“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a). Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Jesus’ command in the last few verses of the Gospel of Matthew has been billed as our call to arms, our mission, and our calling in this world. “Every man is an evangelist” – or at least, we are supposed to be.
And yet, try as we might, it just doesn’t seem to add up that way, does it? Either we’ve spent years working on a coworker, only to have them say the heartbreaking phrase, “Please stop talking to me about this Christianity stuff,” or someone we love refuses to study with us, no matter how hard we try. Either way, we are woefully disappointed in our own results, as we constantly feel like we’re letting God and His purpose down.
Evangelism has always been a tricky subject, primarily because it’s hard to measure results. We can talk to a hundred people every day, and may not baptize one soul, and yet Brother Charisma opens up at his Bible at work, and before you know it, there’s a Pentecost right there in the lunchroom. What gives?
Perhaps it’s best for us to stop asking ourselves the question of what went wrong, and start asking what went right. John 4 is one of the more notable passages when it comes to “spontaneous evangelism:” Jesus walks over to a well, a Samaritan woman shows up, and twenty verses later, Jesus has got her so invested in His teaching that she goes into the town and comes out with a myriad of curious investigators. The disciples are stunned by this – not because they’re floored by His success, but because He had been conversing with a (1) Samaritan (2) woman.
Jesus understands this hangup in their hearts, and addresses it by encouraging to look at the mass exodus from the nearby town on their way out to see Him. Uttering the phrase, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35), Jesus forces them to view evangelism through different eyes, not looking at the obvious “candidates” for conversion, but to see the possibilities that lay ahead if they would just be open to them.
The story doesn’t stop there however, and neither does Jesus’ teaching. Encouraging them to be on the lookout for more opportunities, Jesus also identifies not one, but two, groups of people that play a part in evangelism: the sowers and the reapers. While the reapers are the ones that get the most fame from their multitudes of baptisms, the sowers are the ones who put in the brunt of the work, planting the seed, getting the conversations started, and laying the groundwork for the eventual harvest. Both of these are engaged in evangelism: “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps” (John 4:37).
Brother Charisma is a reaper. He’s the one that puts the finishing touches on a lifetime of work by numerous untold people behind the scenes, but just because Sister Sower may never get any praise for her work, it doesn’t make her any less important. This “pre-evangelism” stage – if it can even be called that – is the stage wherein the Christian puts the nagging thought of repentance in the listener’s ears; as one has put it, he puts a spiritual “pebble in their shoe.” Over time, that nagging whisper turns into a thundering roar, just waiting for the guy in the lunchroom to open his Bible, and lighting the fuse that leads to redemption.
So which one are you? It can be easy to down yourself because of the lack of visible success one has in relationship to evangelism, but never forget that Noah preached to an entire world for decades, and the only people that got on that boat with him were his family. Does that make him a failure? Moreover, was it wasted time? Who knows, maybe all that time you spent with your loved one that you thought went down the tubes when they rebuffed your final plea was just setting the stage for someone else to pick up down the road. As Jesus teaches, it happens more often than we think.Last modified: February 25, 2019