Quit Playing the Blame Game in Evangelism

A chorus we sometimes sing states, “If I don’t get to heaven, it will be nobody’s fault but mine.” Do you believe that? Personal responsibility for one’s thoughts and actions is definitely taught in Scripture. Instead of teaching that we can blame others for our faithlessness, Jesus taught that others who had less and did more will be able to stand up in judgment of our faithlessness as if to say, “There’s no excuse” (Luke 11:31-32). A whole chapter of the Bible is dedicated to the idea that, even in a parent/child relationship, faithfulness (or lack thereof) is still a matter of personal responsibility (Ezekiel 18).

Let me ask something else. Though Mordecai wanted Esther to be involved in God’s plan for delivering the Jews in their time of crisis, he confidently affirmed that even if she wasn’t, “relief and deliverance [would] arise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:14). Was he correct? Does God have more than one way to achieve what He desires on this earth? I’d argue that Mordecai was correct and that no human action or inaction can stop God from achieving His purposes here on earth. Job was also correct when he said to God, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2; cf. Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27).

You might understand both personal accountability and God’s sovereignty in general, but have you ever thought to apply them to evangelism in particular? Over the years, I’ve heard a number of Christians lamenting what they perceive to be their failures in evangelism, saying things like: “I wasn’t tactful, and I drove him away,” or, “I was on fire for the Lord, but I burned a lot of bridges with my friends and family.” I honestly believe that a proper understanding of the truths we’ve just discussed would help alleviate a lot of the guilt behind these kinds of statements.

The fact is that though we are “God’s fellow workers,” it is God who ultimately “gives the increase” in evangelism (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 9). While humans plant the seed of the Gospel and water it with further teaching and encouragement, Paul said of their role in comparison to God, “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters” (1 Corinthians 3:7). So, to borrow Mordecai’s words, while we ought to desire to be used by God to bring about increase in the body of Christ, our failed efforts in evangelism cannot prevent God from bringing “deliverance… from another place” (Esther 4:14).

Further, when we speak to the lost, it is not we who drive them away; instead, their “iniquities have separated” them from God and their “sins have hidden His face” (Isaiah 59:2). It’s not possible to drive away what is already away. I have an idea that many who are lost will attempt to place the blame for their state upon others on the day of judgment including some would-be evangelists. It won’t work. In fact, I’d far rather have someone accuse me of saying the wrong thing than of saying nothing (cf. Ezekiel 3:16-27).  

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very important to attempt to improve ourselves as soul winners and to speak the truth lovingly and tactfully. I believe the Bible teaches as much. I also think though that it’s just as important to trust God to overrule our ultimately imperfect efforts to achieve what He desires, namely, the salvation of as many as possible (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). Satan rejoices when people are so afraid to say the wrong thing that they say nothing.

Quit playing the blame game in evangelism by blaming yourself for the failure of others to obey. If you’ve taught the Gospel and someone rejects it, they “have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me,” just as God once told Samuel (1 Samuel 8:7). Do your best, and trust God to do the rest.
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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