A few weeks ago I shared with you a burden for a friend Jamie (not his real name) who struggles greatly with an addiction to alcohol. You can read more about his needs by clicking here.
As I shared a few weeks ago, one of the saddest things about Jamie’s alcoholism is it’s enabled by other people. He is constantly doing work for people in the community (usually rum shop owners) and instead of money or food, they pay him with shots of rum.
There is a responsibility on Jamie’s part of course because he wants the rum more than food or money, this is why he does jobs for the rum shop owners! However it’s still incredibly sad to see him penniless and starving at the end of the day with no food at home.
The truth is Jamie just needs someone who can give him some guidance…..
This means I must meet both his spiritual, and physical needs.
And in most cases his physical needs should be met first!
This definitely doesn’t mean that Jamie’s lack of food is more important than his eternal soul. Obviously living with Christ for eternity is a far better than a full belly. Yet the most pressing need in his life that moment is taking away his hunger pains. And it’s as I meet his most important immediate need that his heart will be ready to hear the Gospel.
Often in ministry (and missions especially) relationships must be developed over time in order for evangelism and discipleship to take place. Giving someone a tract or a gospel witness can be done quickly, but the deeper one on one process of evangelism takes lots of time.
And few things build a bridge into someone’s life more than taking their own needs seriously
- By buying them medication
- Bringing a bag of essential foods (flour, sugar, rice)
- Making them a meal
- Checking in on them to see how things are doing
- And just being there when times are rough
To use an illustration, evangelism is often like planting a garden. It is possible to simply put a seed into the ground and get a crop. But in most cases growth takes things like watering, weeding, cutting back other plants that take it’s nutrients, and fertilizing the soil. In the same way “loving on people” encourages the soil that has already received the Gospel.
Honestly we probably feed the body and the soul at the same time. But and emphasis on feeding the body (meeting their own needs) creates an openness to Christ.
So over sandwiches, pork chops, hamburgers and hot dogs, or fried chicken I’ll explain the Gospel to Jamie. And as his physical hunger is met, he will realize it’s his soul that’s truly starving.