"But the seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15, NIV).
I have read about great evangelists like T.B. Larimore, Marshall Keeble, and Jimmy Allen. Each one of them would come into a community and conduct evangelistic meetings for a small congregation of Christians. By the end of the series of meetings, hundreds would be added to the local church either by faith and baptism or by repentance and restoration.
How were they so productive? More personally, why am I not so productive?
One reason for their productivity is that each of those men was gifted by God to be an evangelist. I am not gifted in the same way. God has given me gifts, but he has not given me the gift of being able to speak effectively in large public gatherings.
However, while I do not want to take away from the accomplishments of great evangelists, I have come to believe that they are not as productive as they appear. Very seldom are evangelists solely responsible for bringing people to Christ. While they have a crucial role in presenting the gospel in clear and attractive ways, they need other Christians as much as we need them.
Most of the people who are baptized into Christ by an evangelist were actually led to Christ by rather inarticulate people. How many children grow up to know the Lord primarily due to the teaching and example of godly parents? How many employers, employees, and co-workers have been nudged toward Christ by the people who work with them? They may have noticed that a co-worker took the time to visit them in the hospital, lived with integrity, and put in a good word for Jesus every once in a while. Perhaps their co-worker even persuaded them to come to the evangelistic meeting. How many neighbors have learned to respect God because of a saintly neighbor who would rather help than judge?
Everyday, Christians are making a difference. They are persevering. When they think that they are spinning their wheels and going nowhere, they keep going with the hope that somehow God is using them. The good news is: He is! As Jesus taught in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, he notices the good that his people are doing even when they don't recognize it.
I'm thankful for the evangelists, but I'm just as grateful for the unknown disciples whose less articulate words but godly attitudes and actions are backing up the message of the evangelists. We all need each other, and we need to keep persevering in order to produce a harvest.
I must not give up despite my apparent ineffectiveness.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, NIV).