In the latest AP-Gfk poll, nearly three-fourths of Americans said 2009 was a bad year. Forty-two percent of those noted it was ‘very bad.’ Since the Christian faith has always prospered in difficult times, we have every right to expect these to be great days to be sharing Jesus. Positive reports are filtering in from across our state that God is indeed wonderfully at work.
For instance, an Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) pastor recently emailed to say: “Since I started pushing myself and our church to be obedient to God in praying for this (GPS), we have seen an increase in attendance already.” Texas County is going all out to put the Gospel on every door. They report that over 75 percent of their churches are participating in GPS. A West St. Louis County pastor called to say, a year ago, his church was seeing only six to seven attend each Sunday. April 14, 12 prayer walked 850 homes in their community. Sunday morning, 30 came to church, and two joined. The evening before the Regional Evangelism Conference in Sikeston, several of us shared our faith with the young man serving us. He was so open to hearing about Jesus, that he sat down at the table with us to listen, and he soon prayed with us to receive Christ. As the old country boy would say, “It was as easy as shooting fish in a barrel!”
Hallelujah! Yes, God is at work, and as Jesus said, He is always at work (John 5:17). A caution is in order. Whenever you find God manifestly at work, so is our arch enemy, the devil. I wonder what the fiend is up to stop, stymie, or at least slow down, God’s work? If I were the devil, here are some strategies I would exploit.
I would instill in God’s people the fear of rejection
I would cause them to dwell on a negative witnessing experience they have had or heard of, and lead them to assume that is the norm. Convince them people don’t really want to know about Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t let them realize that very few unchurched people in America are antagonistic toward Christians and Christianity. In fact, Thom Rainer’s Research Team of 15, over a period of two years, visiting everyone of our 50 states, found that only 5 percent of the unchurched people are hostile and antagonistic toward the Gospel and Christians. His Research Team discovered that four out of ten will be receptive to a Christian’s concern for their eternity.
I would keep Christians busy doing good things, but not the best things.
I would lull believers into becoming at ease in Zion because of their religious involvement in matters that will not affect eternity. I would delude followers of Christ into complacency about the lostness of humanity around them. I wouldn’t want them to remember that the one or ones who shared Christ with them had little or no spare time on their hands, yet they took the time to share with them when they got saved.
I would infiltrate the church with the doctrine of tolerance.
I would have members learn that, according to contemporary society, intolerance is a great sin. I would shame them into believing that intolerance is related to bigotry, and no one wants to belong to that family of beliefs. Who are they really, who insists their way is the only right way to Heaven? I wouldn’t let them learn that mathematics is intolerant, teaching us that two plus two is four, not three or five. Signal lights are intolerant, green means go, red means stop. Or, that railroad tracks must be narrow or the train cannot run on them. And, by all means, don’t let it be known that it was Jesus who said, “… no one comes to the Father but by me.”
I would convince the church that the unchurched are anti-church
I would foster the belief, “If they really wanted to come to Church, they know where we are.” I would put up an attractive church sign that clearly reads “Welcome,” and breed the false presumption that’s all the Church needs to do. I would keep them from the knowledge that many of the unchurched are looking for Christian friends, that the unchurched are open to an invitation to church. They do want to know what Christians believe, and 82 percent of the 160 million unchurched people in America say they would attend church on Easter, if they were invited!
I would stifle the passion some believers have to pray for the lost by name.
After all, isn’t it enough just to say “God, save the lost;” or “God, have mercy on the heathen in Africa?” Why should I do what is the pastor’s job to do? If I were the devil, I would not want them to know that someone prayed for them, by name, to be saved. I would not want them to get so fanatical that they believed they were personally responsible for people being saved.
Thankfully, I am not the devil. But, if I was, I think these are some objectives I would seek to achieve. You see, God’s great purpose is to save people. It was for this great purpose He gave His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to die on Calvary’s cross. The great work of the devil is in trying to keep people from being saved. Pray for lost people by name. Invite them to worship with you Easter. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30). (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)