Fire Hydrant or Sprinklers?
[This blog article appears in the May edition of The Christian View Online Magazine, www.TCVMag.com. We wanted to share it and add a recent testimony. Don’t miss Mr. Genor’s story! When Angelia had this article ready to send to the editors at TCVMag.com, our team listened to the audio she referenced of “Mr. Genor on George Street.” This older recording was so powerful we shared it with family and friends. After hearing of Mr. Genor’s work, one husband was going to look at a used vehicle posted for sale and said, “I will talk to the seller about the Lord whether I buy the car or not.” True to his word, after passing on buying the car, he ended the visit with the young man using a simple approach spoken of in the recording. The young man, Jeff, responded, “I’ve not been a very good person.” When prompted, Jeff seemed eager to pray. While he didn’t sell his car, he got something money couldn’t buy. Jeff repented for his sins and asked God for forgiveness. Confessing Jesus as Lord, He became a born-again believer that sunny afternoon in his front yard!]
The church in which I grew up while living at home had a door-to-door visitation program on Tuesdays, but it wasn’t my favorite day, to say the least. The only prayer I remembered praying was, “Lord, please don’t let anyone answer this door when I knock!” Have you ever been a part of visitation and prayed no one would answer the door?
The idea of witnessing came to me with three things: I know this is my duty as a Christian but:
I don’t remember any exciting stories from our visitation program, but I can see why. It is humiliating to think that instead of praying for the person we would encounter, even the adults were praying they wouldn’t be home. I sometimes wonder how God has ever had enough workers in the harvest to make any real difference when we use our prayer life only for self-focused reasons. It has been an exciting journey to learn how to share my faith, and this next verse motivated me.
“But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:33 NASB
I loved the Lord! Why was witnessing so hard? I will share with you some things I have learned along the way. There are two very different and opposite concepts of evangelism.
I attended a major conference where a Baptist pastor I admired was the morning speaker. He said, “Evangelism is sprinkling where you’ve planted. Just sprinkle the gospel on people.” He went on to say that the trouble with most people was their coming on like fire hydrants and blowing people away who didn’t want to be listening to them. He gave an unforgettable picture of this while dancing around the stage, demonstrating a water sprinkler. When a large green fern on the stage caught his attention, he ran to the fern, mimicking how the sprinkler worked with his hands. His act was getting funnier by the minute, but no one would ever forget his illustration. Although he was a very masculine man, this illustration reminded me of Tinker Bell in Peter Pan more than a preacher speaking on national television. But I never forgot his point. His stories of people he reached with the gospel were unique testimonies of his method’s effectiveness. He made a strong case for his approach to evangelism.
That same afternoon an evangelist, known for his bold life for Christ, got up to speak. He went right to his point, “If you are not out there knocking on doors every single day, you are out of the will of God. There’s a lost and dying world out there headed straight for hell.” He said that the world so badly needed the Lord, that nothing less than a fire hydrant with a fire hose turned on full blast would penetrate the crisis. He gave us no legitimate reason to waste time not evangelizing. His stories of people’s responses made us listen to his method seriously. Those who heard couldn’t help but admire his courage when we thought of our weak efforts.
Suddenly I had a problem with my notes in the successive sermons— “This is a major discrepancy. Are we to be a sprinkler or a fire hydrant?” But nothing could have painted the picture more clearly for me than hearing those two sermons back-to-back. One group applauded the pastor and his sprinkler system, and another applauded the evangelist and his fire hydrant. I’m sure at the moment, your personal evangelism concept leans one way or the other. Both the pastor and the evangelist had given conclusive, scriptural proof of why we were to be out there evangelizing.
The illustration of the sprinkler was that of a hot summer day when we were kids and put the sprinkler into a hose with a small stream of water coming out of it. On this hot day, you’re in your play clothes, dancing in the water, enjoying cooling off in that water sprinkler made for slowly watering your grass. It is slow and refreshing. This is called Relational Evangelism.
The second type is propositional evangelism—the fire hydrant. This is when a force of water needs to be applied to a dire situation and is often considered the best type of evangelism to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time. It is straight and to the point. It simply states the case: here it is, take it or leave it; Jesus Christ died for you. He wants you to accept Him – are you willing?” A person can either take Jesus or refuse the offer and walk away. This one is not slow and isn’t thought of as refreshing, but it is made for when the world is on fire and is not being reached. “Here’s the deal, I’m giving you the opportunity for a life change. It is a benefit for you, but if you don’t see it like that, it is your loss. This is called Propositional Evangelism.”
In and of themselves, both Relationship Evangelism and Propositional Evangelism have their pitfalls:
Relationship Evangelism – (the sprinkler system), in this method, because we are working among those with whom we have contact, we miss the opportunity to make contact with people who are open but have never had a chance to hear the gospel. Many are lost because it is a slow approach and many “Christians” never share their faith or disciple someone.
Propositional Evangelism – (fire hydrant system), this method sometimes turns a person off. At times, it can be offensive. It does not involve a “relationship”; therefore, there is no follow-up. Instead, after evangelistic crusades in Africa, there are horror stories that other religions come later, often turning the new believers to other religions in mass numbers.
I’m sure you can think of people who fit in one of these two categories. To which are you inclined? I believe there will be times we should be able to use either method under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Make it a priority to obey the Biblical mandates to go into the world and make disciples. It begins with prayer and is followed by action. Consider setting a simple goal and sticking with it.
We are told that John Wesley committed to God that he wouldn’t go to bed until he won at least one person to God every day. He was known to have crawled into bed after a long day on horseback only to remember his commitment, and he got back up and went out and won his one.
This concept was brought closer home to me through this next story:
We took a summer mission trip to the Philippines, and we added an extra extension to the trip to do evangelism in Australia for the students who had been to the Philippines multiple times. So right before we left on the trip, someone sent me a video clip. It was the very place we were going to be staying. This man had committed to sharing the Lord every day, and it wasn’t until the end of his life that he saw much fruit. So the timing was perfect for the goal we set, and the experiences we had on this trip are never to be forgotten.
Don’t skip over the opportunity to watch this inspiring video of even earth showing the rewards of obedience to the Lord. Amazing Testimony of Mr Genor The George street evangelist (Free tract info below) - YouTube
TAKE INVENTORY OF THOSE AROUND YOU
It all begins with your first one. Sometimes God sets a wide-open door of evangelistic opportunity in front of us, but we don’t see it. A man once came to Spurgeon and asked him how he could win others to Jesus.
Spurgeon asked him, “What are you? What do you do?”
The man said, “I’m an engine driver on a train.”
“Then,” said Spurgeon, “Is the man who shovels coal on your train a Christian?”
“I don’t know,” said the man. “Go back,” said Spurgeon, “and find out and start on him.”
What we don’t want to happen is for someone to say, “No one ever told me…” on judgment day, only to find that we had lived our life next to them and never shared the Lord. Someone who came very close to dying in a car wreck was incensed that their best friends had never—one time—shared Christ with them. Would your friends be angry with you because you have never shared your faith in Christ with them?
When I was in my teens, I became a volunteer at the Texas Youth Commission for incarcerated youth simply to learn how to share my faith. Eventually, I developed a Monday night program in college where I would train my college friends to go to dorms and disciple these youth before their hearts became hardened to the gospel. This was an area where we developed relationship evangelism and discipleship. I enjoyed interacting with these youth whom I usually would never have had a chance for an hour of their time. I think about those Bible studies with students who had committed serious violent crimes and how they poured their hearts out to me, often hearing the gospel for the first time. The program became so popular that the staff used it as a punitive method to motivate the students. One guy sailed a chair over our heads when he was removed from the lesson for infractions committed earlier in the week. He was screaming and begging and crying to hear the rest of my story. I always thought that chair was one of the biggest compliments I had for coming out to these guys week after week. Many of the staff told me they enjoyed the lessons and that I gave them the only church they ever had. And it all started with a desire to get the courage to “sprinkle” life-giving water on people who had never heard the gospel. So I learned a lesson that often, we are waiting for someone to invite us to do something when instead, we need to find unplowed ground and begin the work.
While I worked in a doctor’s office, I always enjoyed the assortment of patients. The bigger the character a person was, the more I enjoyed them. Or, at least, I enjoyed the challenge they presented! One guy stands out in my mind for several reasons. When I was getting his information on file, he said, “I am Satan!” This large guy was a hardened drug dealer who had made a lifestyle out of intimidating people. He would flash his roll of cash at me from his pocket. He would say—This is Lucifer speaking, and he pushed his upper torso across the counter and put his face into mine, his eyes with a crazed look.
Roaring at me, he would tell me what he was going to do to me. I burst out laughing and told him, “If I ever met a guy who needed Jesus, it is you.” And I took him into a private room and stayed with him the rest of the visit. Before he left the clinic that day, he was saved. He came back a couple of times over the next couple of weeks to give proof that his salvation was real. I think he found it as hard to believe as everyone else. He could tell changes in himself. One indicator was the children he had influenced to get their start on drugs were gathered up and taken to the carnival with money he had obtained in his previous life of crime. (I would get tickled at some of the things new Christians would do). He had started sharing the Lord. It suddenly stopped.
In a crossfire between two gangs, a bullet struck him in the heart. He was dead just a month after he had been yelling at me, trying to intimidate me. I knew God had sent him to me. It was a veiled cry for help. God will give us the boldness we need for this hurting world we live in if we want it.
On an airplane trip, I was nervous about witnessing to the man beside me. I felt a tug to speak to him, but I found the bold evangelism method difficult. So, silently, I prayed and asked the Lord what to do. I was surprised when the Lord gave me these instructions: “Just start talking, and I will bring Myself up!” True to His word, I just started with a friendly conversation, and the Lord did bring Himself up! That took all the pressure off me, and I just began to have fun. I don’t remember how the conversation shifted because it happened so naturally. It was easy from there to share the Lord!
Many times, we make it too formal. Pay attention to surprise things that happen because God often draws your attention to someone. When I moved back to my hometown after college, I was rear-ended while driving. Coming from a small town, we both jumped out in the traffic. The lady who hit me visibly panicked, but we became instant friends when I burst out laughing. I gave her a copy of my book and realized that God had protected us both. There was no damage to either car, but it was a doozy of a way for us to meet! Pay attention to your surprises during the day!
Blood On Your Hands
In our interviews for the Psalm 91 book, I talked to one person whose life was saved by seconds when he stepped into another room. He had never shared the Lord with a couple of ladies in the cubicle next to him. When a terrible disaster struck, his life propelled into fame, yet he was spared. However, it haunted him that one moment his colleagues were alive and then the next, they weren’t! He knew he had never shared the Lord with them even though he had been convicted and knew they went into eternity without ever knowing the Lord. Who are you doing life with regularly, yet you have never shared the Lord with them?
The concept of blood on our hands from Ezekiel 3:18 and Ezekiel 33:8 lays out a dire warning that we have a “partnership of consequences” in the lives of those we ignore and don’t warn. Have you won your first person to the Lord? To whom have you been putting off sharing your faith? To whom should you be?
Let the Holy Spirit lead you for which method to use for which person but do something! There is a world out there waiting to hear the gospel from you!
by Angelia Ruth (Peggy Joyce's Daughter)
Listen to Podcast
5/29/2022 09:05:46 pm
I had to laugh about knocking on the door and praying nobody would answer. I am guilty of that as well. In fact, I may have been in that same group with you. Anyway, it’s not so funny really huh? More like pathetic. I have been reading a book called Go and Tell and have started praying for divine appointments and have had some interesting experiences already. Jesus has been showing up and I just try to get out of His way. Anyway I have wanted some good witnessing tracts. Thanks for your inspiration as well as your devotion to spreading the gospel. We will look to Jesus to show up when we go now. That seems to be a better plan.
5/31/2022 08:36:48 am
Dear Bolder and Bolder Kelly,
Leave a Reply.