When I took the Spiritual Gifts Inventory a few years ago, it was very interesting to discover my gifts. Although they didn’t feel particularly useful in a direct application to church ministries, they were indeed gifts that I valued.
One gift, however, that I was relieved to find I didn’t have, was the gift of evangelism. Not that I don’t value evangelism, but I am really not gifted in that area and have not, to this point, felt a calling for it. Yet, I have to say that I have heard a lot of sermons and talks that certainly made me feel I should have a passion for that very gift.
I realize that Jesus commanded us to make disciples in all nations and I greatly admire those who are called and gifted to take the gospel to far-flung places as well as to strangers on the streets. But feeling coerced or guilty about not signing up at the nearest mission booth was not very conducive to my spiritual growth. As I matured in my walk with God, I came to realize He put a unique call on my life and has gifted me with exactly what I need for that call. The call varies across time and space, which is appealing to my easily bored nature.
The church climate during my formative years was about keeping all one’s ducks in order so that we wouldn’t be guilty of missing an opportunity to win someone for Christ, which might mean their eternal damnation. I remember a very sweet lady in our little country church saying, with tears streaming down her weathered cheeks, “I cannot imagine standing inside the pearly gates someday and seeing someone burning in hell because I failed to witness to them.” Although more than 40 years have passed since that conversation, I still remember her distress and most of all, the heart-stopping fear that took root in my heart. What if I made it to heaven, but because I was busy reading a book in the library instead of waiting to lead someone to Christ, Jane Doe walked by, didn’t get witnessed to, and was lost to eternity? Heart wrenching irony and guilt, but poor theology, methinks.
A few years ago, as a mother of teenagers, I thought often about my children’s salvation, especially when spiritual things seemed far from their minds. I was distressed that my ‘witness’ during their formative years seemed to have fallen on the proverbial rocky soil. One day the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a most profound discovery in Scripture.
Although I had read and studied the story of the lost sheep many times, this particular day I realized with a start that when one of His sheep was missing, Jesus didn’t form a committee and send out a retinue of other sheep to find and rescue the lost, but He Himself went after it. Most amazingly, He did not return until He had found it! My mother heart leapt for joy!
Jesus Himself took the responsibility for the lost sheep. His sheep was so precious to Him that He would not leave that rescue to anyone else, “but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) and completed the task that reunited Him with His ransomed.
This is good news! Not only to me, the non-gifted-evangelist, but for all of us. Our Good Shepherd takes the responsibility for rescuing His sheep. We may be called and gifted to join that process along the way, and when He calls, we answer. Until then we can rest in the peace of knowing we, as well as those we care about, are abundantly loved and cared for.
Ann Halim, Editor, eWeekend
Reprinted with permission