Invited to Invite
Dr. Doug Posey
We don’t have to be gifted at evangelism, but we should be intentional about it. In fact, one of our core values here at Living Oaks is “Intentional Evangelism.” I’m a pastor and I admit, evangelism’s not my gift! Not even close. But, that doesn’t let me off the hook when it comes to my responsibility to convey the good news!
I envy pastors and evangelists who seem to have an uncanny ability to share the Gospel in such a way that people flock forward to commit their lives to Christ. That has happened to me once or twice in my 40+ year ministry. Well, maybe once. Mostly I’ve seen a trickle of new spiritual births, not a flood. I’m comforted by the fact that there is, “more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 & 10). I’m convinced that Jesus chose the example of “one sinner” to encourage guys like me. It doesn’t have to be a “flood.”
Nonetheless, when I see the gifted evangelist invite people forward, I’m frequently left thinking, “That guy’s message was simplistic and unimpressive—not nearly as weighty as my profound, insightful sermon of last week! What’s he got that I don’t!” For one thing he’s got a crowd of teary-eyed people making their way toward the stage to pray “the prayer.” (Sometimes there’s a popular worship band and stadium—which doesn’t hurt). And then I tend to seek solace in the hope that maybe there’s something God uses me to do that the evangelist can’t.
So, what should I do with my realization that I’m not an evangelist? Do I stop giving invitations? Should I focus exclusively on teaching and discipling believers? Absolutely not! As we’ve seen, even one soul saved is a good thing—angels rejoicing and all that stuff. And what if no one comes forward or raises a hand? Who cares? It’s not so much about results; it’s really about obedience. Invite people into the Kingdom whatever your context!
Results are a good thing. In fact, we should focus on brand new believers, making their commitments here in the coming year! No growth eventually leads to steady decline and a dying church. Let’s pray for results that are even bigger than we could imagine! But, ultimately we have little control over the results. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). The “increase” (or the results) is up to God, not the preacher, or you! And if He chooses to use the evangelist’s simple—even simplistic—message rather than my highly challenging, impeccably researched and riveting homily, that’s up to God too! (Okay, so I still get a little bitter).
When it comes to results—new commitments to Christ—I’m convinced of this: prior to the harvest, there was some planting and watering going on in those lives. Someone had prayed for them. Perhaps then the process began. Are you praying for someone to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Don’t give up. As you pray, the Lord may open a door to care in a tangible way for them. The process continues. That may be the thing that provides an opportunity to share your story about the difference Christ has made. This might lay out the perfect path to explain the Gospel. Think about it—maybe someone did that for you!
We at Living Oaks are called to be intentional about evangelism by being “sowers.” A sower is one who plants seeds for Christ. A sower is moving through life like a farmer seeding his field as he goes. It shouldn’t be forced. It doesn’t have to be your spiritual gift, or mine, any more than taking a shower requires the “gift” of hygiene. You do it because it is part of the life of the Christian. It is our awesome privilege and responsibility. The receptivity of the soil is not your responsibility. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t always take root. Keep sowing. Pray, care and share. Odds are, something good is bound to grow.
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
–MATTHEW 13:23 NASB