Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evenagelism Myth #4 - Results are What Count

One of the things that will often come up, that will be presented as part of an Evangelism Plan is results. The person selling the plan will point to results - why, one church did plan X and they had an increase in attendance of 30%. Behold the results - see the results. This even happens on an informal level - did you hear about St. _____ - they did X and more people came - we should do X too! The focus is placed upon the results.

This is especially true because we are Americans. Americans love results. Think about the typical newspaper - the Sports Section - results. Box scores and stats - results. Or the business section, chalk full of Stock Market results. Movies and TV - what does the box office say, what are the ratings. In fact, this is what has driven our love of reality TV and before that game shows (anyone notice that most reality TV shows are really just long lasting game shows?) - we love results.

Here's the problem - God doesn't instruct us to focus on results. God calls us to be faithful, and God calls us to speak. I can think of tons of examples that can point to either of these ideas - being faithful or speaking about what God has done. I can't think of a single instance where God tells us to worry about the results.

In fact, quite often the faithful could care less what people might see from the results. Consider Joshua. At the end of his life, this is what he preaches to Israel:

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

It is a call to be faithful - to listen to what God commands - to remember all the blessings of salvation he has given you (Joshua had just talked about the Exodus). And as for the results -- well, Joshua is dismissive of results. He even says, "I don't care if every one of you here thinks being faithful is lousy - if every result is poor - me and my house - we will serve the LORD. This is a call to faithfulness - even if the results and the times look bad.

Or consider Elijah - after his great victory over the priests of Ba'al (hey, good result there), Queen Jezebel is determined to kill him (eh, not so good result there) - and Elijah runs to the hills and complains to God - " have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away." Consider what Elijah says - I've been faithful, very, very faithful - but the results aren't there. I'm not seeing the glorious revolution and growth. The queen wants to kill me, and there aren't too many people trying to stop her!

Yet what does God say? Does God say, "Hmmm, perhaps we should change our strategy"? "Hmm, maybe we need to be more culturally sensitive and find out what felt need of the people is being reached with Ba'al worship"? Nope.

"Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."

I love this. Oh, being a faithful prophet isn't giving you the results you wanted, Elijah? Well, here's what you're going to do. Go be a faithful prophet. Prophets anoint - go anoint. Go find an assistant and anoint him, train him. He'll take over for you when you die. And as for results - um, yeah, I think I'll let Jehu and Elisha see the results you want. As for you, just go be faithful and teach.

And there's more - Jonah who is sent to preach, but actually is surprised and angry when people listen. Jeremiah, who preaches faithfully and people decide they want to kill him (not the result the evangelism salesman promises). So on and so forth.

Or even consider the New Testament - What's Peter supposed to do in John 21? Grow the fold? No - feed the sheep. Being faithful and proclaim. Or consider Acts. What was Stephen supposed to do - be faithful - even if it gets him stoned. Or Paul - preach faithfully, even if it gets him arrested and sent to Rome.

In fact - "witnessing" rightly in the New Testament generally led to death. In fact, that's the general approach - be faithful and speak faithfully (amongst your friends for everyone, publicly if you are a pastor) until you die. Simple as that.

The focus, the thrust that God has instructed us deals with faithfulness - to have no other gods - to teach people to observe all things (not just the things that might bring good results). And this is how any program should be judged - does it point us towards results or instruct us towards faithfulness?

No comments: