I used to think I was less of a Christian because I hadn’t led anyone to Christ. I knew I was saved by grace through faith and that works were arbitrary, but I still felt like I wasn’t 100 percent a Christian because I hadn’t led anyone to Christ.
For the first few years after becoming a Christian, the phrase “leading someone to Christ” was more of a hindrance to my immature faith. Still a babe in Christ, I would hear it in sermons and in conversation and I would at the same time hear I wasn’t a real Christian if I didn’t lead someone to Christ. In my mind, my faith was fake if I didn’t convert someone. I was sure I was failing God, but I was wrong and I don’t think I’m the only one who has gotten caught up in this saying and thought their faith was somehow smaller because of it.
But there are a few things we need to remember when it comes this often heard and sometimes overused phrase.
- Leading someone to Christ is a great thing, but it does not define your faith. This isn’t only a lesson for the person who’s struggling with never leading someone to Christ. It’s also for the person who has been really successful in sharing the Gospel. Sometimes we think Christianity works like the Girl Scouts or any organization that gives you a badge for completing a task. Pray everyday? You get a badge. Lead a Bible study? You get a badge. Lead someone to Christ? You get a badge. But that’s not how it works. We are not saved by leading someone to Christ. Leading more people to Christ won’t give you more brownie points in heaven. Your Christian status doesn’t increase if you convert someone and it doesn’t decrease if you don’t. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- God gives the increase, not you. You’re not in control of anything but your own actions and that includes other people’s responses to the Gospel. It’s God who softens people’s hearts to the truth just like he softened Pharaoh’s heart to Moses’ plea in Exodus. I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. Some of us will plant the seed that’s the Gospel and some of us will water that seed and nurture it, but “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything.”
- Some people will just not listen; their lack of interest is not a reflection of your faith.
Consider Noah. God found him to be the only blameless person so he called him to build an ark to save himself and his family. Noah willingly accepted the task God called him to. For years, he worked on this ark and he probably had a lot of opportunity to explain to people what he was doing and why he was doing it. Yet, he and his family were the only ones saved (Genesis 6-7). And consider Jonah, who ran from God’s call but eventually lead the whole city of Nineveh to repentance. Was Jonah the better servant of God? Did God value him more because more people repented because of his teachings? No. In fact, Paul commends Noah for his faith in what we like to call the Faith chapter in Hebrews 11.
- Sometimes you’re the one who plants the seed, sometimes you’re the one who waters it and sometimes you’re the one who reaps the harvest. God has a plan for you in His kingdom and that plan might not be the conventional definition of “leading someone to Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t preach Jesus to others. Don’t use this as an excuse to live a lukewarm faith. Instead, keep preaching through words and actions regardless of the outcome. Regardless of whether anyone will listen. Regardless of whether we will “lead someone to Christ.” I once heard the saying, “Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary.” Preach Jesus and let Jesus do the rest.