Gospel Planter versus Salvation Dispenser

I remember one of my favorite bow-tied college professors continually telling us that once we left the world of academia the first question that we would be asked when meeting a new person would be “What do you do?”  

Perhaps this was meant to instill fear in his English students notorious for having a most impractical major or perhaps he was just gently reminding us to soak in those last few days of carefree student-hood, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time.

Like much of what that professor said, his words later rang true.

As my friends and I have all entered into the world of adulthood with the poplar #adulting at every turn, our answers to this question are different: teacher, nurse, adviser, engineer, etc.

When asked that question, I have never once said “seed-planter” (and if you’re a guy that could have a different innuendo entirely so I’d really suggest not giving that response), yet that is what I am.

As Christians, God gives us the privilege of having a job in His kingdom.  Jesus makes this pretty clear when He tells His disciples the parable of the sower planting seeds in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  What are the seeds?  The Word of God.  Who is the Word?  Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  What is it we are supposed to share?  JESUS!  Jesus, who came to the earth, lived a sinless life, yet died on a cross bearing the weight of ALL of our sins so that we might have the opportunity for a relationship with God and eternal life through Him (1 John 5:11)!

It’s so simple really.  The message is simple.  My job is simple.  If Jesus is truly Lord of my life, then I will share Him with those I meet.  I used to think that it was up to me to determine if the state of a person’s heart was right for receiving the word, if a situation was good, finding the perfect words and timing etc. before sharing.  It’s not.  Just because I know that I won’t be able to invest and disciple a person who I have only briefly met, it is no excuse for not sharing the heart of the gospel and praying that another believer will come along who can guide him or her further.   If I am given the opportunity, then it is my job to sow generously.

I have read Philippians over and over again, but recently as I have been memorizing chapter one I was struck by the number of times Jesus Christ, Gospel, and imprisonment are used.   Paul’s whole focus is on Christ and the gospel and his imprisonment is not an inconvenience but rather a tool used to further the message of grace.

Not every encounter with someone is going to lead to sharing the gospel, but my new year’s challenge to myself is that the focus of every encounter is Lord, if possible, allow me to share about Your Son with them.”  This drastically changes the focus of a situation from one of annoyance and irritation to gospel-centered, Christ focused one and puts the pressure on to “live a life worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).   After all it’s hard to share about the love of God to your seatmate right after you have just been very vocally complaining about the stupidity of the flight attendants  (ummm yes this is spoken from personal experience).

BUT, this is where our job ends.  And this is where I have a problem with some evangelism methods.

I was so blessed to be in Bible-based churches growing up.  One thing we were taught when it came to evangelism was to succinctly present the gospel (which is great!) and then we were taught to follow that up with a question if the person would like receive Christ in their heart and lead them in a prayer of salvation if they answer was yes.
NO, NO, NO.

The Gospel is a seed.  So much of the images used in Scripture are those of a plant, illustrating growth over time.  Salvation is a one-time event, but just as sanctification after salvation is a daily process of growth, so is the time leading up to salvation.

The danger with this method is that it turns us into salvation dispenser instead of gospel planters.  Then we leave somebody who knows basically nothing of the Word-Jesus-with the idea that they are saved.  Salvation is huge.  Salvation is life and death.  Salvation is not something to be checked off the list with “Person X said the prayer.”

There may come a time when we have invested deeply in somebody’s life, sharing the Word with them, and after having the seed of faith take root in their heart and grow they are ready to believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and we might get to be with them when it happens.  And hallelujah!  Or their time of salvation might happen when we are not present, when all of the sudden that budding seed sprouts from their heart’s soil and the angels rejoice and we could be snoring in our bed when it happens.  It doesn’t matter.  Salvation is God’s work.  For some unfathomable reason to me, God entrusts this incredible message to us frail, weak, sinful humans and commands us to go carry it to the ends of earth.  We plant the seeds but it HIS power working in hearts that saves.  My favorite verse to help unravel the mystery of salvation is Ephesians 3:7 when Paul writes, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”  

God’s power.  The Cross of Christ.  That’s what it all comes back to.

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