I once heard a story about an inmate who received Christ after a pastor visited him. The pastor was very pleased, but the inmate told him, “Don’t be so proud of yourself and think you did it all. Looking back, I can count twenty-six people who got me to the point that I could receive what you had to say.”
In this day and age, the church puts a lot of emphasis on making converts. We like numbers. It seems to me that some people think that they’ve failed their faith if they don’t win at least one person to Christ. But what if we’re not supposed to worry about someone “praying the prayer” with us? What if some of us will never see the direct fruit of our labors? What if some of us are called to be the Twenty-Six?
I’m not saying we should be lazy. Far from it! But neither should we be discouraged when someone doesn’t respond. Whether we can see it or not, our words and actions may be planting seeds that others will see sprout and grow. Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 3:6-8…
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
Some of us are called to plant the seeds, others to water them, and still others to watch as they grow and bloom. But it is God that works through us. And even if we don’t get to watch the seed sprout, it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. No matter how clumsy our efforts for Him are, He can use them. And He does. The stuttering words, the awkward attempt to encourage someone, even these can be seeds.
Let me tell you a little story, something that happened just this summer. A lady from our church was in the process of adopting a 14-(I think)-year-old girl, and she asked several of us almost-adult-girls to help her adjust, and to basically be her friend. We knew she was not a Christian, but it was our hope that in time we would be able to lead her in that direction.
I have to be honest, I did a horrible job of befriending her. I get very awkward around people I don’t know well, and when we’re both introverts it’s even worse. Long story short, I made several blunders and so many awkward silences I don’t even want to try to count them. I felt like a pretty awful witness for Christ.
Well, one evening we were having our Wednesday Bible study as usual, and she came to it with us. I don’t think she understood everything, but I think she enjoyed being there. It is our custom to split up into twos and threes after Bible study to pray for each other before we all go home, and on this particular night this girl and I and another friend ended up together. I was busy feeling awkward and trying to share my prayer request, and suddenly my other friend asked this girl if there was anything we could pray for her about. Surely the adoption was difficult – would she like us to pray about that? She gave a half shrug, and mumbled something to the effect that it didn’t matter. And suddenly I realized just how very much she was hurting. And for the first time I felt like I understood her. Even more so as, during our prayers for her, she cried a little.
Is it possible that it made an impact on her? I don’t know for certain. Not very long after that, some things happened and the adoption fell through. And I was painfully conscious of the fact that I had not been as good a friend as I ought to have been, and now she was gone. I probably won’t ever see her again. It might look like our efforts were wasted. But what if we were just part of the Twenty-Six? What if God’s plan was for us to plant the seeds that would someday grow to fruition? No, I don’t think the time was wasted.
Whew. All that to say don’t be afraid of rejection when you try to reach people. We can’t know just how much we’re impacting them. And who knows – maybe God is using you as one of the Twenty-Six.