As I dropped the kids off at school, my phone buzzed with a Facebook notification about a prayer service going on down the road. This sounded like a great use of time so I spontaneously headed over. But it soon seemed that my visit wasn’t so spontaneous and that the Holy Spirit had lured me in.
It was there that I ran into a woman who walked into our church one day and prophesied a dream she had over us, and then left, never to be seen again. I was able to explain to her that her words had come true. And then when the pastor saw me, he mentioned that he had thought of reaching out to me a few days before to see if I could be at that service. Soon I was up on the stage praying with them. Then their pastor took the mic and prophesied over me.
While a lot of his prophetic words struck me hard, the first one hit me strangely: “You have the heart of an evangelist and walk in the mantle of a pastor.” In high school I saw many of my friends saved, but evangelistic numbers have been excruciatingly low in my pastoral work. My heart is still for evangelism, but the fruit has not exactly been there.
But this word brings me hope, because Biblically-speaking, evangelism is way more dependent on God than we often act. Some Christians believe we have no free will and that people can only get saved if God has set the stars to align that way since the beginning of time. Other denominations believe that salvation is willy-nilly and that you can save anyone and everyone at any time if you just have the right arguments prepared. I’ve found that the Bible meet us somewhere in between these two views.
On one side of the coin, no one can ever get saved unless Jesus saves them. Salvation is determined by God and given to those that he gives it to. But at the same time, a standard way in which God often saves people is by cooperating with his Christians and having them preach the word. As they do this, people hear the message and God appoints people into his Kingdom that he believes are ready.
This is why I am very wary of psychological evangelistic tricks. God doesn’t need to trick people into the Kingdom of Heaven. You don’t get there by accident. God does the selecting as the Gospel is preached, not the evangelists. The Bible says God wants all to be saved, so it’s not that he doesn’t want to save the others—it’s more that they aren’t ready yet.
After Paul and Barnabas preached at a synagogue, the Bible tells us that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” I pray that as our church moves into its next season, the Spirit will use our community to appoint many into the faith through our cooperation.
*This devotional is based off of today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net: Acts 13:44-52.