Failing At Evangelism? Redefine “Success”

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On multiple occasions, I’ve walked away from sharing my faith with all kinds of thoughts and questions bouncing around in my mind…

“Did I talk too much?”

“Did I ask enough questions?”

“Did I clearly articulate the next steps for them?” 

“Should I have offered to follow up with them?”

Do you notice what’s laced throughout all these questions? I. What could I have done? The sin weaved through these questions didn’t really hit me until recently, when I began to follow Paul’s ministry in Acts and in his subsequent letters. As I’ve been reading, I’ve recognized a few things that have put my heart to rest when it comes to engaging the lost.

Performance.

Paul had a very clear call. In Acts 9, he was told by Christ Himself, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Paul knew that He was going to carry the name of Christ to the Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, as well as suffer for the sake of Christ.

Not a surprise, but this all came to pass… Gentiles, kings, children of Israel, and, of course, the suffering. What I found interesting was what marked Paul’s journey… or rather, what didn’t. 

  • In Acts 21-22, Paul stood on the temple mount to speak to a large Jewish audience. He spoke boldly to a captive audience who listened to each word of his sermon until he mentioned one word– “Gentiles.” The crowd quickly turned on him, began to riot, and he wasn’t even able to finish his message.
  • In Acts 23, Paul got to address a group of very influential leaders, the Sanhedrin council. He began with a comment that caused someone to slap Paul in the face. 

Success and performance, at least the way we define it, didn’t necessarily mark Paul’s journey. He had two great opportunities to win people to Christ and what was the result? A riot and a slap in the face. 

If you continue reading in Acts, it seems that regardless of his performance, he is presented with more and more opportunities. He goes on to speak before Felix the governor, Festus the governor, King Agrippa, and many other influential people in Caesarea, before eventually getting shipped off to Rome for even more opportunities. Why?  

Maybe it wasn’t about his performance. Maybe it wasn’t about what he said or didn’t say. Paul was given more and more opportunities because he was faithful to continue to share, no matter how it turned out for him. Maybe the mark that God is looking for us to hit is faithfulness.

People define performance based on the outcome or how well something is received. God defines performance based on the level of faithfulness. Because of this, I can know that if I am faithful to share, God will be faithful to take care of the outcome.  

Partnership.

In 1 Corinthians 3:7, Paul writes, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” We have a job and God has a job. We may plant, we may water, but only God gives the growth. First, let’s recognize the beauty of this. We are working in partnership with God. Verse 9 goes on to say, “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” God has called us into partnership with Him, but we must see, understand, and act faithfully in the role He has given us to play.

We plant. What this means is we faithfully share the gospel with anyone that God has placed in our sphere of influence. That may be all it is. We toss out seed and pray that it takes root.

We water. Sometimes, people have heard the gospel many times, but, for whatever reason, it still hasn’t taken root. Our role is to follow up with them. We talk through scripture and answer questions they have about faith. We pray with and for them, that they would come to faith. No matter what, we are still in full dependence on God for the final, most crucial role.

God gives growth. There is not a thing we can do to turn a heart towards Christ, but what we can do is faithfully share the word and point people to the One who can turn hearts.

Even in the faithful pursuit of sharing our faith, we can begin to blur the lines between our role and God’s role. We need to remember that our role is simply to partner with God where He is at work. That’s all. Because of this, I don’t have to walk away questioning whether or not I should have done more. I am simply a partner in the work that God Himself is doing. 

Position.

So, where do these questions come from? Why do I feel that I must still have some notable level of performance? What am I still missing that causes me to believe I play a more significant role than what is prescribed by scripture?

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis discusses the idea of glory. He argues that this promise of glory will come on the other side of approval. This promise of glory will come in that moment at the gates of heaven, when God Himself says, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That moment when we no longer live in that tension of wondering, “Am I truly right with God?”

My question is–why not live in that now? Glory is on the other side of approval. Freedom is on the other side of approval. Peace is on the other side of approval. Paul pointed us to this very idea in Romans 5:1, when he says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have been justified with God through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. It has nothing to do with how we perform. It has nothing to do with our results. Our position is firmly stamped as approved.

So, today we can live in that glory… the kind of glory that comes on the other side of approval. And because of that, we can share the gospel with freedom, knowing that we have been approved by God for the work He has for us to do.

So when it comes to measuring our success in sharing the gospel, we need to remember these 3 truths:

Performance is measured only by faithfulness.

The only one capable of changing hearts is God.

No matter what the end result is, our only position is approved.

 

By Ryan Armstrong. Ryan is married to his wife, Christy, and as of June 15, they are new parents to Ellis Jack. Ryan has been a Waco resident, serving at Harris Creek, and teaching math at Midway Middle School for the past two years.

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