Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Muscle and a Shovel: An Evangelism Review

There is a book that many Christians I know are talking about.   Muscle and a Shovel is one man's true story of conversion to Christ through the efforts of his coworker.  It's written almost as a diary in the past tense, kind of a cross between a biography and a novel.  Michael Shank, the author, was blessed enough to work with a man he calls Randall at a time when he needed to understand that studying the Bible is not the work of a few minutes reading or listening to a preacher, but a job that requires muscle and a shovel to dig out the truth.  Not only are a lot of evangelistic Scriptures presented in one place, but the story is engaging.   I've read of many people giving this book to their friends as a form of evangelism, and I can't say that's wrong.  In fact, the Facebook page for the book states that there have been 7000 baptisms related to the story.  But I wonder if the better tool would be to take a close look a the character of Randall and use what we can learn from him to tell others about the gospel in a more personal way.

First of all, Randall was kind all the time.  When "Mr. Mike" came prepared for a fight over the Bible, Randall disarmed him with love and humility.  One of my favorite parts of the story happens early on.  Mike backs Randall into a corner and demand that he answer one question: "Am I going to hell?"  Randall tries to tell him that God is the only judge, and make it quite clear it was not a question he wanted to answer, but Mike didn't let up.  Finally, Randall gives him the answer Mike was afraid of, and Mike yells at Randall, insults him, and leaves.  If I had been Randall, that would have been it.  I would have let Mike go and assumed he just wasn't ready to hear the truth.  Not Randall.  The next week, Randall apologized to Mike and asked for his forgiveness.  Their relationship was saved, and Randall was able to continue studying the Bible with Mike.

Randall showed his kindness in many ways, from bringing doughnuts to diffusing fights to using kind words like "my friend" with a sincere smile.  I could take a leaf out of his book.  Instead of beating someone over the head with  my Bible knowledge, I could try a smile and a kind word to start out with.  When someone disagrees with me, I can refuse to "fight back" and use the Bible only to make my case.  In short, I can be the kind of person that others want to listen to.

Randall may not have used his Biblical knowledge like a club, but that isn't to say that he didn't have it.   Not only did Randall have a staggering amount of Scripture memorized, he also knew the context of the Bible verses.  When Mr. Mike had a question, Randall could point him right to the correct Scripture to answer that question. When Mike misunderstood a Scripture, Randall was able to point out kindly his mistake.  It was obvious to me that Randall was a serious student of the Bible.  Far from being a seminary student, he worked in the shipping and receiving department of the company they both worked for.  Bible knowledge was just important to him, so he made it a priority in his life.

Now, I'm not saying that we have to have extensive knowledge of the Bible before we can begin talking to our friends about Jesus.  If we know enough to be saved ourselves, we know enough to tell someone else how to be saved.  But I guarantee people will have questions for us, and while saying "Let me get back to you on that" is perfectly fine to start with, we should make it our goal to have the answers ready at hand the next time someone asks us the same question.  I can do that.  I can begin studying the Bible and memorizing Scripture to prepare myself even further to share the gospel with others.  I can even use resources like Muscle and a Shovel to compile a list of Scriptures to start studying and memorizing.  In the end, that will be more helpful to me and to my friends than handing them a tract or even a book.

While I'm not saying it's wrong to give your friend a copy of Muscle and a Shovel, or any other Christian book for that matter, I am saying that letting Randall's form of evangelism inform our own may be a much better way to utilize this excellent resource.  Endeavor to be knowledgeable, kind, confident, and loving, and see where Jesus can take you in your quest to share the gospel.  


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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