Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. – Galatians 6:7
We who have been involved in professional ministry for some time have often laughed at or at least mildly mocked the oft-used mass invitational approach to evangelism and, in particular, the phrase, “I see that hand.” It has been used by many through the years to acknowledge the uplifted hand of someone supposedly making a “decision” for Christ in a large meeting. Many have ceased to use it … though I am sure that significant others still do.
Even if we have abandoned this practice are we still guilty of continuing to perpetuate the misconception that a raised hand … an “indicated decision” … equals conversion? Why are we impressed by continued reports proclaiming huge numbers and multiple activities as if God is impressed with our “busy”ness? Is it not possible that we are “busy” doing things that make no impact upon His Kingdom? Are we willing to admit that while we may “see a hand,” God alone can see a heart? Where is the fruit? Where are the changed lives? If we are truly making the impact we claim to be making, then why are cities, communities, families, and individual lives still crumbling and our churches still in decline? WHERE IS THE TRANSFORMATION?
You can put a bow on a pig, but it still oinks.
Is the aim of a church’s overseas work that their short-term teams should have a “missionary experience” or is it to see a people transformed for Christ? How many thousands … no millions of dollars will be spent this year to continue to take the Gospel to places where the church already exists?! How many churches will proudly report their mission “activity,” but report no discernible change where they have been? AND by change, I mean leaders identified and raised up in order that resources might better be used elsewhere? Activity is not the answer. If the aim is not kingdom expansion, then why call what we do “missionary?” Call it “cross-cultural church encouragement” or “supporting the saints,” but let’s not deceive ourselves and call it “missions.”
Well over 6,000 people groups have no healthy, vibrant church. Some of these people groups, not all, have NO believers among them. Can we honestly be PROUD of going where the gospel resides, when there are places it does not? We desperately need a sustainable, indigenously-led missionary effort and we need to be willing to honestly evaluate the state of that work once engaged.
We may see a hand. We may count a hand. We may even report (proudly) on the hands we have seen … but God sees hearts.
I doubt, indeed, whether we have any warrant for saying that a man can possibly be converted without being consecrated to God. More consecrated he doubtless can be, and will be as his grace increases; but if he was not consecrated to God in the very day that he was converted and born again, I do not know what conversion means.– J. C. Ryle
Dr. David Pope is President and Founder of POPE Initiatives, a non-profit organization committed to providing executive-level management and support services for major global mission efforts.
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