You're really not a true Aussie unless you have made real billy tea. Water in the billy on a campfire, throw in a handful of tea leaves and let it boil for a bit, then grab the billy's handle and swing it through 3600 to settle the tea leaves. Fill a mug, add sugar. There's your billy tea.
Now environmentally conscious bushwalkers use a fuel stove and probably don't have a billy with a handle to swing. Being health conscious, they probably don't use sugar. They probably also pollute it with UHT milk which completely spoils the taste. But what can you do – that's progress.
In terms of evangelism, there are other kinds of billy teas that are prone to pollution.
Os Guiness, a contemporary of Francis Shaeffer, impressed on me the idea that you are responsible for what you know. In other words, if you know that without faith in Jesus Christ a person will perish (John Chapter 3, verse 16), you have a responsibility to share that knowledge with them because you don't want them to perish.
Unfortunately, there are many polluting factors in the sharing. Overzealous evangelists can be rude, intrusive, judgemental and otherwise very unpleasant, all with the best of intentions. How many of us can put our hands up and admit to being guilty of some of this?
Thankfully, we can invite God's Holy Spirit to guide us in this. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians Chapter 4 verse 15), thereby sweetening our zeal.
This is where the next billy tea comes in:
One size does not fit all when you approach people about their need to be saved. Every single human being is different and needs to be approached differently. Just because one approach worked well doesn't mean that it will work every time for everyone.
The amazing Billy Graham Crusades of the 1950s and 1960s had incredible impact on lives all over the world. Many evangelists emulated the style of these crusades and also impacted many lives. This worked due to a combination of the work of the Holy Spirit and the culture of the communities which accepted such crusades. The simple preaching of God's word was enough to stir people to repentance.
Later, the gospel was preached with accompanying signs and wonders (as in Acts Chapter 5 verse 12). In current times, for example, evangelist Reinhard Bonnke in Africa regularly experiences signs and wonders in his meetings, again within a culture that readily accepts the supernatural.
"Preach the gospel – and if necessary, use words" is an injunction attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. This perhaps best illustrates the billy tea of adaptability. God can certainly reach people in huge meetings, but never discount your personal testimony and the way you live your life as having an impact among the people with whom you rub shoulders every day.
You cannot expect everyone to find what you are saying to be palatable. You may find disinterest, disdain or outright hostility to your sharing of what is crucially important to you.
Before your pride rises up in defence, realise that not everyone accepted Jesus either. His teaching on the kingdom of God was certainly not palatable to some religious groups of the day or even to the rich young man who was loathe to put his own interests aside in order to gain eternal life (see Matthew Chapter 19, verses 10 - 24).
If there is a negative response to what you say, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. A person may be acutely aware of their sin and distance from God, but they may resent your confirmation of that, however indirect (see 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 verse 18).
This variety is not in your cornucopia of gourmet teas, but is important nonetheless. Sometimes you just have to wait. And wait. And wait a bit more.
Waiting for the right time to speak out must be balanced with Paul's charge for us to be prepared to preach the word at every opportunity (see 2 Timothy Chapter 4 verse 2). When we do we must correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. This is easy to forget in our enthusiasm.
We may also need to wait for the fruit of our conversation to grow. It is gratifying to have a positive response immediately, but realistically, seeds need time and nurture to grow. You may not even be there to see the fruit.
This is a kindred variety to responsi-billy-tea.
Once we have told our story and a person has responded, we are accountable to make sure that person is embraced by a fellowship that will nurture them and see them grow. That's easy if they are our friend, but not so straightforward with street evangelism or other outreach.
The Billy Graham crusades had teams of people ready to talk to responders and direct them to a church. The Navigators have a commitment to befriending and mentoring a person while they grow in confidence and spiritual maturity. This is crucial for new life to flourish and can easily be polluted by our zeal, or by our indifference once we think we have done our job.
Aromatic Billy Tea
For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To one we are the smell of death, to the other, the fragrance of life (2 Corinthians Chapter 2 verses 15 and 16).
As the billy tea simmers on the fire, I leave you with a thought from Madeleine D'Engel: "We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."
Aira Chilcott B.Sc (Hons), M. Contemp Sci, Cert IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, Cert IV in Training and Evaluation, Grad Dip Ed., began her working life at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, investigating characteristics of cancer cells. Turning to teaching in the Christian school system provided opportunities to learn theology, more science, mission trips and explore the outdoors through bushwalking and other exploits. Now retired, Aira is a panelist for Young Writers and volunteers at a nature park. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html