I think that one of the most discouraging aspects in our quest to “make disciples” (Matthew chapter 28, verse 19) is the lack of ‘results’.
Personally, I am quite inspired and become quite zealous when I hear stories of others making miraculous conversions to Christ in a short space of time. Whether that be due a Spirit inspired word, encouragement or prayer, all these stories seem to possess an aspect of spontaneity and wonder.
This side of evangelism tends to drawer me in as these are moments where we get to see God’s real and present Spirit work in front of our very eyes.
Whilst these incredible transformation stories do occur – and praise God that they do – the reality is that our own day-to-day ‘evangelistic’ life may seem quite mediocre in comparison. Personally, I’ve never witnessed someone committing their life to Christ in an instance due to something I’ve said or done.
It’s quite the opposite, actually; very few ‘unbelievers’ I’ve shared my faith with have made any drastic changes as of yet and, to be honest, it is quite a disheartening thing; to the point where I’ve stopped sharing my faith completely at times.
Because, I mean, if none of my attempts seem to breed any results, what is the point?
But, you see, I discovered that the main problem with all this is that I made it all about me. The attempts I made, the words I said, when it was never about me in the first place. For evangelism and making of disciples has got nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. I started to read verses such as:
Isaiah chapter 12, verse 4: “In that day you will say: ‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted".
John chapter 13, verse 35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
These verses have one thing in common: all of them have a lot to say about telling, teaching and doing and hardly anything to say about converting: “PROCLAIM His name”; “LOVE one another” ; “PREACH the Gospel.”
I didn’t find any verses instructing me to convert people to follow Christ or to make one of my unbelieving friends a Christian. This is because ‘converting’ non-believers wasn’t my job in the first place! God asks us not to make others believe, but rather, tell others what we believe.
Re-understanding our commission
This idea is at the heart of the Great Commission, even though it could be easy to read it otherwise. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew chapter 28, verse 19). The word “make” here suggests the responsibility of ‘converting’ people lies very much on us.
However, the Greek verb for “make” (mathēteusate) actually translates to ‘instructed’. God asks us not to make others believe, but rather: to tell others, to teach, to show others what it is we do we believe.
When we assume this posture, we give God the responsibility of transforming lives; and rightly so! Because, if you think about, our words and actions don’t stand much of a chance when faced up with a hardened heart such as Saul’s in the Bible.
For it is only the Holy Spirit who can perform that change, who is capable of penetrating into the very being of one’s soul; we just have to enable It to do that.
You see God asks us tell others about Him because that is the way in which we enable the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present in each one of us and when we perform a loving gesture or speak words of His truth, the Holy Spirit is given a vessel in which to transport. (Luke chapter 4, verse 18; Acts chapter 1, verse 8)
When we show someone and tell them of His love, we allow God’s pulsing, moving rhythm to engage with them.
Realising that God asks us not to make others believe, but rather, to tell others what we believe helped me understand what The Great Commission means for me. It means that I have to be His enabler, that I have to give the Holy Spirit a vessel in which to transport, that I have to allow God’s rhythm to engage; for, that is evangelism is it not?
This post came about from a reflection I had one night, it read:
“It’s not so much what we say or how we say it, but that we do. We can’t bring Jesus into someone’s heart, but we can make them aware of the gentle and tender whisper of His invitation. The cross is the power, not our fancy words or actions. The love of God is the dam and we merely assist in opening the floodgates, allowing the water of Life to wash over hardened hearts. God isn’t asking us to make them believe, but rather, to tell them what we believe”.
God is mysterious, and His Spirit moves in ways that are beyond our understanding and so I shouldn’t be discouraged when I don’t see the ‘results’. God is control and He knows exactly what he wants for each and every person I may share my faith with.
The only responsibility I have is to tell others about my incredible Saviour and let God worry about the transforming.
Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org