His sunglasses and suntan blended easily with the sea of Arizona undergraduates pouring in through the classroom doors… except I could see less than usual of the suntan. It was hidden underneath a T-shirt that casually informed me that sorority girls were whores.
You had to get up close to see the small word “most” inserted at the beginning of the statement, but I was destined to get up close. Within the week, the student had become one of the regulars (sadly, the only regular) around my office, tirelessly working through his astronomy homework both in and out of office hours.
His sign frequently came with him. He would knock quietly on the door, prop the sign on my officemate Sarah’s chair, throw his backpack and $3000-worth of film gear onto our couch, and get to work on the latest assignment. All the while, the sign would confront Sarah’s black computer screen with its dogged insistence: “YOU DESERVE HELL.”
The murmurs that skittered through our classroom when that sign marched to the front row drew the attention of the professor, who marveled to his TAs with raised eyebrows, then asked the student to leave the distraction at the back of the room during class. He was happy to comply, quick to please, courteous to authority… and a complete mystery to me.
The second office visit, I nodded at the sign as it was propped up. “You have a very different style of evangelism than I do.”
His answer surprised me, and made me think. He claimed that his style of evangelism could reach some souls that were inaccessible to me, with my everyday build-trust-in-long-term-relationships evangelism. He’s right—his signs make most of the people I’m trying to reach roll their eyes and run the other way.
Those signs are indeed drawing a crowd around him, but it’s a crowd of combatants instead of comrades, and the battle is only skin deep. Neither side will ever yield an inch of ground; it’s a shouting match with everyone’s fists jammed tightly over their ears. Neither side will ever yield, because neither side really cares for the other.
His is the sort of evangelism that costs little and gives little. It costs pennies to find Sharpies and posterboard and a sensational message. It takes seconds to scrawl the single most important truth in our world across the face of a president on a bill—and I might agree with some who say that the ratio of importance of message to time spent is high enough to warrant the scribbling. But just as it cost you nothing at all to send the message, it costs the recipients nothing at all to ignore it.
True evangelism costs everything, both to share and to ignore. It will take everything you have to speak up to your friend about the hope that you have in Christ, even when that friend has asked why you’re different and is waiting for an answer. It will take more than what you have, which is why you’ve been given Help.
We’re given help because the task of healing this world wasn’t our idea, isn’t within our ability, and doesn’t depend on us. Jesus told us to go and make disciples because it’s What He Would Do, and we are enabled by his Spirit to be his hands and feet in this world. Rejection of his message hurts him as much as it hurts us, but we’ve got to love the hearers enough to give evangelism everything we’ve got.
Melissa (Haegert) Dykhuis (’10) lives in Lafayette, Colorado, with her husband Nathan, cat Sophie, and sons Matthew and Jonathan. She graduated from Calvin with a physics degree and then got a PhD in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 2015. After years of science, she’s ready for science fiction again and is currently writing and editing young adult sci-fi novels.