About eight years ago, a former President of the Southern Baptist Convention and celebrated author of FAITH Evangelism, Dr. Bobby Welch visited Nigeria. In his team were Rev. Tim Mann, Senior Pastor of Providence Baptist Church Ormond Beach, Florida and Rev. Eric Stitts of Bayside Baptist Church Chattanooga.
Introducing the team and their mission to Nigeria, Welch simply stated (being the leader of the group) that his assignment was simple: He was to serve as a “connector” – To connect the Nigerian Baptist Churches to Southern Baptist Convention family in the United States for partnering together for kingdom growth. Although the partnership was for few years, the relationship built continues till date.
Each day comes with opportunities to connect with different kinds of people from different walks of life, anywhere, and at any time. Sometimes, these connections come unsolicited for as God’s divine appointments. And at times, they are intentionally sought for, to create an avenue for positive and maximum impact. This article is about the “Connection” that brings people to God. In a nutshell, I am writing about connecting with people for discipleship. I will limit my examples to four; two from the Bible and two from contemporary times.
Andrew connected his brother to Jesus
The passage in John 1: 40-45 narrates how Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter. He told him, “We have found the Messiah” and brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter).”
As a Christian, you are a “connector,” to introduce people to Jesus. What Jesus does with them is none of your business. One thing is sure; Jesus will not trash as useless anyone that comes to him. He values each life surrendered to Him preciously. He knows the person’s capability and potentials. When Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, he was ordinarily Simon. Andrew did not know the worth of his brother. He did not know how useful Peter would be to the growth of the Church and the spread of Christianity. Jesus spoke prophetically about him. He called him “rock” — a prediction that was fulfilled later in his lifetime.
Peter eventually became the prominent leader of the New Testament Church. He became the first leader of the church who preached to over 3,000 people on the day of Pentecost with many conversions. He was one of those God inspired to write the Bible. He wrote two books of the New Testament. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting people to Jesus.
Barnabas and Paul
Barnabas stepped into Saul’s life at a difficult time. Saul was converted after an encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:1-22). After his conversion to Christianity, there was an attempt to kill him in Damascus. He escaped and went to Jerusalem. He tried repeatedly to associate with the disciples but every effort to build relationship with them failed. The text says, “. . . they were afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). His Pharisee friends saw him as a betrayal and wanted to kill him. Worst still, his new-found friends (the Christians) did not believe him. They thought he was faking his conversion. They felt he was setting a trap to get his earlier plan of exterminating them accomplished.
The dejected and frustrated Paul needed a trusted friend to introduce him to the disciples. Barnabas, the encourager, filled the gap and made the connection possible. The Bible says, “But, Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him. . .” (Acts 9:27). By this act of connection, Barnabas made him acceptable to the apostles. Barnabas did not end his connecting role abruptly, he continued to encourage Paul. When the Gentiles received Christ in Antioch, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to follow up with the new believers and to “disciple” them. After some time, Barnabas “went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they met with the church and taught many people. And it was in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:25-26).
At this point, it is good to note, Barnabas did not only connect Paul to the Gentile ministry which became his passion, he also served as an agent to bring to pass God’s prophetic declaration that Paul would be an apostle to the Gentiles, the reason why God intersected his life. As they jointly labored, the ministry did not only grow in numbers but also in depth. Lives were transformed. The result of Barnabas introducing Paul to the apostles is numerous. Paul’s missionary journeys impacted the church then and now positively. Paul wrote 13 books of the 26 New Testament books. Paul’s theology is the foundation for doing theology today. No wonder, he said,
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15: 9-10).
Albert McMakin and Billy Graham
Many times, connecting people to Christ is a chain of event. Before Andrew connected his brother to Jesus, he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Even today, the gospel moves like passing on a relay baton from one person to the other, and on and on. Likewise, before Billy Graham believed the Gospel, it moved from one person to the other.
It all started with Edward Kimball, a Sunday School teacher, who took it upon himself to pray for hyper boys in his class. “Kimball sought to win each one to the Lord personally.” He confronted D.L. Moody with the gospel and he accepted Christ. Wilbur Chapman was converted at a Dwight L. Moody’s evangelistic meeting; Also, Billy Sunday, a professional ball player was converted at a Chapman’s meeting; Mordecai Ham was converted at Billy Sunday’s meeting and finally, Billy Graham was converted at a Ham meeting.
As of 2008, “Billy Graham’s estimated life audience, including radio and television broadcast, topped 2.2 billion. Billy Graham has shared the gospel with more people than anyone else in history.” How did it start? It all started with a friend, Albert McMakin who persuaded Billy Graham to go for the revival services. Albert knew Billy would go if he allowed him to drive his vegetable truck. The truck key was handed over to Billy and in one of the days, Billy gave his life to Christ. You can be another Albert McMakin today if you will connect a friend to Jesus.
On March 26, 1946, a child was born in Madras in India. One day, his sisters invited him to Youth For Christ (YFC) rally because they promised him there would be food. Sam Wolgemuth was the preacher. When the invitation was given, the only person that responded was this young man. Later, he did not perform well in the school and attempted suicide. While he was in the hospital, YFC’s Fred David visited him, read scripture to him and left a copy of the Bible with him. When this 17-year-old young man was leaving the hospital, he left as a transformed man.
The young man is Ravi Zacharias, the founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He is a Christian apologetic and author of several books. He was a speaker at Amsterdam ‘83. He has represented the evangelical community at occasions such as the National Day of Prayer in Washington DC, the Annual Prayer Breakfast at the United Nations and the African Union Prayer Breakfast in Maputo, Mozambique and much more.
When Fred David was about to die, he and Ravi talked. David said; if the purpose of his coming to the world was to give Ravi the Bible he gave him fifty years ago, it was worth it. Because a Bible was given to a young man, his life history changed and he has affected thousands of lives. You can also be a connector, a life changer.