When Unorthodox Meets God’s Plan

April 14, 2012

by Maria Fontaine

Breaking with the norm of what is expected can be seen as unconventional and eccentric, and yet those unorthodox people and methods can have a powerful, life-changing impact for good—especially in the realm of witnessing. The out-of-the-ordinary things that the Lord leads people to do can attract attention and can motivate others to do something that breaks with their own habits and norms, launching them into something better.

I love it when people are unafraid to follow God’s leadings, even when He’s showing them to do something a bit different, because they consider the results to be more than worth any sacrifices! It’s wonderful to see and hear about individuals who do what the Spirit leads them to do, in order to help someone to understand the Lord’s love. It’s inspiring to see the lengths that some people will go to in order to save someone’s soul, to convince them of the veracity of their faith.

Sometimes the key may be for people to see you just like one of them, yet with that extra “something.” At other times, an unconventional or bold move on the part of a witness can be just what someone needs in order to break their mold and help them dare to believe.

While I was pondering these thoughts, I ran across a couple of personal experiences from Tony Campolo that show how different methods of witnessing that can seem a bit too “out there” can, in fact, be effective in their own unique way in winning souls to Jesus.

Witnessing is all about being willing to do what Jesus asks us to do and to rejoice for all the ways He designs His love to be manifested to meet each need—whether it’s the out of the box and unorthodox, or the traditional and accepted, or anything in between. The methods we use will be blessed by Him if it’s done with a whole heart and if it’s what He has shown us to do in a particular situation, and is in line with His Word and its values.

Tony’s personal accounts made me think. Maybe they will do the same for you. Here’s what he shared:

As my wife and I strolled along Waikiki Beach in Honolulu we came upon a very strange-looking man standing with a Bible in one hand and waving his finger at every passerby with the other. He was barefoot and wearing a T-shirt and tattered trousers. To everyone who passed he pronounced the judgment of God on those who would not accept Christ.

As we passed him I said to my wife, ‘It's guys like that who are an embarrassment to the kingdom of God. People look at weirdos like that and get turned off to the gospel. Guys like that leave me a bit disgusted.'

An hour or so later we were heading back to catch the bus to the airport, and we came upon this same man. To my surprise, there were two very normal-looking, properly dressed men standing with him. He had his arms around their shoulders, and as I passed I could hear that they were saying a prayer, surrendering their lives to Christ. My wife looked at me and simply asked, ‘Well? How many people did you lead to Jesus today?’[1]

Tony tells of another experience he had, sitting at a table with a group of sophisticated intellectuals, who, as their conversation progressed, began to make fun of evangelical Christianity. At one particular point, he had had enough and decided that he had to speak out in defense of evangelicals. He said:

You guys have got the wrong idea! You judge evangelicals on the basis of some stupid displays of zeal. For instance, at every Super Bowl game there’s some crazy guy in the stands who holds up a big sign citing some Bible verse. He expects that somebody will look up that verse, fall under conviction, and be saved. You think that’s what we’re all like, and you judge us by that kind of stupidity.

When he had finished his rabid declaration, one of the men at the table took the pipe he was smoking out of his mouth, set it down, and said:

Interesting you should mention that. Three years ago I was watching the Super Bowl. It was just before halftime when the Cowboys kicked an extra point. Behind the goal post was that man that you were talking about. He held up a sign that read ‘John 1:12.’ I didn’t have anything else to do during halftime, so I reached up on the bookshelf of the den, pulled off my old Bible, and opened it to John 1:12, just out of curiosity. When I opened it, there were some old notes from a Bible talk I had heard at summer camp many, many years ago when I was a teenager. I read over those notes and remembered what I had forgotten and forsaken. I got down on my knees, there and then, and gave my life back to Jesus.

Tony concluded:

What could I say? My ridiculing of that 'crazy' man’s witnessing had received appropriate condemnation.[2]

This was a good reminder to me of staying open to the possibility that the Lord may ask us to say or do things that may seem odd to others or may be criticized by others, because He knows it’s what is needed for the sake of someone He is reaching out to. Or, on the flip side, He may ask someone else to do something a bit different, which we may be tempted to criticize.

Most of us have experienced how God can show us to do things in ways that seem to run contrary to the usual or the expected, and we’ve seen the benefits for ourselves and others when we’ve obeyed. If we don’t do what He shows, we may miss opportunities to bring people to Him, leaving their lives handicapped by our failure to give them what they need to become one of His followers.

So let’s not despise the unconventional or unusual or out-of-the-ordinary methods of witnessing if that’s what Jesus shows someone to do. Our part is to be open, to be willing to do what He asks of us.

My prayer is that as we become more relatable and professional we won’t lose two of the beautiful qualities that have brought us thus far. They are what we’ll always need in order to stay in step with what the Holy Spirit is doing through us: the humility to look to Jesus and His Word for direction, and willingness to do what He asks us to do, any time, any place.

I’m encouraged when I hear about innovative ways that people are finding to build their connections with others and influence their lives for good, wherever they are. I pray that we will embrace the things that the Lord may ask us to do, even when they don’t seem to fit in with what we might expect.

Relating to people on their level, while still being open to what the Lord shows us to do, can be a difficult balance to maintain. We have to relate to others in as many ways as we can without allowing what people think of us to overrule the voice of the Holy Spirit and His Word in our lives. The key is in being fully connected and yielded to what Jesus asks us to do in the way He wants us to do it.

[1] From Let Me Tell You A Story, by Tony Campolo.

[2] From Let Me Tell You A Story, by Tony Campolo.