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The Bible's Worst Evangelist

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.

Ruth 1:8 ESV

Personal evangelism is a strange creature indeed. To speak of eternal things with our fellow man can be quite an intimidating experience, and I suppose, for some, having a plan going into the conversation is a good idea. Some have endeavored to give us formulas to help us approach others with the gospel. Nothing is essentially wrong with these methods, however, when we examine the evangelistic style of Jesus there are no formulas that fit His modus operandi. One size that fits all was never His style. Jesus approached each person differently and for a very important reason. All people are different and have varying backgrounds and diverse experiences in life. The good news He shared never changed but the way he told it varied from person to person. The rich young ruler was told to sell everything before following Him. To Nicodemus he simply stated, you must be born again. The rugged fishermen on the shores of Galilee were invited to a bigger fishing hole.

Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, was quite possibly the Bible’s worst evangelist, or perhaps, the best. She and her husband had left Israel due to a draught and were living in the country of Moab. It was there that they raised their two sons. The boys both took Gentile wives. In the cruel course of time, Naomi’s husband and sons died leaving her with the extra baggage of two daughters-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. Realizing her predicament, Naomi decided to return to Israel. Desiring to travel light, she turned to both girls and implored them to return to their people and to their gods. Both had been exposed to Jehovah through the witness of the family, and yet, Naomi made no effort to encourage them to follow the God of Israel. Naomi’s actions would win her no favor with the evangelists of our day, but perhaps, they could learn something from her strategy. Naomi refused to manipulate her daughter-in-laws into a decision to follow the true God. She realized their faith must be their own, and so, she force the issue by presenting the option of their return to paganism. Orpah returned, while Ruth chose Jehovah. Every encounter with people is unique.

His name is Vern. He was a tall drink of water with bright red hair and an awkward walk. He came to me one evening on the quarterdeck of the ship on which we were both serving with a troubled look on his face. With his head bowed, and a voice I could barely hear, Vern told me of a dream that saddened him. He dreamt of two trees, one was in a desert, drying for lack of water, while the other was planted by a river. The latter was full and healthy. He then became eerily silence, a single tear flowed down his cheek. I asked him, “Vern, which tree are you?” “I’m in the desert,” he replied. I asked him if he would like to be that tree by the river and he replied yes. He then bowed his head to receive Christ into his life. The best tool in evangelism is an open ear, not a speaking mouth. Ruth became the grandmother of King David.

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