Monday, May 28, 2012

Guilty Bystanders

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson  for 6.2.2012

Do you know what a “wall flower” is? Someone, at a dance usually, who spent most of his or her time standing and watching rather than participating.  About ten years ago, “lurkers” were the folks who went into chat rooms on the internet and just read what everybody was talking about, but didn’t contribute to the discussion.

Some of us, for good or bad, are more comfortable standing on the sidelines of whatever is going on than we are getting out in the middle of things and participating. I am one of those people; we are called “introverts.” We’re not necessarily shy, we just prefer to watch and listen to the stuff going on around us rather than taking an active role. I don’t believe being an introvert or an extrovert is, in and of itself, a good or bad thing. They’re just different ways in which we, as humans, interact with the world around us.

Having said that, wall flowers or not, we are all called to actively spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, I don’t believe all of us need to rush right out and volunteer to do an evangelistic series at the nearest auditorium, but we are each responsible to tell our personal experience with Jesus to the individuals we live  and work with. There are no innocent bystanders we’re talking about witnessing. Comfortable or not, we each have a job to do.
“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” Romans 10:13-15
Whether we like it or not, we are each called to “preach the gospel of peace” and “bring tidings of good things.” How we carry out our calling is up to us. It doesn’t take any special training. We don’t need any degrees or diplomas. We just need to tell someone what Jesus has done for us.

Lots of us want to believe that since the pastor has had specialized training that he’s the one responsible for all the evangelism that goes on in the church. We would like to believe that one on one witnessing and bible study are for the elders, the deacons and the bible workers to do. But that’s just not true.

The truth is, no matter how well those people do their jobs; we make up the point of personal contact. If we’re not doing our part, the mission is not complete.
“Our heavenly Father has been pleased to make men co-laborers with himself in the work of human redemption. Those who have been commissioned to preach the gospel are not the only ones whom he will use as his instruments. All whose minds have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit will in their turn be required to enlighten others. ‘None of us liveth to himself.’ Every individual has his station of duty in the accomplishment of God’s great plan. And every one who receives and obeys the light which God has given, will be a living witness for Christ and the truth.”[1]
Mrs. White doesn’t leave any room for doubt there, does she? Every one of us has an assigned task to do. Do we need to be trained to do our task? It couldn’t hurt, but do we really need someone else to teach us how to tell what Jesus has done for us? Not really. Will we make mistakes? Probably. Should the fear of making a mistake stop us? No. Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would give us the words to say when we need them, right?
“But if you have an eye single to his glory, you need not take thought as to how you shall witness for his truth. “‘Take no thought how or what ye shall speak: ... for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.’ How can the Spirit of God communicate with you? It is the Holy Spirit that is to bring to your remembrance whatsoever Jesus has said unto you. Are you now hearing the words of Christ? Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom? … O if you were hidden in Christ, if you were on the Rock of Ages, when you are brought before kings and great men, it would be evident that Jesus was at your side, and you would know just what answer to give, for the Spirit would give you what you should utter. Praise God for this promise!”[2]
Have we run out of excuses yet? Witnessing is not just the preacher’s job; it’s not just the deacons’ or the elders’ job. It’s our job, too.

Do you have any idea how many people are waiting to be introduced to Jesus?
“In Matthew 9:37, Jesus tells his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’ The results of a 2007 survey illustrates [sic] this point well:• 82 percent—the number of un-churched people who are receptive to attending church if invited and escorted by a friend• 21 percent—the number of church-going Christians who invited someone to church in 2006”[3]
Isn’t that tragic? Notice it doesn’t say that they’re receptive to a flyer they get in the mail, or an advertisement they see on TV. They want to be invited and escorted by a friend!

Wow! Even we introverts can invite someone to come to church with us.

What I’m getting at is this: many of us come to church every week and sit in the same spot. We listen to the sermon, wish our church friends a “Happy Sabbath,” and then we go home and don’t think about anything spiritual again until the next Sabbath. We do our best to keep a low profile, that way nobody will ask us to do anything extra. Who’s got time for that? We are wall flowers, lurkers, bystanders, and we’re okay with that.

So is Satan. He would like nothing more than for all us to show up for church every week, but to leave all the soul-winning to the pastor. The truth is, the pastor can only do so much. Maybe we should look at pastors as more like coaches. They give us our weekly pep-talk and send us out to find new folks to join the team.

We’ve learned from experience that no matter how good the pastor is, if a person doesn’t feel welcome in a church family, he or she quits coming. No matter how many people a pastor baptizes, if the church members don’t immediately start building relationships with them, they won’t stay.

What does that mean to me, as an introvert? It means that every time someone slips out of the backdoor of my church, I’m guilty of not sharing the joy I’ve found in Jesus with a baby Christian. I’m guilty of standing by and waiting for someone else to do my job. And, honestly, no one else can do my job. God has equipped me with a particular set of experiences that will speak specifically to the needs of some other person. If I don’t share my testimony with anyone, I am a guilty bystander.

Don’t be a guilty bystander. Share Jesus.

[1] E.G. White, Review and Herald, February 9, 1886, par. 4
[2] E.G. White, Review and Herald, April 26, 1892, par. 9
[3] Bill White, Paramount, California

No comments:

Post a Comment