Evangelising with the Lord’s Strength

Max Jeganathan delves deeper into his spiritual mentors, how he stays focused amidst the busyness and shares practical advice for younger believers.

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Evangelising with the Lord’s Strength

As the Asia-Pacific Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Max Jeganathan, of all people, could think that he has everything together, especially in the arena of apologetics-driven evangelism. But his experiences throughout the years have built in him a strong understanding of the Lord’s faithfulness, and how it is Him that gives both meaning and effect to human effort.

It’s Always the Holy Spirit Working

One story that Max loves to share showing God’s faithfulness amidst his own weakness is one that he calls ‘Crispy Chip Evangelism.’

“It was the end of a mission trip at a university in the UK. I was leading a small team of speakers that had partnered with a the Christian student group at this particular university for a week of evangelism which included specific events, follow up conversations with students on campus or in the pub, wherever they were comfortable to meet us. We had reached the final day and I’d just given a talk on the topic, ‘Why Does God Care Whom I Sleep With’.

Once it was finished, I was hoping to get some burgers and fries at the cafe nearby. But one of the students approached me and said, “There’s this guy who missed the talk, would you be able to spend five minutes with him?”

By this point, I was so exhausted, but just agreed to spend five minutes with him. When we do these talks, we normally give out response cards at each event, with two options they can pick from: ‘Count Me In’, or ‘Tell Me More’. ‘Count Me In’ means they’ve given their lives to Jesus, and ‘Tell Me More’ indicates they are undecided and want to hear more.

I was so tired, so my marker of success for the conversation was to engage him well enough to get his contact details so I could connect him with someone else to follow up with him afterwards.

As I sat down with him, the waitress brought my burger out, and I saw it sitting behind him. I knew that sometimes these conversations can take hours, so I wrote off the possibility that I was going to be eating any time soon.

I started by asking if he had ever heard the gospel, and when he responded ‘no’, I continued, “Would you mind if I explained it to you?” and went straight to Romans 3 and John 3.

I asked him, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and he goes, “No, no questions.” I was kind of confused at this point, I mean, all my training assumed that he would have questions. I pressed on, “Is there anything stopping you from giving your life to Jesus right now?” He says “No, nothing’s stopping me?.” “Would you like to give your life to Jesus right now?” “Yes.” So we prayed together and he prayed himself into the kingdom. I connected him to one of the Christian students from the university who would pick him up and bring him to church on Sunday.

I was astounded and gave him a hug. At the end of it all, I went and sat down to my burger. And to my surprise, my chips were still piping hot! I mean, he came to Christ so quickly that the chips were still crispy!”

Why was this experience so significant?

“I thought I had all these skills,” he admits. “But that was a good reminder that it’s always the Holy Spirit working in people.”

Evangelism is a Gift, Not a Project

This, and other similar experiences, helps keep Max focused on Jesus. He believes that single-hearted devotion to our Lord is a non-negotiable, especially when working for a ministry like RZIM.

“For me, what has helped me is understanding the need for two things: a heart focused on Jesus and a mind focused on excellence,” he says. “The world today is demanding that of people. We need hearts that model Christ, intellectual credibility, engaging communication and academic excellence; and we have to be ready for all the attacks that are coming.”

Does that mean a person needs to be all scholarly and serious? Thankfully not.

“You also need a healthy sense of humour,” he hastens to add. “These things are pretty key. If we take ourselves too seriously, we won’t make it. God has reminded me that evangelism is not our project. He calls us as a gift, it’s actually our gifted privilege to do this. His kingdom is just fine without us. But we are called as His followers to share Him with those who don’t know him yet.”

Max speaking in Kasterlee, Belgium, 2016

How does a sense of humour factor in for someone who travels around the world on speaking engagements?

“Imagine this: when you miss a flight or the food on the plane is terrible, or when you walk out the door with the wrong shoes on because you’re in a hurry to catch your plane,” he describes. “Or worst yet, you cut yourself shaving in an airplane, because as soon as you get off your flight you’re heading straight to a talk, but now your shirt collar is covered with blood. What do you do? You need to learn to laugh. This is critical, especially for itinerant speakers and evangelists.”

Staying Focused in the Midst of Busyness is Key

So how does someone with a busy travelling schedule keep focused on Jesus? For Max, it’s about starting the day with God, maintaining balance and staying focused.

“Ideally, my day starts with my quiet time: time in Scripture, then in prayer, devotional time with God. Then I go for a run and a quick workout,” he describes. “I used to do a lot of distance running back in Australia. Now we live by the Singapore River. I have what I call a lazy man’s workout, the minimum amount of exercise I do to be able to eat whatever I want,” he laughs.

“We have a son who’s one and a half years old” Max quips. “Sometimes he joins me on my run (in his pram) and to motivate me through the workout. The rest of the day is usually a combination of emails, planning, vision-casting, meetings, writing new content for talks, prayer, and actually giving talks, in businesses, churches, schools, universities, wherever the Lord opens doors.”

Spiritual Giants Give Us Shoulders to Stand On

Max believes that his mentors play an important role in who he is now and where he is going.  He says he has about half a dozen guys men and women who play a crucial part in his life, and he describes two of them: the first are his parents.

Max with his parents in Canberra, 2005

“My Appa has been, and still continues to be, such a huge influence on me,” he shares. “As a leader in his family and a leader in his community, he serves constantly. I learned what true servant-leadership looks like from him, and he has great integrity and character. But even just by as being a godly man, he gave me a wonderful example of biblical manhood. Alongside him, my Amma is the most devoted follower of Christ I’ve ever known. Her humility and selflessness have taught me more than I could express.”

Max makes reference to the challenge facing youth these days of lacking real-life pictures examples of what biblical manhood looks like.

Meanwhile, another mentor whom he values is Ravi himself. “Ravi’s mentorship has given me the vision of what God wants to do with my life in a way that nobody else ever articulated or envisioned,” he explains.

“Ravi showed me, ‘There are 5 billion people in Asia-Pacific, around 1 billion know Jesus, we have work to do.’ Ravi gave me the platform, the banner under which to speak. There I was, untried and untested, and he gave me the trust. I’m very honoured.”

“If I could be one-tenth of the apologist-evangelist that Ravi is, one-tenth of the servant-leader my Father is and have one-tenth of my Mother’s devotion to Christ, I would be doing pretty well,” he shares.

We Are Called to Set Apart Christ as Lord

So now that he is in a position of influence, what is Max’s advice for younger believers?

“I hate to be sound clichéd about it, but the key is RZIM’s anchoring scripture, 1 Peter 3:15 – all three pillars of it,” he shares. “We are called first of all to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts.”

“That’s about time with Him, time in scripture, personal purity,” Max explains. “It’s not about perfect performance, but a heart that focuses not just on knowing more about Him but knowing Him more. As C.S. Lewis said, God doesn’t want to be studied, He wants to be known.”

If We’re Not Showing His Love, We’re Wasting Our Time

Another piece of advice for younger believers is to prepare and equip themselves to give the reason for their faith, from the familiar 1 Peter 3:15.

“This includes listening to podcasts, reading widely, continuous learning,” Max shares. “Intellectual and emotional equipping is important. The third thing, and remaining part of the verse, is to learn to give this reason for our faith with graciousness and respect. If we’re not showing the love of Jesus, we’re wasting our time. Our apologetics has to be cross-centred, it also has to be cross-shaped. We’re not here to win an argument, we’re here to win hearts for Jesus.”

May this be an invitation for us to delve into both the intellectual and experiential side of our faith in Jesus Christ, and as the apostle Paul encouraged his protégé Timothy, may we be ready both in season and out of season to give a reason for what we believe in.

Cover Photo by Chetan Menaria on Unsplash