A New Life: Evangelism and the Foundations of Discipleship, by Michael Graham
DECEMBER 19, 2020
Christians often use religious activities and programs to avoid the Lord Jesus Christ—at least this was true for me.
With all of my religious activities at church Sundays were extremely busy for me.
I taught a large Sunday School class, served as a church officer, and attended Sunday and Wednesday evening services.
Sadly, Sundays resembled anything but a day of rest. I left home around 8am and came home for lunch around 1pm. I returned to the church around 5pm and came home around 8pm exhausted—from church-work.
On Monday morning, I arrived at work-work with literally nothing left in the tank to give anyone. That was a big problem since I owned the small company employing about twenty people.
Still, church-work wasn’t yet over for the week.
On Monday evenings we met for Evangelism Explosion (EE) training that began at 6pm and ended at 10pm.
However, my late return on Monday evenings greatly differed from returning home exhausted on Sunday evenings.
I found myself full of joy; a joy that would sustain me for the rest of the week until the next Sunday arrived and the church-work wore me out again.
How could I account for the difference?
Since I am addicted to my own deadly works-righteousness, I presumed that God was blessing my obedience.
The problem: I was not obeying God, and I knew it.
On those Mondays leading up to EE, I did a lot of wishful praying that was full of complaining and groaning about how tired I was from serving God on Sundays implying much He owed me for my faithful service.
At the time, I wouldn’t have called it prayer, but I see it that way now. I literally wished to “someone” with all my tired heart to send rain so I could have a good excuse to cancel EE for the night (I was a team leader too), and since I can’t create rain … you get the point.
When that someone did not send rain, I hoped my EE trainee would call in sick (how ugly and self-centered is hoping for someone to get sick) or be a no-show. I even thought, “Maybe no one will answer the door when we visit, and it will at least be a short night and I can go home.”
Of course, I admitted none of this to anyone.
Despite my unbelieving attitude, the gracious Lord always blessed those Monday nights as we shared the gospel first with each other (as trainer and trainee), then as we prayed together for divine appointments, followed by spreading out across the city to share the gospel with others, and then finally returning to church to inevitably report the good news of what God had done that night—which altogether naturally led to a Monday night worship service before going home full of joy.
I asked the Lord to help me understand what was really happening in my own heart between Sunday and Monday nights.
As the EE leader, I extended the question to the group. They confirmed having a similar experience leading up to and after EE on Mondays—though none as bad as mine.
They also presumed God was blessing their obedience for being dutiful and obedient even though they did not feel like it.
So, I asked them the same question the Lord had been convicting me about: “Does God consider me obedient when I dutifully obey His commands if I do so while have a complaining, joyless spirit?” “Can true obedience to God come from a heart that does not love God or love others even if I do pull myself up by my bootstraps and try to obey God anyway?”
It was during this pivotal time that I heard Jack Miller explain for the first time that the gospel is not only for non-Christians but also for Christians.
Miller also described how he needed to hear the gospel again and again himself. When Jack was down and discouraged, he would often go and share the gospel with others so he also could hear the gospel preached himself and the Holy Spirit could apply the gospel promise afresh to Jack’s own heart.
As a Christian, I always knew non-Christians needed to hear the gospel. But Christians needed to hear the gospel literally never occurred to me. This simple yet profound truth was completely foreign to me, much less hearing a Christian leader like Jack Miller describing his own desperate need for the gospel.
The gospel freed me to begin confessing my sin of unbelief, and, as a thirsty sinner myself, enabled me to boldly acknowledge my sin to our EE team, my trainee, and to the Christians and non-Christians we met along the way.
So it was that I discovered for myself that God’s gospel is the truly the power of God for salvation to all who believe—from faith to faith, from faith first to last (Romans 1:16–17).
As so it was that I discovered that God’s gospel is a preached message applied to sinners by the Holy Spirit and so I became a preacher to share good news of God’s gospel to other sinners like me hungering and thirsting for God’s grace (Romans 10:1–17).
Listen to our interview with Michael Graham here.