The Making of a Messenger

Book Review of The Messenger, the Message, the Community, by Roland Muller
Part 1 of 3, THE MESSENGER

Arriving as a young missionary in the Middle East in the 1970’s, Roland Muller was wondering, “How do I go about this?” No one among the missionary church planters seemed to have an answer. Around 15 years later, Muller’s search began in earnest when he was asked to begin an apprenticeship program for a large group of new missionaries.

The object of Muller’s search? Successful church-planters. Muller sought evangelists who met all of the following criteria:
1. They had a number of successes, not just one or two converts here and there.
2. They had experience integrating new converts into church fellowships.
3. They demonstrated long-term results, rather than quick conversions that didn’t last.

From the few men and women on the resulting list, Muller learned many principles that any of us can incorporate in our evangelism efforts. Though the book is written for the cross-cultural worker, these principles can encourage and guide anyone who wants to share the Gospel effectively with others.

Following are a few brief points from Part 1, “The Messenger.”

Gain an acceptance. You need to build credibility with the people if you are to be an effective messenger to them. Especially in cross-cultural settings, you begin as a newcomer and an outsider. Muller expands on several points:
-Know who you are and your role in society.
-Build bridges into the lives of others.
-Work at becoming an insider.
-Allow others to see godliness in your life.

Muller stresses that language learning and cultural adaptation are not enough. You must build credibility.

Prepare appropriate tools. While the Holy Spirit’s work is paramount, and prayer is our first priority, our work can be more effective if we know how to apply the right tools. These may include prepared lessons, or lists of questions. From successful evangelists and church planters, Muller has gathered various tools at his website, rmuller.com.

Become a person they will seek out. Muller tells how after just a few minutes of conversation with Harry Young, a group of young men showed up the next day asking for Mr. Young to teach them the Bible. Muller himself had known these young men for over a year, and seldom had conversations with them about spiritual things. What was it about Harry and other successful evangelists?

“It’s the Cross,” one of them told him. These men and women had all know what it is to experience death to self. Many of them went through severe crises as part of their learning to yield to God.

Muller recognized that, in addition, these people saturated themselves with the Word of God. They loved it, read it, studied it, and knew it. This too was part of their secret.

Know your agenda. These successful evangelists didn’t do friendship evangelism, and neither were they confrontational in their approach. They consistently used an approach Muller refers to as “teacher-based evangelism.” By knowing their agenda and consistently promoting truth, bit by bit, following up one nugget with another, they were recognized as more than just a friend, but a teacher. In this way, they avoided being drawn into discussing the other person’s agenda—which was usually to convince them of the legitimacy of Islam.

Muller presents a continuum of approaches to evangelism and suggests that the middle is optimum:
Lifestyle — Friendship — Teacher-based — Proclamation — Confrontation

Gauge their interest. “Whenever these evangelists met someone, they began to assess his or her spiritual development, and target their ministry accordingly. Their aim was. . .to move him or her along from one stage to the next.” They would not invest large amounts of time and energy in someone who was not interested. But once a person began to show some interest, they were willing to invest more. Their goal was to move such a person onward toward conversion and discipleship.

Salt your conversation. Like Jesus, these evangelists used any conversation as an opportunity to teach truth and generate interest in it. Muller makes two important suggestions:
-Learn to insert proverbs and wise sayings into your conversation, to illustrate truth in a gentle way.
-Learn to use parables that point to a truth without actually stating it, and leave the listener(s) pondering the meaning.

Wherever we are, you and I are called to be messengers of the Gospel. Each one of us can grow in effectiveness. For myself, I have found this first section of the book helpful toward that end.

Read Part 2 >>

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10