We live in a world that often says hard work and doing the right thing will bring the desired results. To promote the desired result there are a myriad of tools at our disposal, including self-help tools, user guides, how to’s, the ‘three steps to this’ and ‘the four steps to that’. They may come in the form of seminars, DVD’s, CD’s, books, television shows, and so on. And we get it. Do this and you will get the desired result.
As we think about the desired results in evangelism, it would be good for us to think in biblical terms, not according to worldly standards. As we explore the desired results according to God’s paradigm, we will see that A+B doesn’t necessarily equal C.
Let me explain.
Success in Witnessing
We all want to be successful in our witness. Yet we first must define success in witnessing. The best definition for success in witnessing I have found comes from Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU): “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.”
I really like this definition based upon what it says, but also based upon what it doesn’t say!
It does say we are to take initiative in the power of God’s Spirit and leave the results to God. It doesn’t say success in witnessing is having somebody receive the Lord, although that is certainly the most desired result.
In teaching evangelism seminars the issue of successful witnessing is an issue for believers. I have heard Christians tell me they’ve felt like failures in their witness because they “haven’t led someone to Christ.” In hearing this lament, I’ve lent words of comfort, reminding them God is the Author of Salvation and their responsibility is to simply be a faithful witness.
Taking the Initiative
Based upon the definition of successful witnessing above, taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is the key to success in witnessing. In fact this is our role in the evangelistic endeavor.
Spirit-led evangelistic activity is part of the success formula. Sharing Christ and the Gospel message is central to this endeavor. Remember, we’re not alone. The Lord is with us.
What does it mean to take initiative? In part it is to go when God calls, to go where God calls you and to go to whom God calls. It may in the context of personal relationships and it may be in the context of ‘witnessing on the way’ as you’re out and about.
And we do this through the power of the Spirit, for we are not alone:
- When Jesus called His disciples, He said: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
- At the end of His ministry, just before ascending to heaven He stated, “Go and make disciples of all nations…and I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:18-20).
- And just before His ascension, Jesus said in Acts 1:8: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The results of our evangelistic efforts are always in God’s hands and people have a choice. In short, whatever the results, whether painful or joyful, they are not ours to control. Instead of trying to “get them to see the light,” pray the Spirit of God would open their eyes to see the light through our witness. Because it is only the Lord Who can open the eyes of the one who is spiritually blind and enable them to see and understand the truth and trust in Christ.
This certainly flies in opposition to worldly endeavors, where success often has a defined outcome, is man-centered and is desirable. The book of Acts conveys the birth and expansion of the early church and is a great study in evangelism. In the Kingdom of God, faithful evangelistic effort in the power of the Holy Spirit may actually result in the following as noted by a few examples from the book of Acts:
- Salvation (Acts 2:1-41, Acts 10:34-48, Acts 16:25-34, and many other passages)
- Arrests & Threats (Acts 4:1-22, Acts 16:16-24, Acts 21:26-36))
- Stoning (Acts 14:1-7, 19-20)
- Assault (Acts 17:5-9)
- Rioting (Acts 19:21-41)
- Death (Acts 7:1-60)
These are the results of faithful witnessing! A biblical perspective of expectations regarding our witness reveals that most of the results are “undesirable” from a human perspective. Yet, in God’s Kingdom, the desired result is initially the conviction of sin! And often, a human being’s initial response to conviction is typically not salvation. In fact, evangelistic research indicates that it typically takes several exposures to the gospel before a person who ultimately receives the Lord to make that decision. That was certainly my case, as my initial responses to a gospel witness were categorical rejection of the message. And you? What was your initial response? So don’t be surprised when your faithfulness in witnessing brings about various negative responses. Understand conviction must precede confession of sin. And the process of surrendering to the Lord is often just that – a process.
Being Ok With That!
We’ve noted the desired results, those which reflect God’s plans and purposes, are sometimes, humanly-speaking, painful. Yet, there is great blessing in identifying with the Lord in His suffering through faithful witnessing. For He says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Therefore brothers and sisters, strive to be successful in witnessing, and be ok with the desired results according to God will!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).