Unveiling Jesus: Evangelism through a New Lens
It’s an extraordinary plan: 100,000 hours of community service in 2013…all with the intent to minister Jesus with those who don’t know him. “I honestly believe that if you really experience Jesus, your life will never be the same,” says Derek Marshall. “Silence can kill. We need to be vocal about what Christ has done for us. And Jesus’ own ministry was meeting the needs of people and teaching, so we need to do that, too.” Marshall heads up evangelism at Victory Cathedral Worship Center, a 2,000+-member church in Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Less than a year ago, leadership at the church asked him to step into this position—one for which he felt ill-equipped. “I don’t necessarily profess the gift of evangelism,” Marshall says. “I’m more of an encourager and teacher. But I was given this responsibility and trusted that God would equip me for the task.”
A Life Transformed
Only God knew that Marshall would today hold this position. Several decades ago, Marshall was fleeing from the law and being sought after by the police, who considered him armed and dangerous. “I ran out of places to hide,” he sighs. “I was so tired. I asked, ‘What do you want me to do, Lord?’ It was instantaneous. Turn myself in.” Marshall did just that and “a burden was immediately lifted” from his life. His 15-year prison time was one of great freedom, during which Marshall not only came to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, but delved deeply into scripture and began teaching fellow inmates and staff about the forgiveness of Christ. Today, Marshall is a volunteer chaplain with the Illinois Department of Corrections and regularly ministers to those in the Danville Correctional Center, where he served time many years ago.
Marshall was released in 2004 and became the first person to benefit from Koinonia House National Ministries’ “Meet Me at the Gate” program, which pairs local congregations with recently released inmates to provide safe relationships and community. Through that program and God’s divine plan, Marshall also began working in Wheaton College’s Facilities Management department. That year, he also met his wife, Tracy, who he says is “the second best thing that happened to me since Christ.”
Fast forward seven years. Marshall, now an ordained minister, is called to head up evangelism at his 7-year-old church. “To date, we have been focused on doing church and our own congregation,” Marshall says. “Now we are looking outwards and asking what we can do for our community. We want to be contagious Christians.”
A New View of Evangelism
Having no idea how to teach a congregation to share the gospel, Marshall attended an evangelism training class led by Jerry Root, associate director of the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center. This training changed Marshall’s entire view of evangelism: “Jerry offered me a totally different perspective of evangelism. It’s not about taking Christ to people at all. It’s about unveiling Christ to people, because he’s already there. When Jerry presented it this way, a light went on. I realized I had experienced this personally! Christ had been with me my whole life, but I didn’t have the ability to see him.”
Marshall immediately knew this was the way he wanted his church to start evangelizing. “When you come presenting something that others already have, it disarms them—they aren’t on the offensive, thinking you are trying to just shove something on them. No, Jesus Christ is already there with them!”
Victory Cathedral’s senior pastor, Smokie Norful, had already planned on presenting to the church the theme of “giving yourself away” for 2013. Marshall is now planning and organizing evangelism classes which will be held throughout 2013 to help those in the church view evangelism in this new light of “revealing” Jesus to others, instead of “bringing” Jesus to others. “We don’t want to just serve and share Jesus—we want to do it well,” Marshall exclaims. “The Bible says, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ If people get a taste of Jesus, they will want more.”
Reflecting over the past year, Marshall has seen once again that God not only calls us to witness for him, but equips us as well. “I felt so frustrated and unqualified to head up evangelism in our church since I had never done it, but God brought Jerry, who brought a new way of thinking about evangelism. We can’t do this alone. We all need each other as we trust God to equip us for what he has called us to.”