Getting S T R E T C H E D


By Jen Bradbury

Marcus was the only high school senior on our recent mission trip. An introverted student with a sense of humor, Marcus seldom spoke in our discussions. So when I saw “door-to-door evangelism” on mission trip our schedule, I feared it might break Marcus.

I also worried it might break our adult leaders.

You see, we’re Lutheran. As Lutherans, door-to-door evangelism is not one of our regular spiritual practices, nor really, is any form of evangelism.

I knew door-to-door evangelism would make our team uncomfortable. Yet, I also believe evangelism is an important part of discipleship. In fact, my research for The Jesus Gap on the Christology of high school teens showed that students who talk about their faith (like you do when you’re evangelizing) have a better understanding of Jesus than students who don’t.

Knowing this, when I was planning for our trip and our local contact asked if we’d be comfortable with door-to-door evangelism, I said, “Comfortable? Definitely not. But we’ll do it.” I hoped the experience would stretch my team out of their comfort zone and force them to articulate their beliefs about Jesus.

So, as part of our trip preparation, my team wrote out their faith stories and practiced sharing them with one another. Then they brought copies of their testimony with them on our mission trip.

When it came time to evangelize, students grabbed their faith testimonies. With fear and trembling, they set off into the community in small groups that were so small no one could hide.

They hesitantly banged on doors, introduced themselves to people, and shared their faith stories. In some cases, they answered questions and offered to pray with people.

As groups returned, I sat there, nervous to hear about their experiences.

That’s when Marcus walked in, ON FIRE.

It turns out, introverted Marcus LOVED door-to-door evangelism.

Not only did he LOVE it, but he talked during it, openly sharing his faith with the people he met, something he’d never done during the four years he spent actively involved in our youth ministry.

Door-to-door evangelism forced Marcus to speak. In the process, he discovered he actually LIKED talking to people about his faith and that he was pretty good at it. People responded to his testimony. That night, Marcus shared more during our team’s discussion than I’d ever heard him share.

As Marcus talked, he spoke his faith into being. He not only learned about his gifts, but he also learned about his God.

This is, I think, one of the reasons why mission trips are so formative.

They stretch us WAY out of our comfort zones.

They expose us to people and practices WAY outside our faith traditions.

Because they do, they force us to depend on God in new ways.

That dependency leads to real life encounters with God that change people, just as they did Marcus.