Gospel Expectation—From the Czech Republic to Minneapolis
In the summer of 2007, I had the privilege of leading a group of high school students to co-host an English Camp with Josiah Venture in the Czech Republic. Our desire was to share the good news of Jesus with students in Czech. God had gone before us and blessed us immensely by partnering us with extraordinary servants and missionaries in Czech, Trevor and Cassie Long. Our hope was to create more opportunities for them and their church in Šumperk to connect with high school students throughout the year.
When the first day of English Camp arrived and the students pulled into the parking lot, one of the first people who stepped off of the bus was a 17-year-old by the name of Vašek Andrš. Like most students in Czech, Vašek was an atheist. Up to this point in his life, he had never met a Christian let alone talked about the gospel with one. It quickly became clear to me that he was not open to the idea that what the Bible has to say about Jesus was true. He would argue with us often and made sure we knew that he believed the gospel to be foolishness.
Vašek continued in relationship with Trevor and Cassie over the year and not only came back to English Camp the following summer but also visited our church in Minnesota. We had many more gospel conversations. He still appeared to be unmoved and maybe even seemed more grounded in his atheism than before.
As Vašek tells the story, though, later on that year, in an effort primarily to find inconsistencies and prove Christians wrong, he started reading a Bible that someone had given him. One night, all of a sudden, as Vasek was reading about the good news of Jesus directly from the pages of Scripture, he felt a peace come over him and found himself believing strongly that what he was reading was true. He read the Scriptures and was convinced that he desperately needed this good news of Jesus. His life was forever changed.
There’s a lot more to this story, involving many more people, obviously, but let’s just quickly fast-forward ten years. Since that point in Vašek’s life, he has not only been given a strong desire to share the gospel with his friends (and has seen some of his friends come to believe), but he has (along with the help of others) planted a church in his home town in the Czech Republic with a desire to reach non-believing people. He has become an important voice in my life as we seek to do the same thing here in Minneapolis. This past Sunday I had the joy of watching him preach in all three services at our parent church. I learn so much from him. And he has become another reminder to me of whose work we really depend upon in planting churches and sharing the gospel.
If someone had told me right after that first English Camp that one of those students would dedicate his life to church planting, preach at our church, and become someone to whom I would turn with questions about preaching, evangelism, and mission, I would have probably thought that Vašek was too grounded in unbelief to be that person. But that was actually my unbelief in what the Spirit of God does through the Word of God. It was sheer grace. And it’s a constant reminder to me that we need to hold strongly to this faith commitment that the Spirit of God does indeed work through the Word of God to proclaim the gospel for both salvation and sanctification.
As we proclaim the gospel in the Marcy Holmes neighborhood, Vašek’s story (and the story of many others) reminds me that we can and should have a gospel expectation when we share the good news of Jesus. It reminds me of this quote from the English Missionary Roland Allen:
“St. Paul expected his hearers to be moved. He so believed in his preaching that he knew it was ‘the power of God unto salvation.’ This expectation is a very real part of the presentation of the Gospel. It is a form of faith.”
Let’s continue to be reminded together that evangelism in Southeast Minneapolis, the Czech Republic, or anywhere else in the world is not rooted in our abilities to figure out what people want to hear but rather in a faith commitment that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is his work, ultimately. As a good friend of mine said recently, we’re just holding the sandpaper.