Seems to me things are getting a little antsy around Austin. I see more evangelism around me than ever, but I see more frustrated faces as well.
Perhaps with the rise of Gospel-spreading has come the rise of harvest-hoping, and that’s got me worried; in my opinion that’s about as dangerous an increase as Satan coming from the pit, but I’m not sure if many people know why any Christian could feel that way.
Here are my reasons. As always, if you’re frightened, confused, or concerned, please email me at email@example.com.
What’s the Point?—Busted Playbooks
A man sits down next to another man on a bridge, and he starts to spread the Gospel to him. (Let’s say the second man is a nonbeliever, the first a believer.) The other man gets up and walks away after fifteen minutes. Now any evangelist in the game for any significant time will tell you that’s too short for someone whom the Lord has drawn to fruition; it sounds like a busted play, in football slang. The second man didn’t become a Christian, and he didn’t have any questions. Most likely, he showed no interest at all. The first man gets up and leaves.
But how does the evangelist feel about it? Or, better question, why did he sit down in the first place? Did he fail? Was it his fault? Should he question the existence of a God who supposedly saved multitudes in Acts, and is now holding back His hand?
If he’s done this for any decent period of time he’d know that the great evangelists are the ones who slog through thousands of failures for ten or twelve successes—frankly, the career just isn’t worth its reward if we’re playing the numbers game. But clearly, his intent was to spread the Gospel; it was what he brought up to discuss almost immediately. And why did he want to spread the Gospel? If it was to see a salvation, he left frustrated.
He left questioning God and the position God placed him in. He left with the tiny first spark of the burn-out which will boil him alive years along the road. And if that was supposed to be his goal, he’s right—why wouldn’t God save those around his agent? Why wouldn’t God grant us success?
In Scripture, we see something highly systematic, but easy to miss: praise. When someone in Acts gets saved, we see him praising God almost without exception. Specifically, deliberately, Luke tells us that men praised the Lord, out of all the other things Luke could describe, and over and over and over again (Acts 1:1-12:25). Even when other people only see someone get saved, they start praising.
Why all this? Because that’s the point. We aren’t called to fill church pews or prove our righteousness or show ourselves to be the best evangelists in town; we’re called to watch as many people as the Lord wills to praise Him. We’re called for His glory. But without a clearer passage relating to the Gospel, how can we know?
I love discipleship, so here’s a little test I picked up from my spiritual mother right after I became a Christian: the growth which comes from the Lord frees—spurn the growth which ties you down. In other words, all teachings which enslave have their origin in something besides the Lord, and they must be removed. Is it freeing to know that your message, and the errors that lie within it, can’t keep a man’s soul from eternal separation from God?
So What’s the Difference?—Live Well
A man who believes he’s called to win souls and win souls alone will do anything just to see a convert. I don’t mean laying your life down in service to another—that’s good, and we should all do that. I mean evangelistic strategies. I’ve seen people spend hours talking over the effect of the Gospel on a person’s heart and how it can be made more easily digestible. I’ve seen bar graphs, pie charts, diagrams of the human body showing where the Gospel gets stuck.
And, invariably, these strains of thinking lead to compromise: the exclusion of absolute repentance, the exclusion of the Trinity (denying the Sonship of Christ), the exclusion of Christ as the only mediator before the Lord, the exclusion of sin, etcetera. None of these are anything more than travesties; they’re the result of what happens when a man sticks his foot in the way of God’s work. An incomplete Gospel, like a car without a motor, robs the Holy Spirit of His chance to work—but not in the unbeliever. The evangelist blocks the Spirit from working in the evangelist. Isn’t that worse?
As Christians, our playbook is busted. Everything our offense runs gets destroyed nine times from ten. Granted. But the Lord hasn’t called us to change the plays—the Lord has called us to practice hard (live well), focus on our job and our job alone, and find out what play the Coach wants rather than just devise our own game plan.
It’s suitable that the stumbling block should disincline many from joining (1 Cor 1:23). After all, good Christianity is the hardest system in which to live on the planet—if we could somehow convince those who would otherwise refuse through human wisdom, they would just fall away anyway.
To contrast, a man who believes his calling is to glorify the Lord has no strategy, because the Lord has shown him over and over how to glorify Himself: repent and believe, pray and worship. Live well. That man also believes that his evangelism is 100 percent successful, 100 percent of the time because speaking honestly about the Gospel is glorifying to Him. He can’t get burned out, because he can’t fail. He’s ready to run the race to its completion—he’s ready for the good fight.
Turns those frowns upside down, fellow Austinites. The war’s just started.
Father, please take my life! Thank you for giving me another day to serve You here—please empty me of all the desires of my heart that don’t align with You, that my service may be an acceptable offering. Show me where I seek to glorify myself instead of You, and show me which parts of me haven’t been submitted to You. May my passion be the pursuit of You rather than the glory of man. May the fruit of my life be Your Name’s increase, and may I see You clearer and clearer as I lose sight of myself. May You become greater in me and may I become less.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.