We used to do treasure hunts when I was a child. We’d draw maps, build bases, bury things, often forgetting where we’d buried them. Sometimes, only days later, we’d rediscover our treasures.
Discovering treasure is always exciting. I remember as a boy, reading Treasure Island, where the allure of pirate treasure is so great, that an otherwise sensible district squire buys a ship and set sail to discover it. In the school holidays, my parents took us to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, and I got to appreciate first hand, the allure of treasure, how it sparkles and entices.
As I got older I read in the Bible about a man who found treasure in a field (Matthew 13:44). He sold all he had to own the field where the treasure was. Under the UK’s Treasure Act, 1996, he would have been obliged to report his find to a coroner, who, if he determined it was treasure, would have required him to offer it for sale to a museum at a price set by an independent board of antiquities. Thankfully, in the Bible, there was no board of antiquities and no coroner; the man got to keep his treasure. This is especially wonderful because the treasure he had found was God Himself.
In the Christian world, Treasure Hunting is now a phrase associated with Spirit-led evangelism. We pray, see a picture of a man in a red sweater, or a lady in a green dress, then head off to the shopping mall to find them. If we find them, we tell them whatever God said and ask if we can pray for them. Treasure found!
While not the most effective form of evangelism, there are some benefits to this exercise. I’ll mention two.
1. Looking for Someone, You Notice Everyone
In our busy lives, there are hundreds of people each day we completely overlook. Colleagues in the tea room, neighbours putting bins out, checkout assistants, fellow shoppers, law enforcement, delivery drivers, people at the gym. There are so many invisible people in our lives. But when you stop to look for someone, you notice everyone. As you study each face to find the person God showed you, you notice every soul has a great need for God. This will stir compassion in us. Even Jesus, the God who is love, was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude (Mark 6:34).
2. Hearing God, We Have Faith to Go
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God. When you have a word from God for someone, it gives you boldness to step out and speaking up. Imagine the confidence boost it gave Ananias, going to evangelize Saul the Christian killer, knowing that God had specifically highlighted him during a moment of prayer. In the same way, we too can have boldness to share the gospel (Acts 9:10-).
Our Great Treasure
So, spirit-led evangelism can be a healthy exercise, but it might be helpful to reconsider the name popularly used for it: “Treasure Hunting”.
1. The Jars Are Not the Treasure
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
When the prophet Elisha met a widow in need, he asked, “What have you in the house?” She had a jar of oil, and so the prophet told her to gather empty jars from her neighbours. As the oil began to pour from the one jar into the many, there was enough oil to fill every jar she had gathered (2 Kings 4:1-7).
This is our role in evangelism. There are many who need to be filled with the life of God, His grace and His forgiveness. Like us, those we meet are clay jars that God wants to fill with His surpassing greatness. These empty jars are precious to God, so precious He gave His Son, but, these people are not the treasure.
2. The Gospel is Jesus
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
When we go, the good news we take is Jesus. The gospel is not only: “You are precious, you are special, you are worth searching for and saving”. The gospel is also: “You are filthy, wretched and an enemy of God, in His mercy, He reached out to save you”. There will be times where a conversation doesn’t immediately lead to salvation, but we must always be honest about the good news we bring.
If we evangelise only with vague encouragements and prayers of blessing, we run the risk of leaving sinners feeling good about themselves, but no closer to salvation. We need to talk about sin and separation from God. We need to talk about repentance and being reconciled to Him. Give them the whole gospel. Give Jesus.
3. To seek and to save
This is the ministry of reconciliation that God has given to us: to partner with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. As we take the gospel, led by the Holy Spirit, we can trust God that He will lead us to those who are ready to receive Him.
“Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3