Summary: Paul gives us three guidelines for effective evangelism.
Jim had a passion for God, a love for people, and a burden to communicate the gospel. But he wrestled with the question of how to bring the message of Christ into a setting that seemed so far from him. How could he help people see and embrace the truth when they had so little biblical understanding? The barriers seemed insurmountable. The task appeared virtually impossible.
Even with all the obstacles in front of him, Jim knew he had to try. God had given him a vision to make a difference in the lives of these men and women. So try he did! In fact, he went to great lengths to relate to their culture—lengths that would probably make you or me feel very uncomfortable. Following the example of the apostle Paul, he took bold risks to “become all things to all men….for the sake of the gospel.”
What kind of risks? For starters, he shaved his head right down to the skin—that is, except for the patch of hair he grew long. Not only that, he began wearing it in a pigtail and even dyed it a different color, all in an effort to fit in with the fashions of the people he wanted to reach! He also gave up his familiar business attire and began to dress like them. He even changed his eating patterns and started to dine in the style of the ones he cared so much about. Further, he worked hard to learn their vocabulary, in the hopes that he would be able to effectively convey biblical teachings in their everyday street language. He read their papers, studied their ideas, and went out of his way to discover and build on whatever areas of common ground he had with them.
Jim didn’t do this all from a distance. No, he actually moved into the neighborhood with these people. He lived close to them, became their friend, and spent extended periods of time talking with them, getting to know them, playing with their children—all of this in spite of their non-Christian lifestyles and, in almost every case, their outright rejection of his message.
What did other church leaders think of all of this? Did they celebrate Jim’s tenacious commitment to reaching these unsaved people? Did they rally around him and support his courageous efforts? Did they uphold him in prayer and find ways to encourage him and spur him on in his bold evangelistic pursuits?
Not even close!
On the contrary, they mostly misunderstood, misrepresented, and even openly maligned him. The very people who should have supported and helped him turned their backs on him and his ministry. In many ways he had to continue his efforts by himself, with the backing of just a few close friends who shared his vision.
Jim—or as he’s more widely known, James Hudson Taylor—is the man who more than a century ago gave up everything to build a ministry called China Inland Mission. More than anyone else, he is credited with turning so many in that nation to faith in Christ. And today he is regarded widely as one of the greatest pioneers of the modern missions movement (adapted from (Mark Mittelberg, Building a Contagious Church, pp. 32-33)