"What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building." -- 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
The “Go ye therefore” commission that animates the heartbeat of the church should echo ever louder in the mind and heart of the believer. Our individual obedience to this command and to all it entails is a chief evidence of our own interaction with the power of the gospel.
God does not need the assistance of man in the task of evangelism. This God has written His law on the hearts of men. He can arrest a mountain with His glory and apprehend a heart with His spoken word. However, in His infinite grace and providence He has chosen the weak to serve and the broken to carry His message to His redeemed throughout the nations.
Each one of us, if we claim the name of Christ, assume the mantle of evangelist in one capacity or another. Evangelism is the proclamation of the love of God in the Gospel of Christ to those in sin in need of redemption.
But it is often easy when engaging in evangelism to become discouraged if conversion is not immediate, or if there is not an instant result. We live in a results-driven culture, and our churches occupy a subculture that is equally results-driven. While the end is important, the obedience displayed in the means should be our primary focus. We sow, but it is God that brings the growth.
I lived the first decade and a half of my twenty plus years as a Christian burdened with the idea that my task in evangelism was two-fold: to preach and to bring about conversion. When I was faithful to the first task but unproductive in the second, I often experience debilitating discouragement. It is difficult for me to convey the freedom that washed over my heart when the burden of responsibility for another’s conversion was removed from me and rightly placed on God.
This brings me to topic of obedient persistence in evangelism. Francis Thompson, the nineteenth century poet and tragic opium addict, wrote the haunting poem, “The Hound of Heaven.” This work is a bit obscure in some areas but the overall message is powerful as it describes God’s pursuit of the wayward soul. Thompson writes:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears…
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”
How is this lost soul pursued? Whose feet follow after him? Could they be the "beautiful feet of those who preach the good news?" (Rom. 10:15)
When those around us are fleeing through the night, we should be there with the Light. As they fill their days with idle distractions, we should be there with a focus. Through the years, as they progress through the labyrinths of philosophical excuses, we should be there with an answer. With undisturbed pace, deliberate speed, and majestic instancy we should be the voice they hear, in the midst of their tears, proclaiming the love of God through Christ.
For we are the vehicles of God’s pursuit of those He loves, of those He sent His Son to die for, of those who flee, not knowing where they're going. They may not repent during your preaching, but perhaps it is your time to sow, another’s time to water, and in God’s time, the growth will come.
“For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:13-15)
Brothers and Sisters, we have been sent. Go. Obey. Pursue. Preach. And let God reap the harvest and the glory.