I can’t remember the first time someone with an over-zealous type of faith asked me how many people I have led to Christ. It’s an old evangelist question with the main concern of leading non-believers to the saving knowledge and relationship with Jesus.
It’s a question that asks how many notches we have in our war-against-sin belt, one that puts us on the spot and assumes we are actively asking others to make that decision of faith wherever we go.
Around these parts, its hard to find people who don’t believe in Jesus. And if its difficult to find or befriend a non-believer, then there is a chance that the answer to said question is “not very many, I’m afraid.”
This was the case when I was a young Christian and first asked this question. At the encouragement of my church, I put distance between my non-believing friends and me when I made a decision to follow Christ. It lessened my chances of being tempted to make any unwise and immoral actions, but it also decreased my exposure to those very people I needed to “lead to Christ.”
That brought a great deal of guilt. I thought that I needed to lead many to Christ in order to be a good Christian.
I found out later that I wasn’t alone in that sentiment.
Over the years, I still think about how to lead people to Christ and be intentional about sharing the gospel, but my feelings have changed. Now, when I think about leading people to Christ, it no longer means confronting people with a snap decision on the street corner or in the supermarket. The meaning of that phrase has expanded.
There are as many ways to lead people to Christ as there are ways to meet people. And just as the Bible has four gospels to tell the single story of Jesus Christ in different ways, we too need a variety of ways of introducing people to Jesus.
Leading people to Christ does not have to be confrontational. In fact, it can happen as a result of quiet fortitude in the face of crisis.
Nor does it have to be systematic, as if following Christ is merely the result of finding the correct answer to an equation (or the right words to say in a prayer).
Leading people to Christ can happen in the midst of conversation over coffee or at supper, at the ballpark with a group of people who aren’t all Christians, or at the business conference among peers and colleagues.
Most often, leading others to Christ happens over a long period of time. It usually happens because we live the life of a Christ-follower, and we show others how to follow Christ too. We lead by example, and sometimes the only gospel you need to preach is the life you live.
We like to think of “leading people to Christ” as some grand, climactic confrontation in which a lost soul is saved miraculously, in the midst of a chance encounter. I’ve seen that happen before, but the “leader” who tries to evangelize others in this manner runs the risk of grandstanding instead.
Leadership happens all the time in the quiet and mundane routine of our daily lives. It happens when we least expect it. And, yes–when someone decides to call Christ Lord, it is miraculous–but it is a major decision that needs to be sustainable by a life-long commitment to seek God and God’s righteousness.
Following Christ is being a disciples of Christ, for as Jesus said, “”Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me . . . and those who lose their life for my sake find it” (Matthew 10:38, 39).
That’s more than a decision; that goes to the heart of conversion.