Some people seem to become Christians by birthright. That is to say, they grow up in families where life in the Kingdom is authentically lived. They see the real thing and know the presence of the Spirit in their homes. If you speak to them they will nonetheless describe their own path of revelation, when their faith in Jesus became their own, but they had an opportunity to be immersed in Kingdom life from a young age. Other people become Christians because they got to know a Christian. Kingdom life was modeled up close and they drew closer to Jesus through a relationship. Still others are drawn to Jesus because of the fervent prayer of someone who will not give up on them. There may have been other influences and people praying earnestly for them, but family and friends are still the predominant way by which people become believers. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who claim Jesus but who live like hell. My guess is that they aren’t drawing anyone to Jesus.
A straight count of churches and self-professed Christians from a census does not give the true picture of Jesus’ church. He Himself said…
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)
This is not new. God spoke to Ezekiel about his own gatherings and injected a bit of reality in the perception he may have had…
“As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it.” (Ezekiel 33:30-32)
Dr. Ron Frost, in talking about the power of the Word of God, compares it to a magnet which is passed over a dirty workbench full of wood chips, clay and metal. As the magnet is passed over the bench, filings, screws, bolts and nails will be drawn to the magnet. The magnet can be passed over the bench again and again until all that remains is wood and clay. In the same way, the Bible calls men to know the Living God of the universe. Some men are like the wood and clay. They are deaf to the sounds of the Word. Others are stirred from the pile of worthless things and are freed to attach to the magnet. And in fact, the magnet can keep passing over the table because God has the power to turn wood and clay into filings!
Suppose someone with a plan to get more stuff off the bench and onto the magnet were to put glue on it. They would be able to draw the wood and clay along with the filings and have a more impressive yield. This “superior” method would fill the jar to overflowing. So it is with many of the things that bring people into the building we call the church.
Ron’s illustration is about building the true church by the power of the Spirit through the Word. It is about a Kingdom community full of the life of Jesus, the Word made flesh. A church that teaches people about how to live authentic Christian lives will be a church that impacts the families and friends of those who walk in obedience. A church that prays earnestly for those who are lost without Jesus will be a church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. This is what brings souls into the Kingdom. We should be more intentional, and we still may need to encourage and teach people how to share the good news, but a mobilized church of say 1,000, where each participant brought a single person into the Kingdom each year, would see over a million new people enter the Kingdom in just 10 years. Could you imagine the impact on the world if the church were fully mobilized? That’s what the church was meant to do!
(Also see Leaf Blower by Greg Dueker)