“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matt. 28:18-20 (NIV)
I still remember with amazing detail the first time God used me to help someone become a Christian. I was an 18-year-old on a mission trip in the Arizona desert. I was nervous. Excited. And confident that God would do anything I asked, because my heart was so in tune with His.
At the time, I had completed no formal coursework in how to lead someone to Christ. But I knew what God had done for me, and I knew the basics of what God’s word said about salvation. And I had an open and tender heart.
God used me seven more times that week, and I still remember each situation, from the butterflies in my stomach to the looks of pure joy on the dirty faces of the kids God was dealing with. For me, these were nothing less than face-to-face encounters with God Himself.
There have been other times in my life—with a co-worker, family, and even people I have barely known—that God has used my simple obedience to make Himself real in the lives of others.
I remember them all.
How has God rekindled your passion for evangelism?
I told my story with the hope that it would encourage others. But maybe yours is the story that can get other FBW readers off the sidelines and back into being a part of the Great Commission. Send me details of your journey via email, or call me to discuss. Your story could appear in a future issue of the FBW.
And I also remember when my disobedience, in the form of distractions, busyness and other sinful behavior, led to times that I didn’t share. This reality hit me a few years ago in response to how I felt when confronted with three unrelated situations.
God’s first attempt at showing me that my priorities were more than a little misplaced came in the form of two lost books. They were Christian books by Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, and I went room to room throughout my house looking for them. I knew the titles, what the covers looked like, what notes I had scribbled in them, and I asked everyone in my family if they had seen them. I was visibly agitated that I had misplaced them. I was on a mission. I was moved to action.
And then I misplaced the camera I was using to take pictures of people who were joining our church. I also had used the camera on a trip to a neighboring city, so I figured I must have left it there. I was so concerned about the fate of this camera that I loaded my family into the car and drove back to the last place I could remember using it.
I then went store to store asking clerks if anyone had reported finding a missing camera, but no one had. I remember how bad I felt for losing the pictures of people who were to be a part of our church’s new-member ministry. (A few days later, I found the camera in my closet, but that’s an entirely different story!)
God’s third warning about my misplaced priorities came when the iPhone 5 was unveiled. Our family had been talking for weeks about getting the phone. I had been saving money, sharing with friends about what this amazing phone was capable of doing, made the reservation on the first day they were available, and even left work early to pick them up.
2014 State Evangelism Conference
When: March 24-25
I couldn’t remember when I had felt so much excitement. And then, all of the sudden, I did remember. I remembered the faces of those kids on the Navajo reservation. I remembered the look on my co-worker’s face and the tears that streamed down his face when I told him about a God who loved him just the way he was. And I remembered the joy on the faces of my kids and people I barely knew as I helped them get right with God.
Where had that excitement gone? Were my strongest emotions now reserved for books, photos and electronic gadgets?
There is nothing wrong, of course, with Philip Yancey books, pictures and iPhones. But when we have more passion for the temporal things of this world than we do for people whose very eternity is at stake, we are messed up.
I started to pray that God would once again burden my heart, soften me, and renew my passion for the lost souls I was too often encountering without saying a word of eternal value.
Some of that fervor has returned and, not surprisingly, so have the opportunities to share. Funny how God works that way.
2014 State Evangelism Conference
When: March 27-28
But there are still times when I rationalize away the opportunities God is giving me: Leading people to Christ is best left for the professionals; I don’t have the gift of the evangelist; it’s such a different world today, I just don’t know what to say. But the truth is: When I feel this way it shows that I just don’t care enough about those people God has intentionally put in my path.
My life still can get too busy, complicated and confusing to pay attention to what God is doing right in front of me.
That’s why I’m excited about this year’s two state evangelism conferences, the first one in Daytona Beach March 24-25 followed by one in Bonifay March 27-28. Maybe one of these events is just what you need to reset your priorities. I know that seeing you there would be a real encouragement to the rest of us. I’ll even save you a seat if you let me know you’re coming.
In the office at 904-596-3171, via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com and Twitter @FBWdreamchaser. I also am available on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn under my given name.
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