Are we really being used to change people?
—Billy Graham (Christianity Today Online, "A Greater Vision," 10/24/06)
Billy Graham, modern Evangelicalism's elder statesman, poses a legitimate question. Since that article debuted a month ago, the question's tugged at my heart.
We talk about the Kingdom of God a lot in Evangelical circles, but sometimes I feel we're missing the point. In some ways, we live out the Faith like the kid who has a celebrity run-in with Brad Pitt and thereafter insists to awed friends that he's now a lifelong pal. A simple phone call to Mr. Pitt would dispel all pretenses, but it sounds good. And who's got that phone number lying around anyway?
Any blogger worth his or her salt will instantly chime in and remind us that "we" don't change anyone, God does. No arguments there. But God decided to work His will through earthen vessels. Jesus' prayer that God would raise up laborers to go into the fields wasn't a call for the angels to get off their duffs.
As we go into the Christmas season, hundreds of opportunities will come for us to answer Graham's question in the affirmative. If we keep it in mind through every daily personal interaction, how can we not begin living out a transforming faith?
But it doesn't come naturally. We need to work at viewing every interaction we have with other people as an opportunity for the Kingdom or against it. At a time of the year when jerkdom abounds, swallowing our inner jerk after standing in line for a half hour to return a misbought gift would go far in showing the poor person on the opposite side of the counter that our lives run counter to the ways of the world. If I had a dime for every Ichthus-bumper-stickered car driven by some guy who just verbally assaulted a pony-tailed teen girl working in the least-desired spot in the store, I'd be well on the way to Warren Buffet-dom.
Christmas naturally opens people to Christ. Does your server at the restaurant know the Lord? How can you serve him while he's serving you? Or how about watching the kids for the single mom you know so she can shop for her kids? Offer to drive an elderly person to the mall so she can shop, too. And while you're at it, buy her lunch.
The possibilities are endless if your heart inclines to the sheep not yet in Christ's fold.
9 thoughts on ““Are We Really Being Used to Change People?””
Great post–thanks for the encouragement–I think you are right on!
The older I get, the more I realize it’s about practicing what we preach. That seems so simple, yet so few people do it. As a result, we Christians look and act no different from the world. That’s so sad.
Combating that lack of praxis in our lives is one of the main reasons this blog exists.
Dan, You are speaking to me where I am right now!
Dan- thanks for another thought provoking post. ‘Capitalistic Christianity’ seeks to show positive numbers on the bottom line. We seek to “sell” Christ in order to make converts, and the number of people we have up in front showing they have accepted Christ, and the numbers of baptisms we’ve had this year, leading to an increase in the number of church members…well, you get the picture. Why do we keep track? Why do we not simply get to know the people around us, following Christ’s commandment to Love God: Setting us apart and making us transformed by His love, and Loving Others: Focusing our actions outwards towards a dying world?
I have to stop thinking of “saving people” as a process in which I am involved in from beginning to end. As Paul said, he planted, Apollo watered. Who cares what part I play, as long as I am obedient to the command of Christ? Love God, Love Others. I live my life in front of others, focusing on being obedient to Christ, rather than trying to convince people. What I say, what I do, how I live in this world, rather than 4 laws, Kennedy’s questions, or Chick publications. When people ask, I should have a ready explanation for the hope that people should be seeing in me. The only way people will see me living is if I am out in the world, and not bolting down my Christian Rabbit Hole. Love is a verb. The deepest love comes from knowledge. So Know God, and Know your neighbor. I need to be as diligent in prayer and in seeking out the Scriptures in order to know God as I am in seeking out my Neighbors so I can know them. And my goal is not to win them to Christ, though that is my desire, but to love them. Any more than my goal is salvation, though that is my desire, but rather to love God.
I hate to use a sales tactic to explain evangelism, but we have to “ask for the sale.”
Every successful salesman needs to go beyond merely explaining what he’s selling. At some point he must ask the customer to buy.
While I’m firmly on your side of always explaining the Gospel by words and practice, sometimes we have to ask people to come to Christ. We can’t always be sowing; sometimes we must reap.
Discernment is called for in this, but we sometimes fail to exercise it. Like any novice salesman will tell you, asking for the sale is hard. In the same way, asking people to commit to Christ takes some “nerve,” especially if we haven’t asked much before.
Sowing is easy. Reaping is tougher. We need to do both.
I agree with David. How does “selling Christianity” gain true Christians? I’m trying to learn about Christianity, but it is exactly this idea of “selling” that keeps me at a distance. There should be no selling, no bribing with heaven , nor blackmail with hell. Shouldn’t Christians follow God’s words because it is the right thing to do? Spreading the word is one thing, but trying to get people to convert is another?
Beautiful post. David R., right on! If our motive isn’t to love more and better, we have to ask what we’re doing in the first place.
Do we need to push the sale of Christ? It seems to me that most, if not all of the conversions in the Bible occur when the person asks “what must I do to be saved?”
Amen to that. However, I would encourage us to carry this beyond the Christmas season.