More and more Christians are willing to have a go and do some new things to let others in on the good news of Jesus. I have been surprised by the willingness shown by church leaders to creatively reach out to those in their communities especially with Treasure Hunting, a simple way doing ‘prophetic evangelism.’
The idea comes from the home of Bethel Church in California and was created by Kevin Dedman. You can read ‘The Ultimate treasure Hunt’ which gives an excellent overview and theological basis of Treasure hunting. You can see more information here.
So, what is it? How does Treasure Hunting work? It is simply asking God for some clues as to the people we are going to meet and what they need. Over the past few months those whom I have met have asked me: ‘how do you know me?’ One lady asked if the small group I was with from the local church where physic! The clues we had were about her and the need she had for a miracle that she couldn’t quite compute how we knew her!
So, in small teams of 3 or 4 we write 5 headings on a piece of paper: Location, appearance, names, prayer needs and anything extra (which does’t fall into the 4 headings.)
We then literally spend no more than 10 minutes asking God to ‘speak’ and give us clues as to the people we are going to meet.
Location may be an address or shop, but more often than not it is something more general like ‘oak tree’ or ‘park bench.’ I was surprised last month when my clue ‘pear tree’ led me to ‘pear tree close’ and 5 minutes later a lady was pouring out her heart to us, asking us to pray!It turned out that she was going through a painful divorce and her husband had used the services of witch doctors to curse her. Bizarre I know, but this lady knew she needed help and had asked God for it. I don’t think she quite expected three Christians to knock on the door of her place of work and offer help and prayer!
Appearance can include how a person looks (height, type of hair etc) but also what a person is wearing. In Hull I had written ‘stripey top.’ I met so many people with stripey tops!
Names includes male and female names (you will find more than one person!) Sometimes names are of the person you meet, but sometimes it turns out to be the names of family members and those on the heart of the person you meet, like the lady who had lost two sons in a car crash and a friend of mine had written the names of the men on his piece of paper.
Prayer needs usually includes something that needs prayer for healing, but may also be a word that reassures, comforts and encourages (1 Corinthians 14.1-2) The lady in the pub a few months back was shocked when she saw i had written ‘wrists and shoulders.’ She had carpel-tunnel syndrome in her wrists which was painful but the nerve damage sent ‘pain’ messages to both of her shoulders. Needless to say she was shocked and as well as praying for her she asked if we may pray for her daughter and granddaughter too.
Anything extra is very much just that. Anything that just doesn’t fit into the other four areas of clues. Once I had written ‘joy and laughter’ and thought it was for someone I would meet who needed cheering up! After meeting someone who had asked for prayer and had experienced God’s presence in a tangible way I returned back home laughing and full of joy!
After around 20 times of doing this exercise for an hour or so each time with NOTHING happening at all other than feeling like an absolute idiot, I started to meet treasure time and time again in the most dramatic way. I asked some Baptist ministers what their experience of Treasure Hunting was like. Scott Carr, minister at Toddington Baptist Church writes:
My experience of Treasure Hunting recently was one of adventure. After taking a short while to pray and jot down a few clues that I believed God was bringing to mind, I partnered up with my local team and we set off.
It was great going out together, all of us pretty much novices – but excited that God might bring us to some “treasure”. My location was “hair dressers”, others however had more specifics – “The University” and a specific pub which turned out to be directly opposite the University…
One of our team was actually a member of staff at the Uni in Hull so we followed him looking for, in my case someone with a blue shirt, white baseball hat and converse trainers! He on the other hand was looking for someone very smartly dressed! When we arrived we discovered that there was a wedding on and also a 50 years anniversary for the drama dept. We had a brief word of greeting with the Bride and Groom who were having their photos done. Wandering around we discovered by the crowd waiting to go into the theatre, a hairdressers on Uni grounds.
We approached one or two folk without real success in identifying treasure, until on nearly leaving the Uni a man and partner got out of a taxi – he was smartly dressed with a blue shirt, grey jacket and yes – black converse trainers… we greeted him and explained about the treasure hunt – he was surprised but focused on getting into the celebration – still as he left we prayed for him. We retired to the Pub opposite and there we spotted one more clue – a man with tattoos on his arms – one of the team, who had this clue, took courage and approached him, turned out he was one of the pub staff on a break and pretty much ran off back behind the bar… Still our team did “cross the chicken line”.
Actually the most encouraging thing that spoke to me as we wandered on our hunt was one young boy on our team, doing this amazing outreach – he just grasped the hand of his dad, clutched his self drawn “map” of a man with a grey coat who was a “farmer without a hat” – I’m not sure if he found his treasure – but he was happy to go on adventure with dad, throughout the hour or so of adventure, he walked and searched and sometimes even led the way but never let go of either dad or map… so much to learn.
Another Baptist minister who was willing to have a go was Richard Jevons, minister at Cottingham Rd Baptist in Hull. He writes:
When Chris asked if anyone wanted to go treasure hunting and described what it was I decided it was not for me, I was too scared, not spiritual enough and the rest. But then Brenda (my wife) said she wanted to do it, so I decided to join her and hide behind her. However, we ended up in different groups on the streets of Hull, so much for my plan.
As we sat and wrote our “treasure maps” I have to admit to being extremely skeptical. That morning I had heard stories of it working but that did not matter because as far as I could tell this was a foolish thing to try because it relied on the hunters hearing from God directly and being sure that it is from God. How on earth am I meant to tell the difference between – wishful thinking – the first thought that pops into my head- and God’s voice, this is always a dilemma for me and I am a Minister!
We wrote our “treasure maps” and set off; I was not expecting much to happen. On the streets we began to meet people who fitted, or partially fitted, the descriptions we had on our bits of paper, and so began conversations with them. They did not meet many of the other clues apart from description but it gave us an excuse to talk and offer prayer. Most people are happy to talk, which shocked me. I discovered that treasure hunting is a way of creating an opportunity to start conversations with random people and to offer to pray for them.
One encounter was interesting because there was a connection with a number of the clues on the map. But it was a combination of two maps. I had part of a location and my friend had part of the location, so we stood outside a specific library and waited. A lady came up matching half of the description and conversation was started. There was a very positive response to the offer of prayer and the lady’s partner clearly matched some of the prayer issues I had written down. The encounter did not match exactly either map but I cannot deny that this was more than a coincidence.
Whilst the Saturday afternoon was interesting and an experience I want to repeat, it was the knock on effects during the following week that amazed me. I, usually, find it hard to initiate conversation with strangers. However, on Monday in a coffee shop, on Tuesday waiting for the level crossing barrier, on Wednesday Lunch time queuing for a carvery, I initiated conversations with people I had never met before. None of the conversations were about God but there was potential, because we had spoken.
Is treasure hunting truly prophetic evangelism? I have no idea. Is it a great way to initiate a conversation in the street? Definitely. Try it. Write a map and then walk up to people telling them you are on a treasure hunt from the church looking for people and you have these clues. You will be surprised how easy it is.
Perhaps like Richard you may think it is a daft thing to do, but on having a go I am sure you will find God uses you!
Here’s the challenge: I’m going to collect stories of treasure hunting and post them up in the comment feed of this post. If you have a story of God using you in prophetic evangelism then post it up or email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org