This past Saturday several of us went to Tyler for a workshop led by Dr. George Hunter, professor of evangelism at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky. Since weâ€™re in the people business â€“ attracting people to Jesus and helping them become his devoted followers â€“ we thought this would be helpful. It was. His first session took us to the book of Ruth, an important conversion story in the Old Testament. In that book we see Ruth, a woman from Moab, attach herself to the people of Israel and claim their God as her own. Dr. Hunter identified ten factors that influenced Ruth in her action. Iâ€™ll share the first three in this piece and save the rest for the next newsletter.
First, Ruthâ€™s action took place as a process over time. Ruth didnâ€™t just meet Naomi and instantly decided that, â€œYour people will be my people and your God my God.â€ Naomi was her mother in law. Sheâ€™d been part of the family system for a few years. In the same way, when we seek to influence people toward Jesus, we must remember that it is a process. Although I was raised in church, when I look back at my life and how I became a follower of Jesus, I see not just a significant moment, but a period of time (in my case the events of approximately 2 years were most significant).
Hunterâ€™s second point is closely related. Ruthâ€™s conversion resulted from many experiences. Just like people today, Ruth was influenced by the direct action of God, answered prayer, discerning the truth of the scriptures, friendships with believers, and a host of other events. There is no one thing that tends to bring people to Jesus â€“ but many things working together.
Third, as you already know, the change happens through relationships. Just as Ruth experienced the grace of God through mother in law Naomi and family, people today experience God through us. Our actions are tremendously important. Since weâ€™re in the people business, we must work to ensure that our relationships are modeled on the character of Jesus â€“ full of grace, love and kindness.