Evangelism and Jumping Off the High Dive
Every summer, sprinklers, pools, ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers, and oceans are invaded by swarms of people looking to escape the heat. Water is wonderful! It offers a refreshing playground in which to frolic. Great memories are had around water including fishing, skiing, surfing, tubing and swimming. Many swimmers have feelings of fear and joy when it comes to remembering the high dive. It doesn’t matter if the high dive was the standard board 12 feet above the water, a rock outcropping, or a local bridge. The experiences all take the individual through a similar range of emotions. In reflection, it seems the Christian approach to evangelism travels a path also paralleling the high dive. In order to view the phases of evangelism in a different light, this article will attempt to demonstrate how evangelism and jumping off the high dive are similar. There are seven specific phases which will be discussed: Preparation, expectation, stepping out, the decision, taking the leap, response, and do it again.
Climbing the Ladder – Preparation
To dive, one must begin by climbing the ladder of the high dive. Others have done it. So it should be easy right? It’s just a matter of taking one step at a time. Each rung brings reassurance to the individual. Each bit of effort brings the goal of diving in the water closer. All along the way the diver envisions himself being successful.
All Christians should set a goal to evangelize. Matthew 28:18-20 gives the words of Jesus to the apostles. He tells them to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Those becoming disciples were expected to grow in the Word (I Peter 2:2). Thus, the gospel would grow by the preaching of man (I Corinthians 1:21). However, men then and now need to climb the rungs of study (2 Timothy 2:15). Before they begin to lead others, they need to know the path themselves (Ephesians 6:13-15, Psalm 119:105). When the rungs of the Word have been climbed, the Christian is prepared to evangelize.
All Eyes are Watching – Expectation
Once an individual has climbed the ladder of the high dive, climbed the hill to the cliff, or walked to the middle of the bridge, there is expectation. Everyone takes notice of the steps the individual has taken. Something is supposed to happen. A bit of uneasiness may enter the divers mind about their decision, are they ready? Still who would climb the high dive and not fulfill the purpose of the journey?
When a Christian has prepared himself in the Word, he is expected to share the Word (2 Timothy 2:24). He is supposed to encourage, exhort, and admonish from the preparation of the Word (I Thessalonians 5:14). If the expectation is not fulfilled, then doubt is cast upon the individual. He doubts himself and others may doubt his faithfulness. It is at this point, the urge to give up is very present in the individual’s mind. Yet, with the knowledge the Christian has studied to gain, how could he neglect such opportunity (Hebrews 2:3).
Stepping Out – Goodbye Comfort Zone
The diver now decides he will walk the board. He will step out away from the handrails. He will walk to the edge of the cliff. He will climb over the bridge railing. Sometimes, the biggest battle is just going to distance to the goal. Knees will shake, sweat will break out, but the feet keep moving and the diver is looking over the water. It seems counterintuitive to leave safety, but eagles can’t fly if they don’t leave the nest.
Many Christians face great fear leaving the confines of the Church building. How can they possibly go up to someone and share their faith? How can they walk down that long sidewalk to someone’s door? They may drive the block five times first. Yet, they do eventually take the walk (Psalm 23). Their brain is worried about what will happen and their mouth is dry, but God has their back (Romans 8:31).
Standing on the edge – The Decision
Standing on the edge of the diving board, toes curled and hanging on tightly, the diver has a big decision. Many a first time diver has stood there for what seems like an eternity. How many below have watched and chanted for them to jump… or chanted “Billy Bob is a Chicken”. This is the moment. This is decision time. Once you leave the board, you are committed. There is no turning back once your body commits to jump.
The Christian evangelizer has reached the door. Do they ring the bell? Do they knock? Do they just leave their flyers and run? Does the Christian trust his emotions or God (Hebrews 2:10-13)? Satan is hoping against the Christian. He wants the Christian to turn back. Yet, God has commanded. Will the Christian deny Christ (Matthew 10:33). Those who have chosen to suffer the life of a Christian are to commit themselves to God (I Peter 4:19).
Taking the Leap – Evangelism
Launching himself from the edge or closing his eyes and stepping forward or just merely falling forward, the diver makes his decision to do what he has come to do. Screaming on the way down is quite common. Frantic thoughts of “what on earth did I just do” are expected. At times like this, even the biggest of men will call for their “mommy”. The water is fast approaching and if the diver isn’t wet yet, he will be quite soon.
The Christian’s trembling finger touches the doorbell. It sounds like Big Ben echoing across the land. A dog begins to bark. The heart is pounding, because the decision has been made. The mind isn’t screaming “mommy”, but rather “Help me Father!” The line has been crossed to stand with God (Exodus 32:26, Joshua 24:15).
Hitting the Water – Response
Splash! Kawooosh! The water responds to the diver’s body. Sometimes, the sound is Slap! Belly floppers will not die, but they will holler. The folks who were rooting for the diver explode in hurrahs and cheers. Those who aren’t so friendly may discount the action as no big deal or laugh at the diver’s misfortune from a belly flop. Regardless of whether the dive was a perfect 10 or a 1, the diver overcame fear, inexperience, distance, criticism, and doubt to accomplish what they set out to do. A sense of accomplishment should be felt.
For the Christian who has knocked the door, responses can come in many forms. For the Christians who wish the best for the evangelist, pride and joy are felt. The recipient of the evangelist may respond in a number of ways. Typically, they respond kindly even if they are not interested. However, some recipients are rude. They slam doors, curse, or yell (Luke 6:22). Regardless of the recipient’s response, the evangelist should feel comfort and joy in their heart for showing their love for God (Philippians 4:4). They should know that God is pleased (Galatians 1:10).
Do it Again
The diver has taken the plunge. Yet, complete fear is not gone. Perhaps the fear is slightly higher because of a belly flop the first time. The best thing to do is to get out of the water and dive again. An afternoon of diving and diving and diving will build great confidence. The more practice taking the leap, the better the diver will be. However, the longer the wait, the more difficult the journey will be again. Much greater joy will come from diving and diving often.
The Christian has evangelized. If the first time was rough, the impulse is to never leave the Church building again. However, the wise action is to try, try again (Matthew 10:14). There will be easy moments and tough moments. However, the more an individual evangelizes the greater their comfort level will be. Their ability to handle scripture will grow. There example will aid others and save others (James 5:20). Failing to evangelize will grow further doubts about their own faith. Such actions may likely cause the Christian to enter a shell of inactivity, being neither warm nor cold, but lukewarm and displeasing to God (Revelation 3:16). The work must continue, for men should not be feared (Matthew 10:28) and God should be loved (John 14:15). There will be great joy at seeing Christian brothers and sisters in heaven (I Thessalonians 2:19).
As has been shown, there are a great number of parallels between the high dive and the Christian Evangelist. The Christian is directed to evangelize. Therefore, the faithful Christian will go through the seven steps mentioned: Preparation, expectation, leaving his comfort zone, making the decision to evangelize, evangelizing, encountering the response of evangelism, and then doing it again. There is great joy in knowing your actions are serving God. There is great comfort in knowing He is pleased. There is great relief knowing others will be saved through evangelism. Start today, do not delay.