How Cooking is Like Evangelism

How Cooking is Like Evangelism August 4, 2010

When we packed for vacation, we didn’t have a menu.  Instead we bought some stuff: string beans, apples, bluberries, spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic, a little animal protein, some milk and cheese, some eggs.  We brought some stuff from home too: butter, olive oil, coffee, coconut oil, nuts.

Now that we’re here, it’s just a matter of mixing things up the right way for the right moment.  This is last night’s creation, which has no name, and will never be replicated.  It has some beef, lots of mushrooms and spinach, and is seasoned with garlic, pepper, a tiny bit of salt, and some sun-dried tomatoes.  I cooked it last night because I was looking for an excuse to eat sun-dried tomatoes, and this seemed like a good possibility.

“The right way for the right moment” is what’s key here, because when you look at how people who are effective at sharing their faith give verbal proclamation, you come discover one thing right up front:  they don’t have a recipe.  Consider Paul:  With the Philippian jailer, he just says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”  To the folks in Athens, he quotes Greek Poetry.  To Roman citizens, he present a legal argument.  To Jews he draws upon Old Testament passages.  His presentation is, in other words, always “the right way for the right moment”.

If I’m to be effective at inviting people to step into God’s great story, then I need to bring certain ingredients along, all the time, and be ready to serve up the good news in a way that’s uniquely crafted for each person, in the same way that I wouldn’t waste my sun-dried tomato concoction on someone who didn’t like tomatoes.  I need to offer each person nourishment in a way they’ll be likely to receive it.

I’d suggest that there are several ingredients each of us needs if we’re to be effective in sharing Christ and inviting people into God’s story:

1. a genuine belief that God’s news is good. I know that I’ve offered people food sometimes that, when I tasted in the kitchen, was a disappointment to me: too dry, undercooked, over-seasoned, cold, whatever.  When I bring it out, I’m half hearted about it because of this.  The same holds true of sharing Christ.  Unless I believe that the work He’s done in my life, and the story into which He’s inviting all of us is truly good news, and powerful enough to change the world, I’ll serve it up half-heartedly.  When that happens, all the good ingredients in the world, won’t help the other enjoy the food.

2. I need a decent command of God’s big story, or at least how it’s playing out in my own life. Not having a sense of humanity’s problem and/or, God’s grand solution, will mean that I’ll be trying to serve life giving food without having life giving ingredients.  I’m working on a little pamphlet that will offer the key ingredients in a nutshell.  I’ll tell you about it when it comes out sometime this fall.

3. I need to listen to one’s I’m serving because that’s the only way I’ll know how best to present the food.  Paul would never have wasted his time quoting poetry to the Philippian jailer, but it’s central to his talk given to the Athenians.  How did how know when to use poetry, and when to just say, “believe!”?  The answer is simple: Paul listened to people.  Listening is a lost art these days – just look at government, or the way conservative and emergent Christians argue with each other.

Until I listen to the other, my chances of sharing life with him or her in a way that is really serving, and life giving, is remote at best.  James said it this way:  “your ears should be bigger than your mouth” (that’s my paraphrase).  I’ve some distance to go here, but I’m finding that the more I listen, the better the relationships, and hence, the better the sharing of God’s grand invitation.

When these three ingredients (belief that God’s news is actually good, a decent command of God’s big story, and a capacity to listen before speaking) are in place, inviting people into the grand adventure that is God’s story in this world is both more joyous, more natural, and more fruitful.

Can you think of other important ingredients?

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  • Linda

    The good news cannot be understood as really good news unless you know the bad news (eternal condemnation from God on sinners who break the laws of God, because they are accountable to their holy and just Creator God). So first the bad news then the good news, you must always have both proclaimed for it to be understood properly. So you need to explain who God is (holy, just, perfect, eternal, He sets the standards, He is the Judge of the Universe, etc) and you need to give the law of God (the Ten Commandments) before you give the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners.

  • Andrew

    My dear Linda,
    I don’t know you aside from reading your many replies to Richard’s posts. However, I am alarmed at how defensive the tone of your posts often are. You may not even be aware of this, but that is how it reads to me. I believe that this tone is very polarizing. If you are intending that your reply above be the exact opposite of what Richard is posting about, then you have done just that.
    Further, the words “must always” probably should not be used when stating opinion.

  • Kristi

    I appreciate the reminder of these basic ingredients, Richard.

    Linda, I don’t know if I agree with you on your point that you have to start with “bad news” and commandments before presenting the good news of the gospel. That sounds a little more formulaic than Richard expresses here, or for that matter, more formulaic than Paul himself used in his evangelism. American evangelism has this tendency to be formulaic like that.

    In my own limited experience, people who are open to hearing the good news to begin with are usually in a place where they’re well aware of bad news, be it addiciton, loneliness, loss, a lack of a sense of purpose in this life, or something else. To me the good news is that there is a God who loves me more completely and unconditionally than I’ve ever experienced or imagined. And that the same God has created me with specific talents and gifts and invites me to use those gifts to participate in the work he is already doing in the world around me. This is not to say that you’re not right about what you said about God, just that I don’t know if you have to start there when sharing faith with other people.

    Linda, has your experience with evangelism been different than mine? I’m genuinely curious to hear your thoughts!

  • Graham

    Ingredient # 4: the Holy Spirit. I mention this only because we talk about this Person of the Trinity and His work very little in mainline, non-pentacostal churches…maybe the ingredient should be “inviting the Holy Spirit” or “trusting that God will not let His Word return void, ” as you are discussing more OUR part in evangelism…just thought it bore mentioning…

    Linda, once again I don’t neccessarily disagree with what you’re saying, perhaps just how it comes across. I think I get what you are saying: unable to see the light unless you are aware of the darkness…something like that, right? I think I just concur with Kristi that a large portion of people are aware that life is devoid of meaning without Christ, they just haven’t put a name on what’s missing yet, but I think God intentionally created us with that “hole.” I’m sure there are a lot people however that don’t see that sin is corrupting their lives, but I’m not sure even then the first step in evangelism would be to condemn them, but rather the goal would be to create a desire in them to experience the life and change that they see in you… Yes, people need to understand what they are being saved from (Richard’s ingredient #2), but our job is to point people to Jesus, not to point out people’s sin.

  • Lamont

    I don’t see anything formulaic about Linda’s comments. Linda is merely using the example given in scripture.
    For example, Jesus “did” confront people using the law exposing their sin. Did He not confront the woman at the well on her fornication and adultery? How about the Rich young ruler? Didn’t Jesus confront him on his idolatry & covetousness? How about tower of Siloam as well in Luke 13:1-5?
    When He (Jesus) confronted unbelievers he confronted them on their sin! He told them to repent less they perish.
    As for Paul… Romans starts out showing us that the gentiles are under condemnation because of the law written on their hearts, then, in chapter 3, how the Jews who thought that they obeyed the law, were actually condemned by it! Then…. Grace! He shows us the gospel of grace.
    Nowhere in scripture does it say “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life!
    Nowhere in scripture is the example given, that, if you come to Jesus you’ll have purpose for your life!
    Or, if you come to Jesus, you’ll never be lonley again! That’s not only false, it has nothing to do w/saving us from the hell that we all deserve! It’s a rabbit trail, not the gospel.
    Also, everybody has a purpose! Look at Pharoahs purpose in Romans 9. Some vessels are made for honorable use, and others for dishonorable use i.e. destruction!
    Kristi & Graham both (I think) misunderstand, that pointing out someones sin isn’t condemning them! Unbelievers have been condemned already (John 3:18). The law is there to show that condemnation. To make them fear The Thrice Holy God, and what is inevitable unless they repent of their sin and trust in Christ alone.
    I think it was Spurgeon (not sure) who said something on the lines of… “For someone to tell a sinner who is going to hell, that God Loves them, is to sear the conscience in such a manner, that the sinner will slumber in their sinful estate assuring them a of certain destruction!”
    I’ve recently finished a book by a missionary who warns of the dangers of assuming the gospel, or, assuming that someone is a Christian. I’ve run into this many times myself, when people talk about Christ, when my red discernment flag would go off, only to find out that a person, (after a few probing questions) turned out to be a Mormon, or a J.W. or Christians who think their personally testimony is the gospel.
    I would hope that some would reconsider what they think is “formulaic” and perhaps take the time to see what God’s word can do when wielded properly (though salvation is of the LORD).
    For an excellent example of the use of the law in evangelism see….

    I think the responses to Linda, have the cart before the horse, and are typical to today’s “American Evangelicalism” then Biblical Evangelism.
    Though that is not the fault of the saint’s, but a symptom of the weak and unbiblical arminian teachings in the American “Evanjellyfish” Church.

    The consequence of “The Prayer Of Jaybez for Purpose Driven People Left Behind” theology.

  • Kristi

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Graham.

    Lamont, I can appreciate your response, but I do feel that you have misrepresented my comments (and Graham’s, too, I think,) or at least misunderstood them. I was genuinely curious about Linda’s experiences with evangelism because it seems that my own have been so different from hers. As I reread your response, it seems to me that you’re more interested in asserting that you have all the “right” answers than in engaging in dialogue.

    “Nowhere in scripture does it say “God loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life!
    Nowhere in scripture is the example given, that, if you come to Jesus you’ll have purpose for your life!
    Or, if you come to Jesus, you’ll never be lonley again! That’s not only false, it has nothing to do w/saving us from the hell that we all deserve! It’s a rabbit trail, not the gospel.”

    I agree with you. And I hope you realize that I didn’t say any of that.

    What I’m trying to say is that my faith means a lot more to me than merely saving me from “the hell that we all deserve.” There is a whole life I’m called to live after the “saving” bit and my relationship with God goes well beyond making sure that I don’t go to hell. I was merely trying to capture a glimpse of the meaning I’ve found in walking with Jesus.

    And I’m curious about other approaches to evangelism because I don’t know anyone who came to Christ – and more importantly, stayed there – because someone pointed out their sin and they didn’t want to go to hell. As I’ve observed it, that only motivates people to a certain point, and then there needs to be something more.