This week I want to continue to build out on the topic I began two weeks ago. The basic premise of that post was that when God gives a clear command to do something in the scriptures, then we do not need to pray about whether we should do it and wait for Him to lead us into it now. He already expects that. My fear, however, is that although I believe that to be true, too many Christians take it way too far the other way and don’t pray about anything when trying to reach people with the Gospel, thinking that because they have the command, then they must be able to handle it themselves.
Last week I wrote that we must be praying for divine wisdom in how to do missions. This week’s topic is very much tied to that subject: we must pray for humility in our evangelism.
Now, although I could begin with how we need to let God be God, and humble ourselves under His guidance, but if that isn’t already covered in last week’s post, I have wrote about it plenty of times before (like here, here, and here). What I am talking about this week is our need to pray for our humility towards those we are seeking to win to the Lord.
If you have been in the downtown area of any major U.S. city on the weekend, you have undoubtedly ran into Christians who are blocking the sidewalk, yelling at people walking by, handing out literature, or holding signs that declare God’s hatred for everyone. The worst of these “witnesses” are groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.
The thing that burdens me more than anything about these groups of people is that theologically, there is very little that we disagree on. But in practice, we clearly don’t believe things should be handled the same way. I think the difference is seeking humility in our approach.
I absolutely believe that what the world needs more than anything is for Christians to stop thinking that because our faith is the only true faith (Jesus said it, I’m just relaying the message…), then we are automatically better than those who do not believe. I think this leads us to pray for humility in two ways.
HUMILITY IN EVANGELISM RESPECTS OTHERS’ RIGHT TO AN OPINION.
At the core of Christian evangelism is the belief that Jesus really is the only way to salvation and to God. If we don’t believe that, then we have no grounds to seek conversions. That belief; however, is too often overblown and put on display with a major contempt for people who have strong beliefs to the opposite.
The tendency is that when we face strong objection to our beliefs – whether in the name of a different religion, or in the name of tolerance – we automatically set our minds on winning the argument, rather than winning the soul of that person. Now, while we can never surrender our own beliefs, we must be willing to engage others with a respect for their opinions, emotions, and even sentimentality tied with their false beliefs.
For most people outside of the Christian faith, their worldview is valid to them. Their faith may have given them much hope and inspiration. Their upbringing may have strong sentimental ties to the way they carry on their lives today. If we, then, go in determined only to destroy what they believe, we are in the wrong. Instead, we must walk with them through the Christian gospel, seeking to show them that it really is good news. We also must be willing to lose the argument for the sake of keeping our own testimony in tact, and we must be willing to let them walk away if they choose to do so.
The same Jesus who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, (John 14:6)” also, many times, watched people walk away from His teaching and rejecting Him as Saviour. We see examples of this in the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) as well as in the Pharisees, Scribes, and even the High Priest of Israel (Matthew 26:63-65). We must respect the decisions they make, even when it grieves us deeply.
HUMILITY IN EVANGELISM REMINDS US THAT WE, TOO, ARE SINNERS SAVED BY GRACE.
The other reason we must pray for humility in evangelism is that for those of us who have been Christians for a while, it is very easy for us to forget our past and assume a posture of being superior to those sinners we are dealing with. In the Gospels, Jesus never used His own perfection as a status symbol over the lost, so what right do we have to do so? After all, it is His perfection that we are wearing. Not our own.
When we have prayed for humility in reaching the lost, God will not only remind us of our former lost-ness, but in many cases will even use that to level the playing field with the ones we are witnessing to. If they see that we don’t consider ourselves at a higher status then they are, they will be more willing to listen to what we have to say.
This humility will also, then, grant us the freedom to discuss the sins of our past as well as our shortcomings where we struggle today. When we can be honest with people, it changes the whole tone of the conversation. If we go into it with the idea that we are perfect and people should be like us, it is a failure from the start. But if we go into the conversation remembering that no one is perfect but Jesus alone, then we are freed to be ourselves and point people to the God who loves us anyway.
Now, in 8 years of ministry, I can say that I have failed miserably at this over and over again. I can win the debate. And my pride makes me want to, badly. There have been times that I have intellectually shot holes in peoples arguments, showed them why Christianity is the only way that makes sense, and even gotten them to make full concession to what I told them. But when I have been in it to win the argument, I have lost their hearts in the process, and they still walk away lost.
God has already told us to do missions. We must be obedient. But when we try to do it with our own methods or by our own powers of persuasion, we fail. It doesn’t take a lot of structured planning, methodological training, and a person who is shrewd and cunning to see people saved. If we will simply pray for divine wisdom, and we will seek be obedient to the Great Commission with a spirit of humility, we can trust that God will do what He is in the business of doing: saving sinners.
Are you looking for an evangelistic outreach to get involved in? Want to do a mission trip in 2012? Heart of God International Ministries is looking for team members for it’s Outreach in London as the nations gather for the Olympics.