A subject that we don’t talk much about on this blog is witnessing. I’d like to remedy that a bit in this posting by explaining my philosophy about sharing my faith. Some of you may find my thoughts a bit disturbing but please don’t infer that I’m a cold hearted person who doesn’t care about the lost from my statements. As in all my blogs I am simply trying to be honest about how I feel as well as live my life out in harmony with the Word of God.
I was at a monthly potluck last night with a group of friends and became involved in a conversation about witnessing with one of the men. We had both spent years working as pastors and though we come from different spiritual traditions our conclusions regarding witnessing was almost identical.
Let me say my friend and I both love sharing our faith and encouraging people to come to Christ. However, we have come to the conclusion that how we “do witnessing” has evolved and looks much different from the “go get em” approach we nurtured as young pastors.
The biggest difference for us is that we have come to the conclusion that we no longer can care more about a person’s salvation than the person cares about it himself. What do I mean by that? I have spent a great deal of time as a pastor trying to convince people to become Christians who don’t want to be Christians or who aren’t ready to make that decision. I’ve spent too many hours trying to be the Holy Spirit.
People only come to the Lord when they are moved by the Spirit to make that decision. As a witness I can encourage people to make that decision and stand by them as they grow and develop as followers of Jesus but I can’t become their conscience and push them into that decision.
We need to have discernment regarding when to probe a little more fully into a person’s spiritual condition and when to back off and let God incubate that person’s heart towards spiritual understanding.
Now here is the thing that might be a bit disturbing or controversial and it is this that the person you long to see come to Christ might not be ready and you are spending valuable time working in an unproductive arena. I’m not saying to give up on a person or not to pray for them, but if they are not ready to accept Jesus then don’t be discouraged because they aren’t responsive. Understand the situation, put them totally in God’s hands, and let God lead you to people who are open to the Gospel.
My mother prayed all her life for my father and just before he passed away I believe he drew close to God. My mother never gave up praying for dad but she also understood she couldn’t browbeat him into being a Christian either. He had to make the decision when the Spirit convicted him of his need, and when the Spirit did she was there.
Listen, there are people who are not interested or ready for the gospel presentation and when they hear it they are not moved by it. That doesn’t mean that we give up or walk away from those people, but it does mean that God has to continue to work on their heart and you and I need to realize that we are more concerned about their salvation, at this point, than they are.
Jesus longs to see every man, woman, boy and girl saved in the Kingdom, but the reality is that they aren’t all going to be saved. A great number of people are willingly and purposely going to reject God. They have no desire to have a relationship with Him because they either couldn’t care less or they don’t even believe in His existence. You will have the life crushed out of you if you take on the guilt of believing that if you don’t convert that person you have failed God. No, they have failed God and their salvation is a discussion between them and God.
I have beaten myself up many times over the years because people that I longed to see become Christians never responded to the Gospel at the time and place I wanted them to respond. I often carried around the guilt of believing that I let God down and somehow I failed. It was then that I would become a pest and start to try and convince people to become Christians through arguments and applying a little pressure to work upon their emotions.
The Holy Spirit must have looked at the situation and shaken His head at my egocentric approach to evangelism. What made me think that I was the only hope or chance that person had to accept Christ? Does God not have a thousand ways to reach that person and the truth was that I, in many circumstances, wasn’t the person at that point in time to bring them to a decision for Christ. Down the road, hopefully, something I said would spring back into their minds and would help trigger a response to God, but I didn’t need to always be the person who bore the fruit.
Let me say this, however. There are times when the prompting of the Holy Spirit is so overwhelming that you must share your faith with the person God is pointing to. I believe that is Spirit based witnessing and we must all be receptive and open to that form of witness. I have friends who go into the local hospital every week and there are many people they visit who are not receptive, at that moment, to the idea of drawing close to God. But, there are others who it is the exact time for them to receive Christ into their hearts.
My friends know when to move on and not disturb people, but they also know when God is opening the door to a person’s heart. Share your faith freely and your faith will not come back to you empty. At the same time understand not everyone is ready to hear your testimony or gospel presentation. Don’t take it personally, just allow the Spirit to guide you to the people who long for redemption.
No matter how much you long to see your neighbor or family member come to Christ, if they are more interested in partying or anything else for that matter than getting to know Christ, all you can do at that point is keep praying. You will drive yourself into a great sadness if you carry guilt for their lack of response.
God knows what to do to work miracles in their lives so let Him be God and allow Him to lead and guide the people we long to see become Christians. He will tell us when to share our faith and when to be cautious.
* Many people around the globe are experiencing persecution for their faith in God, and many even unto death. They need our support and continuous prayers. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet but you have to search for it