Yesterday, I was reading an overall excellent book on disciple-making and orienting churches around being “sent”—that is, building a culture that helps everyone see themselves as missionaries responsible for making disciples. One chapter in particular dealt with the challenges many of us have in sharing our faith. We feel awkward, we don’t feel equipped, we don’t know what to say… all the things we’ve all heard, felt and said.
I read through the chapter and found I agreed with most everything in substance (which is nice). But as I came to the end, even though I agreed with the points made, I didn’t find myself actually motivated to go and share the gospel more. If anything, I actually found myself struggling with demotivation to a greater degree than I had before I started.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve read an evangelism book and agreed with what’s said, but by the time you were done, you felt less motivated than you did when you started. You felt less effective than ever. And so, you continued to feel like a failure when it comes to sharing the gospel.
So often, there’s an expectation in these books—whether spoken or unspoken—that you’re going to see immediate results. That you should be able to draw a line from someone who comes to faith in Christ to yourself. And I’m not always so sure that’s true. I agree that we should be able to point to clear fruit in our lives of our growth as disciples, which includes playing our part in making others disciples.
But I wonder if part of the discouragement so many of us feel about sharing the gospel comes down to this expectation? And sometimes I wonder if the expectation itself is realistic—or if it misses something critical that might actually strengthen us for our task?
Consider what Charles Spurgeon once said:
We must not always reckon to see nations converted the moment the gospel is preached to them; and especially where new ground has been broken up, where countries have just received the gospel message, we must not be disappointed if neither to-day nor to-morrow we are rewarded with abundant results. God’s plan involves ploughing, sowing, and waiting, and after these the up-springing and the harvest. “Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain.”[1. C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 182–183.]
This is good advice for all of us. It is a reminder that our expectations don’t always align to God’s plans. “God’s plan involves ploughing, sowing, and waiting, and after these the up-springing and the harvest,” as Spurgeon said. Sometimes as we share the gospel, will be ploughing the soil. Sometimes we will be sowing seeds. Much of our time, especially in a culture such as our own, will be spent waiting.
There are people I’ve been sharing the gospel with for years who I have yet to see express interest in the things of God, let alone give any indication that they will turn to Christ as their only hope. I still share what I can where I can, but I recognize that I’m probably not going to see the results right away (which, I hope, no one will write off as a lack of faith on my part). And if this effort does result in them coming to faith at some point, it doesn’t mean I’m going to know about it.
At least, not yet.
I fully expect there to be a day when I’ll get to learn the results. But today is not that day. Tomorrow might not be it, either. It probably won’t be until I’m standing with those people worshipping our risen Savior. And because I know that, I don’t need to worry about drawing a straight line right now. I can wait and I can work, knowing that Christ will reveal all in the end.