Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The long view

I often wonder what it is that brings a person to finally surrender their life to Christ and begin to follow him.  Especially when I have been praying for a person for a year--or years--and I don't see any discernible effect.

And sometimes when I hear people talking about evangelism and transformation, they equate it with convincing someone to come to church with them.  Somehow, we have the idea that if we can just get someone inside the doors of the church, something magical will happen.  And many times, if we ask a friend or neighbor to church and they say no, we drop it forever.

When Jesus talked to Nicodemus about people entering the kingdom of God, he talked about how those who will find the kingdom of God must be born again.  And he described the Spirit of God as the one who brings this about.  So as I pray for my friends, I often pray that God will awaken the spirit of the person I am praying for--so that he is able to hear the voice of God and see God's interaction, so that the words of Scripture will come alive, so that the person will find that he is hungry to know the God who created him.  Sometimes I even pray this song, that calls out for people to awaken to God's activity and presence.

As I've done a lot of reading about the conversion process, I've also noticed the pattern that there is almost always a person of faith who is part of that process.  In the last book I read, Prof. Rambo called that person of faith the "Advocate," and explained that it's a dynamic and unpredictable process where information is shared and a person is invited into a new way of thinking and believing.  The advocate plays the role of an ambassador, illustrating what a life of faith looks like and being there to answer questions about how and why and what is going on.  So as I'm waiting and praying, I'm also trying to be that person of faith who is that ambassador or advocate.

For example, I do my best to live my life according to kingdom values.  This raises a lot of questions, like why I'm driving that old white mini van that I got for free instead of something a little more like what a lawyer would normally drive.  And when people ask, I am prayerfully prepared to answer and explain how God's example of selfless love motivates me to give a lot of time and money away.  This may ultimately lead to more conversations and more opportunities, or it may just be a visual example day by day.

Bottom line--it takes a long time to see someone come to follow Jesus.  The process is complicated and mysterious.  And yet, Jesus invites us to be involved.  He invites us to pray for the Spirit to transform lives--may his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  But he also invites us to get involved, to be there sharing live with those who are not yet followers.

What about you?  What kinds of prayers do you pray for your friends?  Do you see yourself as an ambassador or an advocate?  How do you persevere even when you don't see immediate signs of interest in spiritual things?

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