Picture this: two extremely “clean cut” young men on bicycles, dressed in nearly identical blue suits, skinny ties, white shirts. They’ve each got a leather binder under one arm, and they’re pedaling from house to house, knocking on doors.
At this point, you’re probably pretty confident that I’m talking about either Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. Both groups are noted for their determined door-to-door evangelism. Perhaps as a result, the Jehovah’s Witnesses can be described as the fastest-growing religion in America (as a percentage of their relatively small membership.)
Most evangelical churches don’t expect their members to knock on doors in an effort to win converts. (I’d look pretty awful in a navy blue suit, not to mention the mandatory haircut.) But I vividly remember my freshman year in college, when two upper class students from Campus Crusade came to my dorm room. An ardent atheist at the time, I’m embarrassed to confess that I wasn’t exactly cordial.
(God’s sense of justice—and humor—was revealed the following year when, as a baby believer, I ended up on the other side of a dorm door. I watched in astonishment as my partner led the room’s residents to faith.)
Maybe it’s the negative stereotype of the tract-distributing religious nut. Perhaps it’s because I don’t deal well with rejection (who does?). It could be that I’m just a coward—but the idea of “selling” Jesus in this way just terrifies me. As a result, I always feel horribly guilty when confronted with a sermon on evangelism.
Yes, I have great news that I long to share with others. Yes, I can’t claim to love someone if I withhold life-saving information from them. Yes, I share God’s heart that all people come to know and follow Him. But….
There has to be another way, right?
Over the years I have tried to overcome my anxiety and witness to people, both friends and strangers. It was awkward and unproductive. Slowly I just gave up.
Then a speaker at a YWAM base said something that totally changed my view of evangelism. He explained that we need to let the Holy Spirit determine our goal. We may not be the one to take a resolute unbeliever and turn them into a Billy Graham. Our role might simply involve being a positive influence rather than a negative one. We might be just one more step on a road to salvation.
I loved how the speaker summarized his message—we don’t always have to move someone from A to Z. Sometimes God will use us merely to get them from G to H.
I was so relieved, I could have kissed this man (Pete would have objected, I’m sure). First, it was a reminder that we’re not the ones responsible for someone else’s decisions. God grants them free will, and so must we. Our job is to be a pleasing aroma, an ambassador for the Kingdom of God.
Looking back, I can see how this has been true in my life. I’ve actually never been the one to welcome a new believer into God’s family. However, I have influenced a lot of people who later became Christians.
Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 express it another way: “…only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
We can plant seeds, water, weed, or harvest, but God is the one at work in their hearts, wooing them to Himself.