Monday, October 24, 2005

Redefining Success in Evangelism

If I was still at Bethany I would write this as a paper. For me, this is something very important. For a lot of my Christian life I either felt like a failure or came across too strong because I felt in order to "evangelize" (which is something that all Christians should want to do, not just feel they are required to) I had to get someone to "pray the prayer". If they didn't, I felt like I hadn't done my job, and they would be eternally condemned. If there was something in my soul that just told me they weren't there yet, I would panic and either stay away from the God topic all together or make them feel like a horrible person.

No wonder I wasn't "good" at evangelism.

However, all this time, it was important to me. God had made such a huge impact in my life, had changed who I was and given me hope I could not have had otherwise. How could I not want to share that story with people? How could I leave people, friends, family, who came to me for help, and not tell them about the help and healing that God offers. I hold nothing against the youth leaders etc. that were always telling me I needed to share my faith. They were right. The methods and measure of success, however, were very wrong.

See, it's like football (and I am by no means an expert on football, someone else had to point this out to me). The goal is to get the ball all the way to the end zone for a touchdown, however, each play is designed only to get the ball a few yards. When we tell someone about God, the idea is to eventually get them to a point where they encounter and fall in love with Him, but for some people they have a long way to go first.

At one point it was easier to use tracts and "salvation messages" because everyone already knew the basics. They knew God was good and they were not, and being forgiven was the way to reconcile the two. They were closer to ready.

Now, however, things are different. There are some people who don't think God is good, or who don't know who God is, or who think Christians are all horrible people and why would they want to be one of them. Or they don't realize that they're not good, or hat they need help (to quote Pastor John "you need to get people lost before you can get them saved"). What do we do with these people?

When we share our story of how God changed us it should be with the purpose of bringing someone closer to God, and understanding that does not necisarily mean they will be ready to follow Him. We might be able to ring them a few yards, and then somewhere later down the line they're close enough for the touchdown.

And this is Biblical too. It is the Spirit that draws all men to God, not our work. Our work is to not pull them further away. An encounter with God is still important, a decision for Him is vital, but first people need to be able to get to know who He is.

This understanding is changing the way I interact with people who don't know God. I'm more intentional now than I ever was before in sharing my faith. I try to see where people are and bring them even one step closer, praying that others in the life will be faithful and help them further along their journey to God.


matthew said...

good thoughts :)

One slight football, most plays are designed to score (or get a lot of yards), BUT the players/coaches are content to gain a handful b/c they know each bit is important.

I think this is a helpful variation on your illustration b/c it keeps our eyes on the endzone each step/yard of the way, but lets us rest in the fact that we are simply to do our best on each play.

Steph said...

good word Matt, I agree, we should be hoping to ring a person to the point where they are ready to make a decision, but should not push or feel like a failure if that does not happen.

Tammy Craig said...

Good stuff, Steph. Good stuff! ;) Hehe...that was a great post, Steph, and would have made an awesome paper. I used to feel the same way. I used to feel like, when I got up to Heaven, I wasn't gonna be much of anything, because I never got someone saved. But it's not up to me to "get them saved." It's up to me to point them in the right direction by the way I live and the words I say. Being here in Ohio, I have had so many opportunities to share things about my faith, especially at work and with family. It's been a tremendous blessing to me already. I know in my heart that my reward doesn't rest on how many people I lead through a prayer; it's how many can point to me and say I was a stepping stone in their journey to the cross. We are stepping stones.