Most of us know that exercise is good. Exercising helps us feel better and live longer. Many of our physical problems are a consequence of failing to exercise. We want the doctor to give us a pill that will somehow fix things when the best solution would be to actually exercise. We know we should exercise or exercise more than we do.
Then why don’t we? Why do we avoid it or put it off? Why are we happy to have any convenient excuse come up to not exercise? I’m convinced it is because in our minds it is only a “good idea” and not a “commitment.” You see, if you are committed to doing something, you will do it. You will overcome excuses and do it. Problems become obstacles to overcome rather than reasons to quit when you are committed. If something is only a good idea, then you may or may not do it.
Years ago when I entered my thirties I started feeling guilty for not exercising. For me, it was a stewardship issue: God gave me this body to manage and I should manage it better. I realized that I was heading for a heart attack in my 50’s if I didn’t do something. However, exercise was only a good idea for me at that point. I knew I should exercise but never actually did it. With no real interest in doing anything except make myself feel better, I asked a friend about cycling and where I could get a cheap bike just to see if I liked it. I had no money for even a cheap bike, so nothing would happen, or so I thought. He replied, “I have an extra bike. Why don’t you meet me in the morning and we’ll ride?” I said, “Uh, okay.” And in my mind I thought, “That went from a good idea to commitment way too fast!” Now, over a decade later, I am committed to riding no matter what. I’ve ridden when it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, too early, too long, and too painful. Why? Because commitment eats excuses for breakfast! Speaking of breakfast, the difference between our “good ideas” and “commitment” is like the difference between eggs and bacon for breakfast. The chicken thinks it’s a “good idea” but the pig is “committed.”
Can you see how evangelism is similar? For so many Christians, evangelism is just a good idea. We know evangelism will lead to others going to Heaven instead of Hell which is good. Evangelism will help our church grow which we want to happen. Evangelism will lead to more people obeying Jesus which will make a better world for all. However, we want there to be a “pill” or some easy fix for all this rather than us actually having to commit to evangelism. We know we should evangelize or evangelize more than we do. An American Anglican Council survey of clergy found that the most common obstacle to the growth of an Anglican congregation is its own attitude and actions i.e. the church needs to change its behavior if it wants to grow.
Why don’t we evangelize? Why do we avoid it or put it off? Why are we happy to have any convenient excuse to not evangelize? I’m convinced it is an issue of commitment. You see, if you are committed to evangelism, you will do it. If you’re committed to evangelism, excuses become obstacles to overcome rather than a good reason to get out of it. If you are committed to evangelism you will do it even if you are too scared, too embarrassed, too unknowledgeable or they are too resistant, too close, too far, too sinful, too rich, too poor or whatever. You’ll overcome these obstacles and do it. Why? Because commitment will eat all your excuses for breakfast!
So, is evangelism something you are committed to or is it only a good idea? Take a moment to seriously ask yourself that question. If you are not really committed to evangelism and are ready to be, try the following:
- Consider Jesus’ commitment to us on the Cross. Look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV
- Pray a prayer of commitment. Pray from the heart something like this: “God, I’m ready and willing to be committed to sharing your good news with those who don’t know you. I know you are committed to them; you proved that on the cross. I admit that I don’t know exactly what to do or how to do it, but I’m committed and willing now to do it anyway. God, please use me to bring people into your Kingdom. Help me to overcome excuses. Amen.” You might even write it out and post it where you’ll see it often.
- Make a list. Write down three to five people that you know who don’t have a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Start praying for them, building your relationship with them, and look for opportunities to share with them when they come up. They will. God will use you if you are committed!
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching for the AAC.