Our Struggle to Obey the Great Commission
It is clear that Jesus has commissioned the church to make disciples. Once when I was vacationing on the Oregon coast I attended a church’s Bible study. That week the town was hosting a presentation by Tibetan Buddhists. I figured there would be some seekers at that meeting and I was eager to engage some of them in spiritual conversation (I could easily have been among them 35 years ago.) I extended an invitation to anyone from the Bible study group to join me. A man responded by saying that he thought we should stay away. “If these people are interested in Christianity, they can come to church,” he said.
That was not Jesus’ nor the apostles’ approach to sharing the gospel. They didn’t say, “If someone shows up in your church building, make disciples of them.” They went to the people.
What makes us afraid to go out and share the gospel? I often have to fight through fear at two points when talking with a stranger about the good news of Christ. Fear first comes up when I contemplate approaching people. I don’t naturally start conversations with people I don’t know.
Secondly fear creeps up when I consider bringing Jesus, the gospel or spiritual topics into a conversation. I know that not everyone will be pleased with my efforts to talk to them about Christianity.
Truth be told, this is fear of people. It is my desire to have others’ approval, or at the very least, not wanting their disapproval. It is
others’ opinion of me. And what overcomes that? It is caring most what God thinks and not what people think. It is doing what is pleasing to him and leaving my reputation in His hands the way Peter and John did before the Jewish leaders:
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-19).
I love the way Mark Dever frames this issue: “We are called to love others. We share the gospel because we love people. And we don’t share the gospel because we don’t love people. Instead, we wrongly fear them. We don’t want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we’ll look foolish! And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost.”
I have often found that when I obey the Lord and go, God is already out there fighting parts of the battle which I cannot fight. He sets up circumstances, causing people to be at the right place at the right time. He prepares the hearts of people. When you step out of your comfort zone you step into God’s comfort zone.
For example, at the Albany skate park I ran into a couple of Native American guys. One claimed to have a wolf in him. He was very friendly and willing to engage as I asked him about his spiritual beliefs. His claim was that everyone has an animal force within but most people do not tap into it. I asked if I had one and he called his “spirit guide” friend over. The “spirit guide” identified my animal as a coyote. After getting permission to share my beliefs,
I explained the gospel, starting with the sinful nature within each of us. It was apparent that it was the first time this young man had heard the gospel as he was very friendly and courteous.
Clearly pondering what he had heard he thoughtfully said, “This is very different from what we believe.”
Another time an elementary school Lebanon I talked to a Linn-Benton Community College student who was happy to take my survey entitled “Are You A Good Person.”
He shared that he once lived with an Assembly of God youth pastor in Silverton and that he had given his heart to the Lord at that time. Later he stopped living the life and finally gave up on it. Nevertheless his tender heart was evident. I believe we both had a sense that God was calling him back to Himself through our encounter.
Because of these encounters and many, many
others I am convinced that speaking with strangers about the gospel is worth pursuing. Many I never would have otherwise met
have come to understand the gospel for the first time because of our conversations.
When I share on the street my objective is not to get people to pray a “sinner’s prayer.” I’m glad to “close the deal” if I sense that God is drawing the person to Himself. Conversion is a work of God. I see my role as sharing truth. The Holy Spirit does the work in the heart that I cannot do. Most of the time, I am simply planting seeds.
So many times I have been tempted to play it safe.
But what great opportunities would have been missed along with great blessings! If you obey the Lord in sharing your faith, you’ll be amazed at how He can use you. When it comes to sharing your faith, what is the next step that God is calling you to?
Next two weeks: “My Approach to Sharing the Gospel”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013