Thursday, January 12, 2023

True Confessions...

I recently saw one of those social media memes that I've been pondering for several days now. 

It read:

Christian Evangelism is NOT inviting someone to your church.

True. This wasn't a newsflash. It's not anything I am unaware of. But it has continued to give me pause for several days.

Why is it easier to invite someone to a church service than it is to tell them the truth of the gospel? 

When I invite someone to come to church with me, what is my motivation?

Do I honestly love God more than I love my church?

Would the people in my life know this to be true of me, if so?

The questions swirl as I think back over my life and the wonderful relationships I enjoy as a result of being involved in a local church. But this little meme's reminder has bugged me because it reveals something about the problem facing those of us who know what we are called to do but prefer a less challenging road to obedience.

Scripture is not vague. We are told to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28) and to study the word (2 Timothy 2) the intended result being that we are prepared to give an answer to, or, "make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15)

But this takes effort and diligence and time and preparation. It's so much easier to just extend an invitation to a church service and let the paid people do the heavy lifting, right?

There's a problem with that today beyond the obvious cop out that it is, though. Most people who are unconvinced and unconverted aren't super excited about getting up on a Sunday morning to go to an unfamiliar place where things that are foreign to their "normal" occur. 

They do recognize hope and joy when they see it, however. And they do appreciate it when someone who doesn't have to listen to them bemoan the woes of this life will take the time to hear what they have to say. And super importantly, they all share the common clear awareness of "God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--(which) have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that (they) are without excuse." (Romans 1: 20)

So this is a very big deal. Apart from hearing that they cannot save themselves and are in dire need of God's forgiveness for their sin, they are destined for a hellish eternity when this life is over. 

Beloved believer, you and I have the answer they desperately need but may not be searching for. Yet. 

How then do we become people who tell them God's glorious, saving truth rather than just inviting them to come to church with us? Here are four suggestions to consider:

1. Pray. Ask God to make you a bold disciple who is willing to risk embarrassment or even ridicule for the sake of a soul. Next, ask him to put people in your path who are open to hearing the most grand of all love stories-- his rescue plan for sinners.  God is faithful and will hear and answer our sincere pleas when we ask him to make us his hands, feet, and mouthpieces.

2. Observe. Watch and listen to family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends as they navigate life apart from the joy, peace, and provision of The LORD. Then, as you watch and listen, pray for opportunities to plant seeds of hope and faith that will yield future opportunities for clarifying gospel centered conversation if this doesn't happen organically the first time you engage with them.

3. Question. Ask them questions rather than supplying or giving all the answers. Let their own need(s) and confusion surface as they come to see that many of their supposed solutions are dead ends or lead to disappointment that leaves them with more questions than answers.

4. Prepare. Know what you believe and why you believe it. There has never been a time in history that affords greater opportunities to learn and grow as a disciple of Christ. Some of my very favorite resources include this one from Truth for Life, this from Grace to You, and this from Living on the Edge. These and so many other wonderful sites make excellent accompaniments to our daily devotional reading, study, and plans. 

We have God's promise to give us the right words at the right time if we simply obey what he has called us to do. We can count on The Holy Spirit to lead us when we initiate or participate in gospel conversations-- and the beauty of it all is that not one single person's eternal destiny is up to us. 

We are conduit, God is the power source. We are vessels, he is living water. We cannot save a single soul, but he is mighty to save! 

To be honest, I wish I could just invite every lost person I know to join me at church. In my dream world they'd say, "sure, I would love to," and once there, they would suspend unbelief, be born again, and enjoy the life changing grace of God through salvation in Christ alone. 

But that's a dream and it's not the plan our LORD laid out for us. For me, church is amazing. I dearly love what happens when I'm able to gather in a room filled with people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, and circumstances who are worshiping with their whole hearts because they've been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. But God's plan is not for the local church gathering on a Sunday morning to serve as the only vehicle for the salvation of individuals, he has charged us (and we ARE the church) with the task of evangelizing the world. 

It is a Herculean task that apart from his Spirit's help we are likely to evade. But by his Spirit and in his power and because of love, we are compelled to go and tell. So let's invite them to church after we tell them of the marvelous love of the Savior who died to rescue them from the power of sin and death! 

Lord help us. Grow us. Make us living, breathing doers of the Word for your glory and our good. Amen.  

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