Hundreds of us spread over the very large city to share the gospel. The goal was to reach every person we could with the message of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paired with translators we set our sights on the first person we saw. After sharing the core truths of the gospel, I tried to follow-up with some questions when the translator stopped me and said, “She understands and she wants to pray the prayer.” After a brief exchange between the translator and myself, we said a prayer, but I finally asked some questions and one thing became clear: this young girl had not the slightest understanding of the gospel. Yet, with that checkbox complete, I was asked to move on and spend my time elsewhere. I have no idea where that girl’s relationship with the Lord stood then or stands now. I am uncertain if she learned anything that day, but I know I learned something: evangelism takes patience.
The secular world commends patience as a characteristic to be embodied in every person. Scripture chronicles patience within the Christian life as a virtue (James 1:2-12), describing it as a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4), and elevating it among other virtues as part of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Desiring swiftness in a fast-paced society, patience is quick to be discarded, and thus Scripture’s commendation of patience is well-noted. Such a virtue finds its application spread across a wide breadth of situations, and evangelism is no different. Every evangelistic interaction requires patience with three people:• Patience with Others: Having differences in opinions, personalities, and needs, communicating the gospel with others may require patience in time, patience in understanding, and patience in delivery.
• Patience with Others: Having differences in opinions, personalities, and needs, communicating the gospel with others may require patience in time, patience in understanding, and patience in delivery.
• Patience with Ourselves: At times we falter, sometimes we aren’t submissive to the Lord’s leading, and in other moments we require perfection (such as in our presentation or ability to answer questions) yet there must be a sentiment of patience with ourselves and a greater confidence in the Lord.
• Patience with God: Finally, we must trust God’s timing, God’s conviction, and God’s teaching of others. When questioning why a person isn’t understanding or won’t convert there must be patience that comes with a greater confidence in the Lord’s will over our own desires.
Patience is a virtue that finds great value in being applied during our evangelistic contacts and presentations. Implementing it during evangelism requires a trust in the Lord that is indicative of whose work conversion really is: ours or the Lord’s. Transferring the burden of responsibility for conversion from us to God removes self-imposed pressures. Instead we trust the Lord’s provision for understanding, conviction, and salvation, and thus evangelism is no longer about our work in converting people (although it is about our obedience) but about the Lord’s work in converting them and therefore, we give ourselves the ability to be patient during the evangelism process.
It should be no surprise when people do not understand the gospel message, after all Paul tells us that it has been veiled by God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1). Evangelism can take time. While the nature of the gospel message demands urgency, patience must be a characteristic that permeates throughout the process. ‘
By: Robert E. Zink, Missionary to Argentina (Biblical Ministries Worldwide)