Eight years ago, today, Melody Green posted an excellent article that answered the question that has been troubling my heart for quite some time: Why Aren’t More People Getting Saved? Take a look and see if it answers any of your questions and possibly, challenges you to change your attitude and activities:
Something has really been bothering me. How come so many sinners liked Jesus — but they don’t like us very much. They liked to hang out with Him. Jesus got invited to their homes for dinner, to their parties . . . people even hung in trees just to get a glimpse of Him — and Jesus wasn’t even good looking!
Well, you might say, “But Jesus was God and we’re not! He was full of charisma and anointing.” True. But I think it’s more than that.
Nobody preached a harder message than Jesus. Remember His eat my flesh drink my blood comments? And yet, Jesus had something we are lacking. Something we could have if we wanted — but many of us don’t. Not really. I think it’s called something like a compelling, compassionate love for people.
We might say we love people, but do we really? Do we really have compassion for the lost like Jesus did?
After 17 years of living in the “Bible Belt” of Texas, I moved back to California. I had been asking God for more of His heart for the lost, and California was the perfect place to go. Not that there aren’t at lot of believers in California, but it’s also full of people who seem proud to distance themselves from the church and from Christians. Some wear it like a badge of honor.
Yeah, we have met some of them, haven’t we?
After being in California for awhile, and striking up conversations with lots of random people, I began to remember how I felt before I met Jesus. I didn’t like Christians either. They appeared to be narrow minded, judgmental, and worst of all, lacking in true compassion. Their answers to life seemed trite and unrealistic. Their theology, prehistoric. Their pie in the sky philosophy quite frankly turned me off. In the days when I was looking for “the truth” I was positive Christians didn’t have it.
Things haven’t changed much since then in the minds of unbelievers. The world still thinks we are out of step with the times. Obviously, we do march to a different drummer — which is for the most part, a very good thing. But some of our ideas and attitudes actually push people away from the Lord — instead of drawing them in.
I want to share one area I feel we can improve in when it comes to reaching the people around us. Jesus called us to be fishers of men; but it seems we often forget how fishing works, so I’m going to lay out a quick refresher course.
First you study the kind of fish you want to catch, figure out it’s favorite thing to eat, and get bait that’s hard to resist. Then you put floaters or sinkers on your line depending on what level it feeds at. Then you cast in your line and wait patiently to feel a nibble—and when you do, at the right moment you “set the hook.” Then you have to reel your fish in very carefully. Often there’s a big tug of war — two feet forward one foot back, two feet forward, one foot back. Big fish can take hours to reel in. Then when you’re within reach of your fish, you might scoop him into a net to be sure he doesn’t wiggle off the line. Even a caught fish can flop its way back into the water if you’re not careful. Then you put your fish into a bucket of water to keep him fresh . . . and after all that effort, through each stage, you finally get to clean your fish.
But what do we do with people? We forget the process. We are usually worrying about how to clean them up before they are even caught! We want people to stop smoking, stop doing drugs, stop wearing clothes we don’t like, dye their hair back from purple to brown, take the metal out of their faces, and generally clean up their act before — or shortly after — they have had an encounter with Jesus. We want a clean tidy church, clean tidy disciples, and clean tidy friends.
Those words have struck a cord with me. Our priorities are all screwed up. We need to search our hearts and check our priorities. Now maybe it was just me, but if Christians would have treated me the way Melody described, I would have jumped ship a long time ago. But fortunately, there were people who put up with my ignorance, my spiritual foolish theology, my youthful enthusiasm — and reached out to me in genuine love.
I don’t know how they did it, but they were able to look beyond my immaturity and looked at my heart. A heart that was hungry for God. I got loved into the kingdom by real flesh and blood people who showed me, in practical ways, how much they cared about me. I gave my heart to Jesus because I could see Him in people who said they loved Him. I wanted to be like those people. I wanted to know the God they knew.
After Jesus really got a hold of my heart, sure I changed some things… but it took awhile. Jesus had to fully win my heart before I was willing to make big changes for Him. But sometimes we expect people to make those changes before they are fully won. We want them to “prove” they love Jesus before they are fully convinced.
One of our problems is, as Melody described, we want to “clean our fish before we get them into the bucket. And then we wonder why they wiggle off the hook!” We are turning them off of the Gospel because we are expecting too much from them. Instead of seeking our Lord’s face, they become angry and runaway. Maybe they have grasped a basic principle we have forgotten. They may instinctively know that there really is a God somewhere, but does he care about their heart, or their hair color? Does this God see their true value even when they are a mess on the outside? Frankly, that is the kind of God this generation is looking for. So what kind of God are we giving them? Well, Melody goes on:
We need to remember that Jesus put up with all kinds of stuff — even from His own disciples. Mistakes. Arguments. Unbelief. Jealousy. I bet those guys didn’t smell very good either. But Jesus loved them—and they knew it. And they followed Him at the cost of their own lives.
We forget how spiritually hungry the lost really are. We forget that they pray and cry out for help to a God they don’t know. We forget how seekers think and feel. We tend to look at the outside of the cup while Jesus looks deep into the heart. We get annoyed and judgmental when people show up to church looking like they’re going to a party — instead of rejoicing that they came to hear about God at all.
We don’t like hearing any of this, but we need to ask again and again, “Why aren’t more people getting saved?”
Maybe the walls around the churches are as high as the walls around our hearts. Perhaps the walls are so high we can’t see beyond our own little world, into the hearts and hurts of people in our communities, our schools, our work places — and yes, literally — our streets. God hears their cries. Do you? ~Melody Green 2/22/2007
I admit that I have lost my vision, my passion for reaching the lost. I am ashamed to admit it, but I need to get it out in the open. For years my wife and I took every opportunity to share the message of Christ. We would minister to the drunks in the park or the folks we worked with. But when the kids came and the bills began to overwhelm us, that passion faded away. It is a sad thing to say, but it is true. Frankly, we learned that it is easier to ignore them because if we don’t it will cost us something. It is safer to judge them than to demonstrate compassion. Look, you probably feel the same way, at least I am willing to be honest about it and seek forgiveness and healing.
The problem with casting judgment, it distances us from people — which means we don’t have to give them any part of ourselves. Would you agree to that? But compassion draws them to us — which means we need to give them some of our time and our energy and our love.
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With these Morning Messages, I take you on guided tours to, as Bunyan described, the Celestial City. At times we linger at corners familiar and unseen. And explore the depths of our faith along the way.
The trail is long, but there’s no hurry. Though we do need to stock up on supplies for the way, and that’s where I need your help. If you enjoy these messages, please consider becoming a contributing member of this tour group. It will be very much appreciated.