60 Seconds of Pastoral Pondering
Celebrate the Process
Few people make a profession of faith the very first time they are confronted with the Gospel. For most, it’s a path of small, incremental changes. The journey usually begins far from the point of accepting Jesus. Its headwaters are typically void of any need of or desire for the addition of Jesus into their life.
Over time the Holy Spirit begins finding cracks in the shell of their indifference. They lose someone close … encounter a bitter disappointment … begin questioning a feeling of emptiness. Their self-made world suddenly doesn’t answer every question or satisfy every need.
And then God begins using his children in the process. They step in as a friend who goes the second mile. The searcher sees unexplainable joy in the life of someone with more problems than they have. They meet a Christian who befriends them without attempting to ‘clean them up.’ They feel loved unconditionally, often for the first time in their life.
Little by little the Gospel takes on a form they can comprehend and appreciate. They still may not be ready to respond to a salvation invitation in the strange environment of a church, but there is movement!
As the Holy Spirit continues to put the seeker and believer together in growing relationship, trust is built. A spiritual hunger begins to carry with it a growing conviction of sin and its effects. The heart is being prepared and God is hand-crafting the work for the individual.
We usually pay attention when the process becomes the ‘event.’ When the hand goes up at the end of a service, or when a person agrees to repeat the sinner’s prayer with a friend. And the event is worth celebrating for sure. Even heaven’s angels join in that celebration. The lost has been found, the sheep is safe, the name’s in the Book!
But as pastors, we have the right and responsibility to celebrate the process as well. There are those we minister to who have never used the “Four Spiritual Laws” to lead someone to Jesus … who have never taken part in the ‘event’ except through agreeing prayer as an invitation is presented.
Their consistent, Spirit-directed walk of obedience, however, may have been responsible for much of the movement from sinner to saint. Their work isn’t heralded, scarcely noticed and hardly ever celebrated. But it should be.
Look for ways to commend your congregation in the way they are living out the Gospel week by week. When we talk evangelism and teach on its importance, don’t just cover the last crucial step of the ‘event’ but explain how attractive the Gospel is in their lives as they make themselves available to partner with the Holy Spirit.
Don’t quit celebrating the ‘event’ but also celebrate the process that leads to it.