We are all links in the process of others coming
to faith in Christ. Our job is not to be
the missing link.
Jack Griffin came to Christ during the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney, Australia. Two years later Jack began receiving help from a Navigator-trained businessman. Jack and his wife May then began the Navigator work in Australia. On a trip to Wichita in the late 1970’s, he told the following story.
“After starting the Navigator work in Australia I would travel around the country, seeking to build others up in their faith and encourage them in their walk with Christ. The questions I often asked were ‘When did your faith begin?’, and ‘When did you first start thinking seriously about Christ?‘ In nearly every city to which I traveled, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne etc., I would encounter a few men who told me that when they were in the military service in World War II they met a man on a certain street in Sydney who would come up to them and say the following ‘Pardon me, but do you know for certain where you would spend eternity if you were to die tonight? That’s all. I just wanted you to think about that question.‘ The man would then leave them and go on down the street. These service men said it caused them to begin to think seriously about spiritual issues and they later came to faith.
I began to tell this story as I traveled later in Europe and America. Each time I did so, one or two men would say that they, also, had the same experience in Sydney which the Lord had used to bring them to faith. It was always the same location, the same words and what sounded like the same person. After hearing the identical story across the world for several years, I decided to try to find this man. After some difficulty I found him, living on the outskirts of Sydney and asked him if he was the man that asked service men these questions during World War II. He said that he was, and I then asked him. ‘Did you ever hear if anyone you asked these questions came to Christ?‘ He said ‘No, I never did hear if anyone came to faith.‘“
Jack at this point related that he then told him of his experiences with those who had come to faith as a result of the questions posed to them. He then made this statement at the conference in Wichita. “We are all links in the process of others coming to Christ. Our job is not to be the missing link.”
The process by which people become Christians was described by a missiologist by the name of James Engel in his book “What’s gone wrong with the harvest.” (Zondervan 1975) He proposed a series of eight steps which begin with no knowledge of the gospel progressing to repentance and faith in Christ. The intermediate steps included aspects such as awareness of the Gospel, a grasp of the implications of the Gospel and a positive attitude toward the Gospel. In addition to these steps which deal with the person’s interaction with the Gospel, there are other obstacles to faith which need to be overcome as well. Prayer, the formation of relationships, identifying with people in their struggles, serving them and providing unconditional love are foundational to the removal of these obstacles to faith. The proclamation of the Gospel through our lives is to be partnered with the demonstration of the Gospel in our lives.
In the scriptures we find multiple opportunities for involvement in the development of faith in the lives of others. I Corinthians 12:4-6 states “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” Paul describes the varying contributions of ministry in I Corinthians 3:6-9 as follows “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” The Lord Himself described a certain division of labor in John 4:37-38. “Thus the saying ‘one sows and another reaps‘ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Other have done the hard work and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
With the gifting of the Holy Spirit, and the many opportunities to interact with others in their transition to faith, why are there missing links in the church of Christ? Why are so many not involved with others in their transition to faith? One reason is that some may be simply unaware of their spiritual responsibility for those around them. Some time ago, I sat through a sermon which was on target in regard to the need for the congregation to be involved in evangelism. The spiritual need of others was carefully outlined and well presented. All that was done for us by Christ was likewise fully explained. The challenge to the congregation was compelling. Will the people, thus challenged, start relationships with the intent of sharing the gospel with others? Hardly. They are now aware of their responsibility but they are still unprepared.
A number of years ago, my wife and I began spending personal time with a few couples with the intent of preparing them for a life of evangelism. We would meet for a few months, looking together at Living Proof (Jim Petersen), and Your Home a Light house (Bob Jacks). We discussed the importance of differing gifts, such as prayer, building relationships, serving others, as well as hosting a Bible study. Our group began praying together for a number of our friends and would then invite them to an eight week study of the Gospel of John with the purpose of knowing more about God and how He can be meaningful in our lives. As we prayed and planned together we would share our experience with similar studies in the past with other couples and individuals. Because of the personal investment of time as we walked through the process of evangelism they were prepared to invite their friends into their homes and look at the scriptures together. Many of those who were so trained are still in the process of sharing Christ regularly with others. Paul states the following in Philippians 4:9. “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Most people need to have a model that will walk with them in the process of evangelism. This is the best way to assure that those we work with are not “missing links.”
In Christ, Richard Spann