Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

I've been thinking about why God led Joshua and the Israelites to pursue such a circuitous path in the assault on Jericho. Day in and day out, around and around they went with nothing to show for their efforts except tired feet and perhaps a few amused Canaanites up on the walls. When it all came down, they had one family added to the roles of Israel and a lot of dead lost heathen as the fruit of their labors. It dawns on me from years of effort and observation, that's not a bad analogy for much of our evangelism.

We go around and around, exerting every kind of effort to win the lost, but in the long run, what do we have to show for our efforts? How many souls have been truly been made disciples of Christ, their hearts conquered by the King of kings, and how many "live" as plastic replicas hung like trophies over the mantle in facsimile churches? Can that be what Christ meant by
fishing for men? From the limits of my own experience without recourse to any graphs, correlation analyses or demographics (in other words, the musings of my own demented mind), it seems that evangelism is a geometrical exercise. It's about circles and tangents.

You see, everyone lives within a network of people, whether family, friends or acquaintances. Not everyone, however, in any network or circle is equally influential. If the first person who comes to Christ within any circle is not a force within it, evangelism progresses slowly, if at all throughout it. Upon coming to Christ, some folk who were not much a force before, are transformed into one afterwards. Some, a lot in my experience, are not. When a "influence center" comes to Christ, or is made such after coming to Christ, the chain of cause and effect that follows domino-like is amazing. One after the other, the members of that network come to Christ too.

We try to mold everyone alike into an influence center within their circle, but observation tells me that is not realistic. While we must
teach everyone to be a witness (a tangent to other circles), imho, only a few will actually be successful at it-- the fruit tends to cluster on a few branches. When it becomes apparent that one of our people is a witnessing influence center, fruitfulness is achieved by supporting him or her with special attention. Encourage him or her, resource him or her, pray for him or her, and assist him or her disciple all the fish he or she nets. Turn them loose and let God exploit that tangential connection the spies discovered. In practice, true evangelistic fruit tends to come into the kingdom like cut-out dolls in a chain, one leading the next one he or she is connected to as the whole thing unfolds.

Family by family, or circle by circle the kingdom grows. I suppose we could call the concept Whole Household Salvation (see John 4:53 and Acts 11:14 too). We devote so much time, effort and resources to evangelizing, and yet how much real fruit do we have to show for it? The temptation is to grow impatient with the circular march, and substitute marketing techniques and a dumb-downed gospel. God has issued the age-old call to repentance and belief in Christ, which is all we have to trumpet. When people who are centers of influence hear that call and bank their trust in Christ, the walls come tumbling down.


  1. Good thoughts.

    When you think about it, ALL we're expected to be is witnesses - carriers of Good News. The rest is a work of the Spirit.

    But our desire to see results causes us to adopt worldly marketing techniques to emotionally seal a deal that is not a work of the Spirit. How dare we call "ministry" anything that is not a work of the Spirit!

    What pains me when I look at these marketing strategies of evangelism, is that it is actually so easy to be simple carriers of Good News instead. We all have the ability to consistently make people's day. And then people ask us "why?". 1 Peter 3:15-16 tells us to have an answer prepared for such questions on the basis of our own story, and to give it with gentleness and respect. For me, the answer is simple "God is so good to me that I have an abundant excess to give away".

    I'm not decrying the anointing of the evangelist and the preacher. We need the gifts and we should never stop asking for them. But it's so sad that high pressure evangelism denies the rest of the church the simple joy of spreading Good News. Even greater joy awaits us in the sharing of our joy with others, and I would like to see the church set free into that.

  2. Mark,
    Interesting thoughts. I wonder if some part of the 80/20 rule you cited in your last post comes in to play? Regardless, the bottom line is that we must trust God in order to do his work. There's no need for impatience, especially when it arises from a fleshly desire to succeed.


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