Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19 KJV)
From my 2011 Journal. My childhood was immersed in the culture of evangelism. My missionary dad preached in remote villages of Nigeria and established a church. My mother’s medical work and reading classes were all for the purpose of getting a foot in the door for evangelism. We MKs (Missionary Kids) could quote the Great Commission forward and backward (in King James of course). Many of our hymns and choruses reflected the missionary calling: “Bringing in the Sheaves,” “The Ninety-and-Nine,” and “Rescue the Perishing.” Preachers berated us for staying in our “holy huddle” and not reaching out to the lost. Bible school professors instructed us on how to knock on doors and “draw the net.”
One Sunday I sat guilt-ridden through one more passionate three-point evangelistic sermon on how each believer was required to “Go, preach, and baptize.” I may have had opportunities to share
my faith, but I had never preached to or baptized anyone. Feeling triggered, I wondered how this Baptist preacher would feel if I, as a woman, actually offered to stand in his pulpit and preach . . . or asked to take his place in the baptistery. I began to push back against the notion that evangelism was the only viable gift of the Spirit. Was the Great Commission given only to men? Only to the Apostles? Was I being disobedient if I have never dipped anyone?
What if discipleship is what God has called me to rather than evangelism? Maybe I’m a Dorcas or a Ruth. Maybe I have the gift of mercy rather than exhortation. It’s time to stop our shame messages and learn to work together as a body—each with his or her own gifts.
There are many things we can look back upon and see error in our teaching/exhorting. I didn’t come to Christ till I was 17. I attended church regularly and went to church camp and all, but I don’t remember hearing the story of salvation those years. Maybe my heart wasn’t ready for it at that time. Although, I do think I was a seeker even at that early age.
My foundational teaching was not until I actually began attending an Independent Baptist Church. The pastor was a Temple grad and had a heart for missions. I think he was a person who surrendered to missions, but found himself a pastor in New Castle, Indiana. He counseled me one time when I was searching for God’s purpose for my life saying: “If I was single like you, I’d be a missionary.” I didn’t know if that was a regret he was sharing or if he was trying to guide me into it. My fear was that I would be sent to a remote place, having to learn a language that would take years to learn and that I would be giving up comforts of home like running clear water and electricity. I suppose that was selfish of me, but it was how I felt.
Then we were driven by all sorts of rules to go by and a dress code to wear in order to please the Lord. Who doesn’t want to please the One who gave His life for you? Being new to following Christ, my trust was in those who had walked with Christ longer than I, had more education in the Word than I and had influence and was held in high regard by many who we heard preach.
The Christian walk is a personal journey, and the best thing we can do is mentor others to know that for themselves…not spoon feed them into believing my set of values and convictions. God will show them the way from His Word. How to study His Word would have been a greater gift from those days in college. Thankfully, I met students who were mentored well into the doctrine of Grace and our friendships to this day have sustained me into studying this for myself.
We all have this journey to walk, and God does guide our steps. We just need to learn to do a little Holy Noticing.