Who makes converts anyways? I sincerely wish the only answer were Christ. Unfortunately, men also make converts. But our “converts” are still judged in an eternal hell. Somewhere along the line the ability of God and the responsibility of man has gotten very blurry. Faithfulness is man’s responsibility; fruitfulness is the responsibility of God. Even the manner in which God has conveyed special revelation to man indicates the tendency of sinful men to be creative when they are commanded to simply be obedient. It’s black ink on white paper. “Let’s invite people to church so they can hear the gospel.” Let’s not, because the Apostles never did in the New Testament. “Let’s lead people to regurgitate a platitude and then pronounce them saved even though we have no authority to do so.” Let’s not, because “the grass withers, the flower fades” (Isaiah 40:8) … and so do the foolish opinions of sinful men who presume to help God by being clever.
When it comes to the “whys” of ministry, we apply secular logic to Christian practice. If I asked, “Why do teachers teach?” The intuitive and correct answer is “so that students will learn.” That same rationale is applied to evangelistic methods. “Why does the evangelist evangelize?” The intuitive answer is “so that people will get saved,” however, that is the wrong answer. This line of reasoning is right when it comes to teaching and absolutely wrong when it comes to evangelism or anything else done in service to Christ. Am I saying that the primary reason we evangelize should not be the salvation of souls? Yes, and more…that it must not be. Jeremiah had no converts. Ezekiel preached to a stonyhearted people (Ezekiel 36:26). Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). If you haven’t read the story of Noah recently, spoiler alert…everyone dies! Was Jeremiah’s preaching invalid? Was Ezekiel’s, or Noah’s? John the Baptist was beheaded for being very specific about a particular sin. Should he have adjusted his approach to make it more palatable and thus more likely to be received? Why were the apostles martyred -- for gradually building a rapport with people and then giving them the gospel? Not quite.
Why do we preach? Simply stated, “For God whom I serve in my spirit through the preaching of the gospel of His Son – The Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:9a)”. Ministry that flows from a heart of worship is free from the pragmatic evaluations of sinful men. When our doing is done in order to achieve a result we will alter the method as we deem appropriate. When our doing is done in worship, we will honor His message, His way. When the Apostle’s preached in the marketplaces or the highways and byways, the dirt roads became their sanctuary floors. They understood Jesus’ words, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16:15) to have rendered the whole world their pulpit. So they used it, and so we do also.
According to modern evaluations of efficacy, Noah should not have preached, nor should Ezekiel or Jeremiah. The Apostles should certainly have softened their rhetoric as a way to lengthen their ministries and broaden their influence. However, the Apostles simply obeyed and let God determine the length and breadth of their ministry. God commanded Ezekiel to preach “whether they listen or not” (Ezekiel 3:11). The greatness of our commission is not determined by the reaction of unbelievers. Even if we were certain that none would listen and none would convert, our love for our Savior ought to compel us to proclaim that our God is God in the church places and in every place.
So, are our ministries without visible fruit? Absolutely not! God has not left us in such a state. We who shine the light of the gospel into the darkest places receive the privilege of observing how bright that light truly is. Have I seen souls converted? Yes! At certain points I have feared that, due to their frequency, the miraculous would become mundane. It is not my intent to imply that we don’t care about the conversion of souls. The men and women I minister alongside would lie down in traffic for the salvation of one soul. We care deeply and we sacrifice much (according to the standards of American Christianity) so that God might perform His saving work through us. If you care nothing for souls, you should stay home and tend to your own. But the salvation of souls does not motivate our actions! We preach for the Glory of God, as an expression of gratitude and love for Christ, period!
Has the Spirit of God given birth to you? If so, did He do so on a moral high ground or in a ditch? Every true convert would acknowledge the latter to be true. How then shall we say that we refuse to return there to preach the gospel to those who remain therein? Will you come with us to the hard places? Will you faithfully toil in the dirt until God alone determines to bring the harvest? Or will you, like so many others, enjoy the comfort of your padded pews while the whole world burns?