A Sinner’s Prayer is not The Goal of Evangelism

His prayer 25 years ago failed.

My friend had obediently prayed with the well meaning evangelist.  My friend repeated the phrases the evangelist said, one after the next, confessing his sin, inviting Jesus into his heart.

But nothing happened.

There was no spiritual transaction,  no renewal in his heart, no conviction of sin, and no awareness of the power of God’s grace.

My friend’s life didn’t change.  Twenty five years later, he simply reflects:

[Read more…]

The Sinners Prayer for the Person with a Christian Background

Fourteen months ago, my friend and I first got acquainted.  We have spent much time together during those 14 months getting to know one another.

When I first mentioned that I was a follower of Christ, the defensive wall went up.   He didn’t want to talk about spiritual things.

But as I continue to mention Christ my ordinary conversations, he has softened his hostility and moved to curiosity. [Read more…]

When does discipleship begin? – Video

In this brief video from The Exchange, Ed Stetzer interviews Robert Coleman during Exponential and this highlight was shared.

Dr. Coleman wrote the classic The Master Plan of Evangelism and was at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School when I was there.  Unfortunately, I never had a class with him (it didn’t fit my schedule), but my evangelism classes from Trinity shape this ministry today.

When does Discipleship Start?

In this brief except, Coleman answers Stetzer’s question.

Stetzer writes about evangelism being a pre-discipleship journey, that the whole process of evangelism is a journey towards faith, a view I happen to share and write on as well.

I hold that the evangelistic journey is a process over time that grows people into a relationship with Christ.  Discipleship continues after surrender.

Other’s may hold that the entire journey is part of the process of discipleship – showing Jesus and His teachings to one not yet a believer.  It’s simply the pre-conversion stage in the disciplemaking process.

How do you see it?

Feel free to share a quick thought in the comments below.

 

The Apostle Paul’s Journey to Faith in Christ

Jesus also said,

The Spiritual Journey to the Christian Faith“This is what the kingdom of God is like.

A man scatters seed on the ground.

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

(Mark 4:26-29)

If we think of evangelism in terms of process of a  journey to the Christian faith, what might that have been like for the Apostle Paul?

Allow me to speculate a little.

The Seeds of Faith

First, here are some background events and influences that shaped his journey faith:

  • Jewish scholar (likely with lots of discussions about meanings of texts).
  • Pharisee of Pharisee (Acts 23:6)
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews (Phil 3.5)
  • Studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22.3).

The Lord uses our our background to shape the spiritual awakening.

One could compare that to lots of seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to awaken faith.

A seed doesn’t bloom to harvest instantly.

There is no “on-off” switch.

The seed needs time to germinate, grow, and mature through a natural organic progression.

Our job as a witness to watch for markers of the journey that our friends are on to faith in Christ and nurture them along into the next phase of growth.  We can look for the seeds that are already there.

Possible Spiritual Thirst that Opens the Door

Then there are the event of the time when Paul first begins to appear on the scene in Acts:

  • Present at Stephen’s speech and stoning (Acts 8:1)
  • Trying to destroy the church, going from house to house (Acts 8:3).

One can reasonably speculate on how Paul interacted with the early Christian believers ready to suffer and die for their faith in Christ. We think highly of the witness of the persecuted church and it’s reasonable to assume that Paul saw that witness.

I can imagine him ruminating in late night hours as perhaps something bothered him about their witness.

  • Maybe he heard them praying for him.
  • Maybe he heard their witness to him.
  • Maybe he even felt their love.

Likewise, if Paul’s teacher is the same Gamaliel of Acts 5:34-39, Paul may have observed that even his teacher may have been troubled by the genuineness of the early Christian movement.

Perhaps he knew his teach Gamaliel was puzzled as well.

This restlessness (speculation, I know) prepared Paul for his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.

I can imagine how the Holy Spirit was using these life moments to prepare Paul.

This is the drawing process.  (Read John 6:44)

We get to participate in the evangelism process

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit draws people to faith over time.

Sometimes we get to plant, water, or harvest.

Each story I listen to of a journey to faith had more than one key turning point in the discovery of God.

It might have been a

  • Conversation
  • Sermon
  • Invitation to a church or event
  • Life circumstances
  • Late night musings over deep issues.

So much of our evangelism training focuses on the conversion, we forget to allow for the process of maturity.

We need to allow our seeking friends time

  • to make their decision,
  • find answers for their questions
  • become willing to consider the claims of Christ
  • find healing for wounds caused by Christians or other people that harm their journey.

Evangelism is often viewed only as the proclamation of the gospel.  In a technical sense – it is.

But when I think of evangelism as the process of faith awakening, there is a lot of potentially evangelistic activity.

What about you?

Answer this question:  Is Evangelism a Process or Event?  I invite your commentary below.

30 days of Prayer: Day 7 The Process of Evangelism

This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series 30 Days of Prayer

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 1 Cor 3:6-7 (NIV)

The seed of evangelism

Paul gives us a great analogy to talk about the conversion process.   It picks up on some of the parables that Jesus used when he said “A farmer went out to sow the seed . .  (Mark 4), or “The kingdom of God is like a farmer walking across a field when .. . . “(Matt 13).

Different parts of the evangelism process

As you have been praying for the harvest these last few days, you might have a part to play.

  • Perhaps you are a sower.
  • Perhaps you are to give water.
  • Perhaps you are ready to harvest.

All of us have a part to play in the conversion journey of our friends.

Maybe it is:

  • Conversing about their spiritual thirst that helps them move a step forward (watering).
  • Raising a question about their faith they had never considered before (planting).
  • Sharing a scripture that has meant a lot to you in a similar circumstance (planting).
  • Asking how God is answering their prayers (watering).
  • Offering to pray with them in a time of need (planting).
  • Inviting them to church to hear a sermon series that matches a need (watering)
  • Ivinting them to serve in the community with you (planting).
  • Offering them a bible study in their home to explore their questions (watering).
  • Visiting them in the hospital and praying with them (with their permission).
  • Taking them a meal when there is a crisis (planting)
  • Talking with the first time visitor after the church service and learning of their need (planting).

There are lots of actions we can do to plant, to water, to be part of the process of conversion.

We might even have a part in tilling the soil, helping to prepare their hearts to hear the word of God.

We might even have a part in pulling out the weeds, such as pointing out conflicting worldviews.

We might even have a part in the harvest, helping them to surrender the life to Christ.

Seeing personal evangelism in light of the PROCESS, we find freedom to play our part rather than rush the harvest.

Today’s prayer:

Lord, you’ve placed me in a circle of friends who are on their own spiritual journey.

As I pray for each one by name today, perhaps you’d speak with me about something I might be able to do that would participate in that process.

Show me how I might

  1. Till
  2. Plant
  3. Weed
  4. Water
  5. Harvest

in the life of each friend that I pray for off my list.

Today’s action

Work through your list of friends that you are praying for.

Pray for each one by name, asking the Lord to show you what you might be able to do.

Be prepared to write down those ideas and look for opportunities to follow through.

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