“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, ESV)
You might assume that all pastors’ neighbors have heard the gospel. I should hope that you are right. However, evangelization doesn’t mean salvation.
My pastor-husband and I have lived in the same house for twelve years. In that time span we have witnessed to all of our neighbors in our court with the exception of two – one who moved in within the past year and one set who only scurry to the mailbox, their door, and their car.
For one reason or another, none of our neighbors have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus. Each of the neighbors have their own reasons and excuses. Some attend mass and feel that the combination of going to church, being a good person, and committing no unpardonable (venial) sins is enough to get them into heaven and rescue them from hell. Others take the pragmatic position of “that’s good for you.” Finally, one adheres to a self-made form of religion that mostly resembles the modern thought of coexistence—every path leads to god.
For me this begs the question, what are we doing wrong?
I believe that many pastors, if asked, would resonate with this feeling. Why can we preach and seek conversions on Wednesday and Sunday and yet see no fruit in our own backyard?
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he teaches that in the last days people will be lovers of self and seek teaching that suits their own passions. (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 4:3-4) Nevertheless, Paul exhorts Timothy:
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
We are to endure in doing the work of an evangelist regardless of external circumstances, our spiritual gifting, or the outcome.
We live in an apathetic time. People are content to believe the mainstream thought, the comfortable adage: all people go to heaven if even such a place exists. People are happy agnostics—even if they do not know what to term their agnosticism. Let me explain.
Nearing Easter, I shared my faith with a woman I often do business with. She explained to me that she was raised Jewish, but is not a practicing Jew. When asked in regards to religious ideologies, her daughter tells peers, “We are nothing.” The woman comforted herself by saying that they aren’t nothing but that they are happy being irreligious.
This woman I talked with represents a majority of people. The crowds of parents watching their children playing baseball, soccer, and football which we pass on our way to church are seemingly happy to either place church on the back burner or are simply happy being “nothing.”
We could just give up, simply wipe our hands, shake our heads in despair, and quit trying to reach a lost and dying world. Or, we could continue to do as Jesus commanded and sow seed regardless of the soil type to which it falls.
My husband recently shared with me that in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13) we often focus on the soils. However, it is imperative that as believers we recognize that we are sowers of the Word of God, the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Our job is to sow the seed. Our job isn’t to determine in what kind of soil we are sowing, but rather that we are sowing so that the seed has a chance of falling on good and fertile ground.
I will be the first to tell you that I am not gifted as an evangelist. I have never led one person to salvation - not one fruit bearing moment that I can call to memory and claim as a work I participated in. My gifting is more in the edification and teaching of already converted disciples or full-fledged seekers of Truth.
Does that confession give me the right to cease sowing seed among acquaintances or my neighbors? No! Perhaps it should spur me on to sow more seed.
In regards to our neighbors and the reasons as to why they haven’t come to the complete knowledge of the Truth, I feel that I should pray and serve out of love more. Service as a neighbor is acting neighborly.
Being neighborly is not a strength of mine either. Wow! I’m 0 for 2! My two little ones are actually better at it than I am. But my introversion doesn’t mean that I am exempt from loving my neighbor as myself. It means I should press in more to the Holy Spirit and act out of obedience.
The reality is, we will all die and face the Judgment. We will all be called to give account for the life we lived and the choices we made; namely, for the choice to repent and believe on Christ Jesus. As a disciple of Christ Jesus, I am commanded to be an evangelist of the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself. Finally, I am commanded to pray without ceasing and intercede on behalf of the lost.
If you are like me and wonder why your neighbors remain unsaved, don’t give up. We will purpose together to intercede more in prayer, go the extra mile to love like Jesus and serve like the Savior in order to share the gospel with our very lives.
Brooke Cooney is a pastor's wife, mother of two, and foster-mom of one. To capture the eternal in the everyday, she blogs about family, faith, and lessons along the journey at ThisTemporaryHome.com.