Today’s church service was essentially a pep rally about our church’s great success in the area of missions, and has left me with a lot of thoughts that I may or may not be able to share coherently… but, I’ll try.
Matthew 28:19 tells us “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. I get this; I really do. We are supposed to share the gospel with nonbelievers. But, “The Great Commission” was not just about telling people about Jesus – it’s about making disciples. Sometimes I think we focus more on the “of all nations” part more than we do “making disciples”. I was excited to hear that our church does train pastors in other countries; that’s very encouraging! But, there are plenty of opportunities for disciple-making within the walls of our church, and definitely in our local area.
The pastor made a comment about how the church doesn’t do anything for people without sharing the gospel. I think that comment, more than any other, really got my mind going. I know the pastor meant nothing negative by what he said. In fact, he was trying to encourage people to give to missions groups by ensuring that their donations would be spent wisely. But, if you think about the implication of what he said….it implies motive. There are strings attached…and I don’t know that there should be.
I remember when I first started attending church. People were nice to me, nicer than I’ve ever seen at a church (of course, this was a different denomination than I had attended previously). I remember when the pastor asked me about joining the church. I told him I wasn’t ready, as I didn’t know how people would treat me once I had things together (I was a mess when I started attending). I assumed people were just being nice because they were supposed to and wanted me to accept Jesus. I worried that some people were “Jesus salesmen” and once they got my notch on their belt buckle, they would move on to another lost soul in need of salvation.
I think it makes some people feel good to bring other people to Christ; it gives them purpose – they’re fulfilling “The Great Commission”. Maybe by focusing on helping others, especially others far away, they can ignore the emptiness they feel in their own heart. Or, maybe some people really do have it all together, so much that their joy is overflowing and they want to share Jesus’ love unconditionally with the rest of the world. Maybe I’m just cynical… But, if we really had it all together, why is the family unit crumbling? Why are we overworked, overextending our credit, out of shape, stressed, and frustrated? Why aren’t churches thriving? And, the ones that do seem to be doing well, why are there so many lost people, both in the surrounding areas, and even in those churches?
I certainly don’t have it together. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely hanging on. If it wasn’t for Jesus’ love, mercy, and incredible patience for me, I would probably have given up a long time ago. I don’t always get things right, and my logic here may be flawed. But, personally, I think in order to successfully share the gospel, we need to be completely transparent to others and especially to God. If our lives “showed” the gospel, rather than our mouths “telling” it, why, that would be beautiful! The greatest testimony anyone can give is showing Jesus through your own weakness. I don’t believe we can ever be successful if we follow steps to win souls locally or internationally.
What’s your motive? Is it loving others unconditionally, or winning souls for Jesus? You might say that they’re the same…but, I don’t think they are. Sure, we don’t want anyone to perish in hell, so loving could mean winning souls….but, I think the difference is in the motive. Loving is unconditional, completely without motive; doing something to help someone, even if that person never develops a relationship with Jesus, but praying with all your heart that they can feel His love and desire Him as much as you do. When you’re doing something completely in love, it becomes nothing about you, and all about Jesus. You step out of the way, and let Jesus’ love shine though you. We are called to love; let Jesus take care of salvation!
The best part about unconditional love, is you don’t have to go anywhere to practice it. Smile at strangers in the store; hold the door for someone; be patient when you’re in a particularly slow line; give someone an anonymous gift; be aware of your surroundings and you’ll always see people who need to see God’s love through you. No motives, no strings, no Jesus sales pitch; just love, pure and simple…
“We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19