Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Evangelism Afterthoughts

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."
John 4:31-38

Late this past Friday night, I drove home from San Jose to my apartment in Morgan Hill tired and frustrated. Getting less than 5 hours of sleep the night before is probably part of the reason why. But the bigger reason why I was tired and frustrated is because I had just spent the whole night hanging out with a friend of mine who completely rejects Jesus. I’ve known this guy longer than anyone else I know who isn’t a family member. He’s like a brother to me and ever since I started following Jesus in college, I have wanted him to follow Jesus also. So we’ve had lots of conversations about Jesus. And about Buddhism, because that’s his religion. We sat at dinner for over an hour talking about Jesus and I could have sworn it was like he didn’t hear the words that were coming out of my mouth. I tried to patiently listen to him and then engage with him about how Buddhism and Christianity are radically different, but he always concludes that they are more similar than they are different. So by the end I was tired because engaging like that takes emotional and mental energy. And frustrated because I feel like it was a waste of time that could have been spent in a more enjoyable or productive way.

This is often the way that I feel after I talk to people about Jesus. Just the week before I spent pretty much the entire bus ride from San Jose back to Morgan Hill talking to a woman I’ve gotten to know on the bus who describes herself as a non-practicing Jew. When she told me that she was going to the synagogue the next day, I was intrigued because she had told me she was non-practicing. So she explained to me that it was the one time in the year that she goes to the synagogue: to observe Yom Kippur, which for Jews is the day of atonement. In the Old Testament, God created this as a day to conduct rituals that would symbolically remove the sins of the people and cleanse them so that they would be right with God. I asked her what if she could have her sins removed and cleansed once for all so that she didn’t have to keep doing it year after year. At that point she got really defensive, claimed it was impossible, and then laughed as she walked off the bus. I was frustrated and disappointed as I drove home thinking about what I should have done differently.

Do you ever feel that way after you talk to people about Jesus? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? Discouraged? Feel like you failed? Or am I the only one? What thoughts are going through your mind after you have just done the work of an evangelist? Well, have you ever asked yourself what thoughts should be going through your mind after you have just done the work of an evangelist?

That was the introduction to the message I preached to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at San Jose State University last Wednesday night. You can read the entire message here.

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