It was a slow journey making our way back through the neighbourhood to the church where we had started. We walked tall, spoke encouragingly, and did our best to keep each other positive. Door-to-door Gospel sharing is a rough gig, but what we experienced seemed beyond rough. Tonight one of our members took a heavy dose of unpleasantness. This would be her last night on the team.
I wish Romans 1:18-32 gave us the antidote for a person’s venom against Gospel communicators, but it doesn’t. It tells us One Reason Why We Won’t Always Win.
Before we get to the reason we need to understand what Paul’s teaching us about choosing or rejecting Jesus.
1. The existence of God is plainly obvious
Paul teaches us in Romans 1:19-20, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen… so that people are without excuse.” NIV
In a general way (i.e. general revelation) all creation points to the existence of God. There can’t be a building without a builder. There can’t be a painting without a painter. There can’t be a creation without a creator. For there to be a creation without a creator it would mean that creation would need to be pre-existent to itself so that it could create itself… that doesn’t make any sense.
Looking up to the overcast sky, knowing it would rain before we arrive back to our homes that evening, our conversation drifted to questions comparing us and them. For example we asked, “God, why is it so plainly obvious for us to look around and know that you exist, but it’s so difficult for them to see it like we do?” We were in a funk – no one likes rejection. Our minds were filled with the wrong questions.
It’s not about incomprehension.
2. The rejection of God is plainly obvious
In Romans 1:23, Paul writes that people had “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” It wasn’t that Paul’s contemporaries (or ours) couldn’t see what we see, it’s about an intentional rejection.
As we walked back together we totally missed this. One of our team members were hurting, but worse than that we knew that she would no longer be on our team once we drove away from the church parking lot. She had felt the rejection personally. And now we had begun to feel a personal rejection, or at least a sense of loss. As the wallowing grew in the back of our minds there was no agency left to consider that our evening’s audience had intentionally made their choice to reject God long before.
It’s not about us.
3. The wrong audience is plainly obvious
In Romans 1:26, Paul shares with us how God has responded to the obvious rejection. Paul writes, “Because of this, God gave them over.” Everyone has a choice. Some of our choices break God’s heart. But, God never takes away our choice. The faith and friendship that God desires isn’t produced by a lack of choice.
As we prayed together, remembering better times, watching the evening grow darker and noticing the risk of rain grow greater, it was hard for us to get into our cars and drive home. We knew this evening was our moment of good-bye. But, it didn’t have to be. What we really needed was a better audience. Some of us came to learn that, unfortunately we didn’t learn that together, at least not as this team.
Sometimes we connect with a person while they’re wrestling against God. If a person dares to wrestle with God then that person will not be receptive to a communicator of the Gospel. But, others times (and, I would say, most other times) we connect with someone whose mind is sound enough to weigh the choices they have made and reevaluate their disposition toward Jesus. That’s a far better audience.
It’s about discernment.
4. Find a better audience
People who willingly choose to reject God and pursue something else are a poor audience. In my opinion, the best thing to do when a person like this is found is to be thankful you’ve planted some kind of seed, or nugget of truth for their future recall, and then quickly move on.
There are people who are far more receptive to the Gospel. The receptive are worthy of your time and attention. If the goal is souls saved, then the goal will be met among the receptive.
Please don’t lose heart by spending your energy on a person who is trying to stand nose to nose in a boxing ring with God, just pray for them. Instead, please notice the people who are already receptive (on some level) to the Gospel.
In my opinion, Jesus is coming back soon. It’s time to go for those easier wins. Because, looking at the world today, I can’t positively say that there’s enough time left for the unreceptive to change their minds.
5. You can’t always win because You can’t control another’s choice
You may have been making your way back through your neighbourhood, dejected and on the edge of quitting because you were met with too much negativity as a communicator of the Gospel. It’s not your fault. But, you have a choice, too. Choose to find people who are more receptive, and work on your discernment before personally investing yourself into someone who’s trying to wrestle God into submission.
Thankfully, our friend continued to stay engaged in the church. And, thankfully, months later she bounced back and experimented with other styles of outreach initiatives within the church. She found one that suited her better – she found her better audience.