I enjoy internet research. I find it fascinating that with a click of a button, one can access a literal world of information. Curiously, upon thinking about this submission, I wondered about our result-oriented society and the longing for success. Hence, I typed ‘three easy steps’ into the google search engine, figuring someone out there, regardless of their endeavor, wants success and a simple path to get there.
There were 417 million results for ‘three easy steps!’ So, yes – people do resonate with this sentiment. I must admit, I like a track to run on and yes – keep it simple. Three easy steps? Sign me up!
The evangelistic endeavor is not a ‘three easy step’ engagement! Rather, it is a step of faith. Can I get a cyber-amen?
Another not so easy reality of evangelism is that the result of our efforts must be left to the Lord. In fact, best definition of success in witnessing I’ve found comes from Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ:
Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.
Additionally, the results of successful witnessing may not result in salvation or even a ‘positive response’ to the gospel (click here to read more). Yet when our witness results in someone receiving the Lord, we rejoice, remembering that while one plants, one sows, and one waters, it is ‘God who gives the increase’ (I Corinthians 3:7).
In Acts 16, Paul begins his second missionary journey, accompanied by Silas and Timothy. Their travels take them to Philippi, where we find them ministering one Sabbath day:
Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there (Acts 16:11-13).
And what do you suppose Paul’s team was sharing? Well, based upon revelation in other sections in the book of Acts, often during the Sabbath we find Paul teaching things of the Kingdom, and more specifically – the good news of Jesus the Messiah. One example we’ve examined previously was Acts 13:13-47.
Evangelism should begin on our knees. I have a pastor friend of mine who told me he starts every day praying specifically for God to open doors, provide ministry opportunities and orchestrate divine appointments. This certainly applies in the evangelistic endeavor.
In Colossians 4:2 Paul asked the Church in Colosse to pray that ‘God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.’
As the Lord directs the steps of His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), He also opens the heart of people who hear the gospel. He does this through the power of the Holy Spirit, yet with whom He does this is quite a mystery.
We don’t necessarily understand the true condition of the human heart, but the Lord does (Jeremiah 20:12, Luke 16:15, John 2:25, Acts 15:8). So how a person may or may not respond to the gospel is ultimately an issue between them and the Lord – for we plant, we sow, and we water in faith, but it is the Lord who gives the increase when there is an increase. For the human heart is likened to the soil in the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). So we need to pray God would soften the hearts of people (make it ‘good soil’) to hear the gospel and receive the Lord.
God Give the Increase
God not only opens up the heart of Lydia, but her entire household:
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us (Acts 16:14-15).
So simple, yet so profound and powerful! This truth should encourage and inform our evangelistic efforts. Yes, we are to pray for others. We are to lovingly serve them. We are to proclaim the gospel as God opens doors. But we can’t and won’t open the heart – this is God’s work (John 6:44-45). So stop trying to ‘get them to see the light.’ Rather, pray God works in their heart and delivers them out of darkness and into the light (Colossians 1:13)!
Seek to be faithful – faithful to plant, sow and water through prayer, service, and proclamation – all done in love! And along the way praying that God will do what only He can do – give the increase!
Lord Jesus, we commit our witness and those among whom we give a witness to You, praying God would give the increase. Amen.