I’m preaching this Sunday at a church out in Bolingbrook, a suburb about 40 minutes west of Hyde Park. The church is doing a series called “Lessons from the Lesser Known,” about stories or characters in the Bible we don’t hear from as often. I’m preaching on Acts 8:25-40, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, another conversion story that directly precedes the famous Saul-to-Paul story. The latter story features Saul walking down a road, and Jesus speaks to him and basically tells him to do a 180 with his entire life. Well, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian is a bit more—shall we say—down to earth. It’s a story that we can relate to easily, one that seems similar to something that could happen in our own lives (well, except for 8:39-40). But the way the story is told in Acts, God’s action is no less central. The Spirit is the one leading the action. Philip simply listens and goes along with it. Philip even listens to his “convert” and baptizes him. In fact, there is no action Philip takes in the story that is his own initiative.
When I read the book of Acts, this is the kind of “evangelism” I see occurring throughout the book. There is nothing pushy, nothing forced. Only followers of the Spirit being open to where and when they might be sent, and answering questions along the way. They are the ones getting pushed around, witnessing to the love of Christ the entire time. How can we practice this kind of evangelism? I haven’t yet mastered the art of listening to the Spirit telling me where to go next, much less being teleported to another city. But maybe it starts with simply being open to having a conversation when the opportunity presents itself.