I have been a Christian for 28 years, and I have not led anyone to Christ.
It is painful to admit that. There were no “prodigal years” in my youth when I got off track with my faith. I never left the church, and my good friends who aren’t Christians know that I am. But I have never brought anyone into a relationship with Jesus. I don’t like that, but it’s true.
When I talked to Jeff Vines about OneLife, an initiative that challenges every person to bring someone to Christ every 12 months, he quoted Andy Stanley: “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” I agree completely. I just haven’t been able, even after three decades of following Christ and four decades in church, to even do for one. I don’t like that, but it’s true.
I’m in good company. According to a study by LifeWay Research, 80 percent of people who attend church at least once a month “believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith” but only 39 percent had told someone else in the previous six months about how to become a Christian.
A 2013 Barna report found that while 100 percent (wow!) of Evangelicals agreed with the statement “I, personally, have a responsibility to tell other people my religious beliefs,” only half of them reported sharing the gospel in the last year.
I can’t speak for 100 percent of Evangelicals (although how I wish I could), but I wonder if our total absorption in faith is actually part of the problem. I’m a pastor’s kid and a pastor’s wife. I write Bible study curriculum for a Christian company and branding narratives for Christian nonprofits and books for Christian leaders and articles for Christian magazines. I can’t introduce unbelievers to Jesus if I don’t know any unbelievers, and it’s possible for me to go days and not interact with anyone who doesn’t share my faith. I don’t like that, but it’s true.
But I can change some of these things. Instead of one more church activity, maybe I need to join a service group or a book club without any connection to a faith community. Perhaps I need to seek out new work projects with “secular” organizations, and be open to the conversations that follow. Most of all, I definitely need to pray about the relationships I already have with not-yet-believers, ask God to bring other people across my path who might be ready to hear about him, and request his wisdom for those moments.
I’m sure that through my work, my writing, and my relationships over the years I have planted seeds of faith in other people’s lives, and, to paraphrase 1 Corinthians 3:6, it’s OK if others have done the watering and harvesting. The goal is God’s glory, not checking something off my Christian bucket list, and God loves me even if I never get to have “the” conversation with someone or dunk her under water. But that’s also not an excuse for apathy.
Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder that it’s time to get more serious about sharing the good news. After all, when it comes to making a difference for the kingdom, I only have one life.