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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What About Surveys?

Last week, I had the opportunity to survey some people practically in my backyard. I've posted the survey results, both statistical and testimonial. But there are other observations I'd like to share.
    Evangelism
I've made the same excuse in my head before to keep from doing "survey-type evangelism" at public events...God wants me to reach my neighbor, family member or friend I know. Evangelism with total strangers isn't really that hard. Then, I would continue to sit on my couch, not reaching my neighbor or the stranger walking by. Do I think I am totally fulfilling the Great Commission if I place tracts in public bathrooms, hand them to waiters and confront total strangers at events? No, God also desires for me to proclaim the gospel boldly, both in my front lawn and behind the pulpit. But I have to ask a second question:

I may not be fulfilling all of the Great Commission by passing out tracts or doing surveys, but am I fulfilling less of it if I don't? The answer: yes. Frankly, it is easier to talk to the stranger. Somehow, I let the fact that it is easier (and the fact that I haven't been as bold with our neighbors as I should) prevent me from doing any evangelism. I somehow easily get deceived into thinking God will make me an evangelist first, and then I will evangelize. Yet, the pattern seems to be that the one who evangelizes is an evangelist! Here has been the very slow, pathetic transformation in my life in the last four months:

I bought some tracts. (They sat on my desk for a while)
I started carrying tracts. (They sat in my wallet for quite a while)
I started leaving tracts in my trail. (I'd set them out in places to be found, but without my having to interact with anyone)
I did some surveying. (I entered gospel conversations with people that were planned)
I passed out tracts. (Typically after the conversation)
I start handing service people (waiters, hairdressers, guy at Staples) tracts.
I noticed that the guy delivering our couch makes a comment about coffins. I actually try to get a conversation about death started, seeking his words as a transition.
I am aching for our neighbor across the street and daily looking for an opportunity to speak to him. (Guests at his house have made that difficult to this point.)

I'm tired of waiting until I feel like this robust evangelist. I want to start sowing and let Him take care of the harvest.

    Law in Evangelism
During BNYC, a faithful brother in our fellowship introduced Ray Comfort and Way of the Master as a way of doing evangelism. I have to disagree. As I read the Scriptures, it appears to be the way of doing evangelism. When Paul summarized the gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-6, he says it was for our sins that Christ died. Any "evangelism" that doesn't deal with man's sin and Christ as the atonement is a complete dog's breakfast.

I've felt that strain before. I try to make Jesus look so attractive to someone. I stab at joy, but they aren't biting. I mention purpose, but they don't care. I threaten with hell, but they feel invincible and are convinced God doesn't want to punish them. Yet, I took God's law before them, and it was different. Several times, a person went from jovial to concerned before we finished going through a couple of commandments. Only a few were still light-hearted when I finally asked if they would be innocent or guilty on the Day of Judgment. It really got to issues of the heart better than anything else I've seen. (I had done this before in preaching or conversations with people I knew. I was shocked at how well it worked with total strangers. We were talking about their sin and hell and that they deserved hell, yet I think they could all tell that I truly cared for them.)

    But You Didn't Seal the Deal
Each night, I went out with one goal in mind: "To glorify God in the proclamation of His gospel." God granted me the privilege of doing just that. I did not go out with the goal (I had the desire, but not the primary goal) "to save" people. It was important for me to make this distinction before I went out for the following reasons:

Preserves the message. If a preacher presents the gospel properly to a group of hard hearted people with whom the Spirit of God is not engaging, his message will not be received. Therefore, if the preacher looks at the lack of results and determines he must change his message, we lose Romans 10 and the gospel is not preached. I can't control a person's response, therefore I should not change the message under the assumption that I can control them.

Redefines success. Closely related, is the thought that success is only found when a conversion takes place. The problems with this perspective are... a) Converts can be counted as MY success. b) A lack of success can lead to changing the gospel to get better results. c) A lack of success can lead to believing I have failed and therefore must not be an "evangelist." Therefore, I neglect the work we were all called to do.

However, if success is gauged by accurately and lovingly presenting the gospel, thus glorifying God, here are the results: a) I worship in the process. I am not reciting a sales pitch but revealing a glorious God. b) Any fruit, including the accurate presentation of the gospel, can not be credited to anyone but God. c) We do not depend on the response of others to determine our Savior's pleasure in us.

0% False Conversion Rate. By preventing myself of leading a person in a prayer, or asking them to pronounce their faith on the spot, no lost person walked away believing they were saved. Of the 66 people who talked to me, I would say I easily could have led 15 of them in a prayer at the end. But even while doing that, I would have doubted that all 15 were truly repenting and trusting Christ alone. Could I have given someone eternal hope that shouldn't have any? Quite possibly.

But what of the person what was ready to repent and trust Christ? You just let them walk away! Isn't a few false converts worth the price of making sure we don't let one get away? I've been asked similar questions to this already. My response, "None get away." If a person would have been willing to pray a prayer declaring their repentance and trust in Christ alone, guess what: They already have repented and trusted Christ! And if they received the message with a broken heart, turning from their ways and have turned to Christ for their salvation, then they won't slide under God's radar. Should God desire I enjoy the privilege of helping in the growth, He will make our paths cross again. Should He desire them to grow in another church, I praise God for the strength added to that church by a true convert walking through their doors.

Bottom line is that our church may not see any numeric growth at all from this. I pray that we are kingdom minded enough to not be bothered by that.

I'm still praying for those who came to an event to eat unhealthy food, ride some rides and waste $5 for a game with a $3 prize and walked away thinking about their sin, God's judgment and God's gracious offer. I may not be gifted in evangelism, but I'm praying this is the beginning of a process to atleast say I act like an evangelist.

3 Comments:

  • At 3:21 PM, Blogger TheReformedThinker said…

    I would encourage you not to say that you are not a "gifted" evangelist. Many times what we perceive as our gifts are nothing more than our natural abilities being used for His glory (which I guess makes them a gift). But a true gift of the Spirit is when He enables you to do something that is not in your naturally ability. That way you take no credit in yourself, but give Him the glory. It could be that you have just started excersing a spiritual gift God has given you.

    Also, your work has challenged me to work at evangelism also. I think my fear of evangelism steems from a misguided view of what evanglism is. The biblical method eases the fear of rejection, because you view it as a proclaimation of God Glory, not as trying to convince someone that they would be happier as a Christian, when they may already be happy...

     
  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger ~~anna~~ said…

    I know you are not putting out these msgs looking for personal praise and glory...so I'll just say
    "Thank you LORD for a man who seeks to serve YOU!"
    Esp. your msgs from this past week, have been a great source of encouragment and a blessing to read.
    May our LORD grant you the desires of your heart, as you daily (and hourly) grow closer to Him!

     
  • At 7:07 AM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    Although we don't talk much about "witnessing" any more, I like the term, especially given the Acts 1:8 mandate. In the courtroom of heaven I am not the judge (Christ), I am not the jury (there isn't one). I am not the prosecuting attornery (Satan) or the defense attorney (the Holy Spirit). First, I am the accused. But once I plead guilty, I am declared "not guilty", due to the redemptive work of the Judge. After that, I am a witness, encourging people to throw themselves on the mercy of the court, as I did. Its the only hope anyone has of avoiding condemnation.

     

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