Jesus’ last words in Matthew 28 are referred to as the Great Commission.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In the book, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme, authors David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons state, “[T]wo out of five adults believe it is extremist to try and convert others to their faith; 60 percent of all adults in American and 83 percent of atheists and agnostics believe evangelism – one of the central actions of Christian conviction- is extremist.”
No Admission of Ignorance
Have you noticed fewer non-Christian friends express interest in Christianity? If you’ve been a Christ-follower for a while, do you even have any non-Christian friends? The non-Christian people you knew didn’t all decide to follow Jesus. But most did make a decision. They decided they had all the info they needed about Jesus and moved on. In today’s information age, not knowing is a stigma. People don’t want to admit ignorance. So they decide for themselves based on the information available. At that point, they become an expert, if only an expert in their own opinions.
When I graduated from college, I was the smartest person I knew. I figured I knew most of what was necessary to succeed and therefore it was just a matter of time before I succeeded and proved it to everyone. The hard reality of making a living created a problem for me. So I decided to check out church, without sharing my plan. I attended a workshop on how to show someone else how they could know for-a-fact they would go to heaven. At that workshop, I discovered new information that made sense to me. As a result, I decided to bend my life to follow Jesus.
“What people discover on their own, they accept without question.” Dr. Robert Pike
I discovered Jesus and he established a relationship with me through my own searching. Under any other situation, I wouldn’t have trusted Jesus. I chose my faith and continue to learn more about Jesus through scripture and interactions with other Christians. When I attended the workshop, in my mind, I wasn’t lost and I didn’t need to be saved. My work was frustrating. My income level was disappointing. But like most people who don’t ask for directions, I wasn’t lost and I didn’t need to stop and ask.
Make Disciples or Convert
Sometime in the distant past, Christians decided they needed to “convert” people or “lead them to salvation.” When I first decided to follow Jesus, it wasn’t terribly uncommon to meet people who were open to a faith conversation. I was one of those people, but I resisted the idea I didn’t understand the true Jesus. I described our relationship using my own terms. I outlined my opinion based on my own information and experiences.
We build relationships based on trust and wait for permission to speak when we respect others. Therefore, we must build friendships first. We consider our friends more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We consider hardships joy (James 1:2-4), turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and love when wronged. And we maintain a good attitude (Philippians 2:5-8, 14-16), trusting God, demonstrating extreme peace (Philippians 4:6) while doing a great job (Colossians 3:23-24).
Remember the Holy Spirit converts. Christians speak when asked, or ask for permission first. Let your friends discover new information. Trust God. He works in the lives of everyone we know, drawing them closer all the time. Unsolicited advice or conversation about faith is unwelcome. Wait until you’re asked or ask if the other person has an interest in the conversation.
Our next post will be more thoughts on how we respond. But what is your reaction to my thoughts? Care to share? I appreciate your thoughts and feedback on this topic. Our times have changed. Will we maintain our message and modify our approach? Can we?