A professional evangelist comes to town, puts on an expensive show and leaves. A church experiences a flash of excitement, a big bill and very little growth. The best evangelists are not the professionals but the most unlikely people, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:29). Was she of doubtful reputation or poor and had been widowed many times? We don’t know exactly and we cannot judge, but there seems to be some question about the man she was currently living with. Was she a caregiver or living in a dubious relationship? For sure she seems to have been a loner, who fetched her water at a time when the crowds were not there. The best evangelists can be new people and even those from the fringes, but always those who have had an encounter with Jesus.
I’m not interested in church growth gimmicks. They are boring and trite. I have tried many of them and found them to often be ways to keep churches busy but without much fruit. But I am big on ideas from the Bible and in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well is an idea on church growth that succeeded wildly. The disciples were away buying food and Jesus shared the Gospel with one solitary woman (John 4:29). Sometimes just that one encounter makes all the difference. She then prepared the way for the Gospel by telling her whole village. One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest. In this case she sowed, and Jesus encouraged his disciples to reap the harvest. We may not need more church growth gimmicks, but we do need more Samaritan women.
After her encounter with Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:42) went on to become a famous evangelist. According to tradition, she was baptized by the apostles with the name Photina. She is also known variously as Saint Photina or Saint Svetlana. Some call her the church’s first evangelist. She and her five sisters along with her two sons were also baptized and became a family of evangelists. After Peter and Paul were martyred, she and her family moved to Carthage to preach the Gospel. She and her son Joses are reputed to have fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Photina’s elder son Victor had become a military commander and was taken to Rome to betray Christians. Instead his witness converted his jailer and his servants and along with his family he eventually died a martyr in 66.