Enjoying God and Sharing the Joy
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Adrenaline will beat resolve every time. Sheer, dumb enthusiasm will accomplish far more than carefully laid out plans that people are bored with. We have done with the gospel what our enemies could never do. It is far worse than persecution or heresy. We have bored people with the gospel. Far better is enthusiasm coupled with careful, well-laid-out plans, and there is no reason we have to make a choice between being smart and being motivated. "Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts." (Proverbs 24:3,4 LB)
I say to teachers regularly, "If you are going to bore people, don't bore them with the gospel. Bore them with calculus. Bore them with history. But don't take the life-changing, happy news of the gospel and bore people with it."(1) I ask teachers to take as their motto Psalms 39,:3 "My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue." Hot hearts make good teachers. This was the secret of Barnabas' effectiveness: (Acts 18:25b) "He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately." Accuracy and fervor, a winning combination.
What is true of teaching is also true of witnessing. Enthusiastic people will win out every time over training. Training is good, but joy is better. People who are happy tend to talk about what they are happy about.
A good example of this is in Acts 19:10, "This went on for two years, [Paul's daily lectures in the Hall of Tyrannus] so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."
If our goal were to evangelize Asia we would set up the Asia Inland Mission--a huge organization with fund raising and marketing and demographics. Paul stood up for three hours every afternoon and preached the good news of a happy God that wants us to be happy in Him and will give us more happiness than this world ever will. He spoke in one lecture hall and all of Asia heard the word. We do not know a lot about the details of this, but I will promise that Asia was not won by grumpy people. It was not won by people who had commitment without joy. This could only happen through the spontaneous expansion of a happy church.
We are not told of any grand plan for reaching Asia, and it was a large area to be evangelized by foot. The churches of Colosse and Laodicea were started during this time. We wish we had the details of how it happened. All we know is that what happened in that lecture hall was hot enough to ignite all of Asia. What I am saying is that it was that heat, not a well-laid out strategy that was the key value.
This problem of heat has two dimensions. The problem is an internal one, in terms of our joy, as well as an external one, meaning our reputation in the world. I asked this question to a group once, "Does the world see us as a people who enjoy God?" The group laughed out loud. I could not bring myself to ask the same question to outsiders. I was afraid of the truth. Even if we get the internal problem straightened out it will be a while before we change our reputation in the world enough to see significant changes.
The kind of expansion that was ignited in that lecture hall is also dependent on a high level of trust between the laity (an awful word foreign to the first century church) and the professional staff. We who are professionals tend to want everything under control. I don't think Paul controlled the evangelization of Asia. He was not the CEO of a well greased machine with clear lines of accountability. This was the spontaneous expansion of the church. The people owned the ministry and they controlled it. Nothing motivates like ownership.
We have an unwritten assumption that the staff will see that the ministry is done and we will ask for help when we need it. They did not labor under such a silly assumption. There is not any way professional staff can do what an army of enthusiastic people can do in the marketplace. They are where the people are; we are in offices. They have natural contacts through work and other arenas; we make visits. We are paid to be good; they are good for nothing. That old joke reminds us that we professionals live with suspicion of our motives: There is something in it for us; we need people to join my church; we cannot afford not to have some conversions; we must eat.
I am not saying the suspicion is true, only that it is there and it hurts our sharing. It creates a barrier between us and seekers. Laymen suffer from no such suspicion. Paul refused to receive compensation in several cases for this very reason.
Sharing the joy has a self-reinforcing effect. We share the joy because we have it. Soon we discover that the thrill of telling people the good news only makes the news seem sweeter. And when they understand and accept the gospel, and live it out years later, that is still sweeter. This is the joy John spoke of when he said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4)
1. Howard Hendricks, from a tape on teaching.