenger than on the message.
I started to think about this the other day while talking to a coworker about marketing. I recalled a classic, but not often used, advertising technique I employed years before that ended up going viral (well, in a sense).
Before entering into the pastorate, I worked on political campaigns. In 2002, while working for a local East Texas candidate, I decided to build a giant 4-part highway advertisement styled after the classic Burma-Shave signs.
If you’re not familiar with them, they are a series of signs that use silly poetry to create a pithy—and hopefully memorable—message.
Using paint, four 4-foot-by-4-foot pieces of plywood, and a silly slogan, I created a Burma-Shave-inspired sign to promote my candidate. I don’t recall what the message said, but I did keep it upbeat, positive, and somewhat humorous.
By the way: I didn’t tell the candidate I was doing this. I chose to keep it anonymous because the advertisement was about the message, not the messenger.
Once each sign was completed, I headed out to a high-traffic area, installed the four signs, and waited. It didn’t take long. The local news stations and newspapers reported on the sign. Both political parties talked about it. The candidate received many calls about it.
It went viral!
In fact, people years later were still talking about those signs and what they said, although they weren’t sure who created them.
What does this have to do with evangelistic outreach? Allow me to explain.
When the Messenger Gets in the Way
We have a gospel message to share, but sometimes we draw more attention to the messenger than the message.
It’s natural for humans to focus on who is talking. It’s commonplace for academicians to debate methods of communicating. However, we need to heed John the Baptist’s words about Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Take some time to evaluate your personal evangelism (assuming you are doing any). Do people focus more on you or your message? Do you place greater emphasis on Jesus or on yourself?
Now, think about your church’s evangelistic outreach (again, assuming you are doing it). Is the church the main focus or is Jesus? Is the gospel emphasized or church activities?
Asking these questions will help you determine if the messenger has gotten in the way of the message. If so, then it’s time to change things up.
Focus on the Message of the Gospel of Jesus
At the very beginning I said, “evangelistic outreach is about one thing: making Jesus known.” We can do this by placing the gospel message at the center of all we do, then wrapping it all up in gospel (that’s not a typo; the gospel is that important).
When placing the signs, I did it anonymously because I wanted the message to shine. We need to have that same mentality when doing ministry: let Jesus’ light shine bright. As the song says, “Shine, Jesus, shine / Fill this land with the Father’s glory.”
In our personal ministries and in our churches, let’s do all we can to let the message of Jesus be the focus. We need to step out of the way and give our Risen Savior the limelight in all we do.
Ministry isn’t about the local church. Ministry isn’t about us. Ministry is about Christ Jesus.
How will you let the message of the gospel be the focus of your life? How will you let the gospel be the focus in your church ministries?