Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sharing Your Faith Without Seeing the Results

This morning it hit me...a year ago today, I was in Africa on my first ever Missions Trip. I never thought that, in the course of less than a year, I would be going on two of them. Just goes to show you that a lot can happen in one year! A few years ago, I remember feeling that I had never traveled as much as I thought I would have by that particular stage in my life. Well, I guess God heard me because I've done more traveling in this past year than I have in my lifetime!

Mexico (2 times)
Washington DC

No wonder I feel so worn out :-) Or maybe my age is just catching up with me :-P

I got off track... I was talking about Africa...

Realizing that I was in Africa last year at this time, got me to thinking about that trip and the experiences and what I took away from it. I remember going into the trip feeling like "I" had to do something big for God. I had to walk away from my trip knowing that "I" had changed at least one life. I remember getting home and feeling like "I" had done absolutely nothing to make a difference. In some ways, I felt like a failure... like I had failed God and myself. Aside from my team members, our translator, our Pastor and our driver, I didn't really form any lasting relationships with anyone. We stayed in the same village most of the time, but we were going from meeting to meeting to orphanage to hospital to one of Rick's speaking events to another hospital to a court hearing and even to a wedding. I never felt that we stayed in one place long enough to connect with anyone. I felt like one of those 'drive by missionaries'. We'd attend a church service, toss a few Bibles their way and we'd be off. Or we'd attend a showing of "The Jesus Film", lay hands on people and pray for them and then off we'd go. We were definitely 'doing' a lot, but I didn't feel like we were accomplishing much. (Now, let me say that I have absolutely no regrets about going to Africa, and, looking back, I know that God was able to use us... I just wasn't able to see it at the time.)

So, when the Thailand trip came to a close, I wasn't surprised, at all, to hear that a few of the people on my team were feeling that way. They felt that we were doing a lot, but not really accomplishing what we set out to accomplish. There was talk of how another person, on a completely separate trip, had led someone to Christ and there was the thought that, because this hadn't been done, that they hadn't been successful in some way. This really got me to thinking about the whole idea of 'leading someone to Christ'. Does anyone really hear the Gospel, for the first time in their lives, and immediately accept Christ into their lives then and there? I'm certain that it does happen. The Holy Spirit is very powerful and I know that God can have that effect on people. But, what about the majority of the people? I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but I tend to have doubts about those people who hear the message once and that's the be all and end all for them and they become a Christian, just like that. I worry about how deep that person's belief truely goes. Do they really believe it with all of their hearts, or are they just looking for acceptance from the one asking them to accept Christ? Or, do they feel pressured to do so? Or, are they just going along with what everyone else is doing, simply to fit in? This is just my opinion, but depending on the person receiving the message, I believe that it takes numerous attempts over the course of time before a person is ready to truely accept Christ into their lives.

I think that this is really what we have to pray about and focus on when we head out on these trips. Don't go into it with the goal of 'leading someone to Christ'. I mean, come on, we're giving ourselves WAY too much credit. We aren't 'leading' anyone. It's God, dwelling in these people, who is leading them to Himself. We are foolish if we think we are 'saving someone'. We can't save ourselves, much less anyone else. Only God can save people. But, we do get the privelege of having Him work through us in sharing His message; and, that's really what He calls us to do. Not to preach a sermon or use scare tactics and threats of hell to get someone to accept Christ. We are to share our experiences and how our life was before Jesus and how it has been after we accepted Him into our hearts. We are to share how He has worked in our lives and how we've witnessed Him working in the world around us. I think the 'Christian-ese' term would be 'planting seeds'. And, like any seeds you plant, some will stick and grow and produce fruit, while others will be snatched away by the birds, for lack of a better phrase. We aren't responsible for making those seeds stick. Only for planting them and then handing that person over to God to do the rest. We are there to show consistency in our faith, to show love to these hurting people and to see these people through God's eyes of compassion.

I do know that when you set out on one of these trips, you really want to walk away having something tangible to hold onto. Realistically, that's not going to happen everytime. More often than not, you are going to go back home not knowing what effect your words may have had and you really have to be okay with that. Truthfully, I don't believe God looks any more favorably upon the first person who shared God with Jane Doe versus the twentieth person who shared God with Jane Doe versus the person who helped lead Jane Doe, through prayer, in accepting Christ. Each person who did so, was being obedient and I think that God smiles down on each and everyone of them the same.

If you have any doubts, you should read the testimony of William Fay, author of "Share Jesus Without Fear". I finished this book just before leaving for Thailand and God really used it to give me such a sense of peace in that all I was called to do was be obedient and that I needed to be okay with not being that 25th person who, ultimately, led someone in the prayer. The cliff notes version of William Fay's testimony is that he was the CEO of a multimillion-dollar international corporation, he had ties to the mob and owned one of the larger houses of prostitution in the U.S. He, admittedly, mocked anyone who dared share their faith with him. Ultimately, his house of prostitution was raided and the only people who showed concern for how he was doing, was a Christian couple. Needless to say, it was NUMEROUS years after having first heard of Christ, that he accepted Him into his heart. What I loved was what William Fay had to say about the people, over the years, who had shared their faith with him:

"Through the years, many people came into my life to share their faith, but I would not receive it. I sent these people away, discouraged, because I either insulted them, antagonized them, or persecuted them. And if they walked away from me believing they had failed, they believed a lie. For I never forgot the name, the face, the person, or the words of anyone who ever told me about Jesus."

If that doesn't encourage you in sharing your faith, either here or overseas, regardless of the 'seen' result, I don't know what will.