Evangelism is great. Watching someone accept your direct invitation to follow Christ can be a euphoric moment. You want to watch it happen again and again.
I love Jesus. I want others to love Him too. I want them to experience the freedom of His forgiveness, His sustaining power, lavish love, and the hope-filled future He offers. And I’m thrilled when I get to see it happen up close and personal. So, naturally, I was excited years ago about an evangelism program called, “Each One Reach One.”
Here’s how Each One Reach One works
If I bring you to an acceptance of Christ as your Savior and then both of us bring someone else the following year, we’ve doubled our number. 1+1=2. 2+2=4. And so it goes
- Year 3: 4+4=8
- Year 4: 8+8=16
- Year 5: 16+16=32
- Year 6: 32+32=64
- Year 7: 64+64=128
- Year 8: 128+128=256
- Year 9: 256+256=512
- Year 10: 512+512=1024
See how it adds up? In ten years, we will have won over 1,000 people to the cause of Christ. How exciting!
Except, it doesn’t work.
“Each One Reach One” is not realistic or biblical.
The only one-to-one part about this evangelistic method is the equal frustration you experience when someone you’ve tried hard to convince of their need for Christ just doesn’t get it. I’ve been there too. The method must work so the problem must be me, the evangelist, right?
Wrong. It’s not you. And Jesus knew that. That’s why He spoke of a more organic method of evangelism, pun sort of intended.
The One In Four Method of Evangelism
Jesus told the parable of the sower because He knew that not everyone we tell about Jesus will accept the message. Let’s look at His four groups of people from Matthew 13.
- Some will outright reject the message (v. 19).
- Once tough times hit, new believers will also turn away (v. 20).
- Yet others will become distracted by the worries and deceitfulness of this world (v. 22).
- A fourth group will hear and understand the Word and go on to teach it to others. Even then, those who hang in there will have varying degrees of effectiveness. Some yields will bring in one hundred, others sixty, and yet others thirty times what was sown (v. 23).
In terms of raw data, what does this look like?
Because I didn’t have anything better to do with my time one day, I ran the numbers on what I would call the One in Four method of evangelism.
- Year 1: Four people share Christ with four people. One person accepts. Now there are five Christians.
- Year 2: Five people share Christ. Using the one in four ratio, that makes a total of 6.25. Okay, I know there can’t be such a thing as one-quarter of a person but bear with me.
- Year 3: 6.25+1.526=7.776
- Year 4: 7.776+1.994=9.72
- Year 5: 9.72+2.43=12.15
- Year 6: 12.14+3.03=15.187
- Year 7: 15.187+3.8=19
- Year 8: 19+4.74=23.74
- Year 9: 23.74+5.935=29.675
- Year 10: 29.675+7.418=37.093
This new set of numbers might be discouraging to you, but I find them reassuring. They reflect reality. You are not going to convince every person of their need to partner with Jesus. And neither am I. Yes, 37 new Christians is a much lower number than 1024, but it’s still more than 1 person. And by year 15, there will be 113 Christians.
The best part of Jesus’ evangelism method.
Every once in a while, according to Mathew 13:23, some new convert will come forward and go far beyond the “One-in-Four” and even the “Each One Reach One” principles.
Let’s fanaticize that, every six years, one convert influences 100 people to come to Jesus. For the sake of simplicity, let’s round off the decimals.
- Year 3: 6+2=8
- Year 4: 8+2=10
- Year 5: 10+2=12
- ****Year 6: 12+3=15 + 100 = 115
- Year 7: 115+29=144
- Year 8: 144+36=180
- Year 9: 180+45=225
- Year 10: 225+56=281
- Year 11: 281+70=351
- ****Year 12: 351+87= 438 + 100 = 538
Doesn’t that look a lot better? Over 500 believers in twelve years!
Evangelism is a Team Effort
The fact is, evangelism refuses to squish into mathematical predictions. One person is never fully responsible for winning someone else to the Lord. Soul winning is never a solo act. Many other people helped with the soil preparation of their heart to make them ready to listen to you as you paved the final steps toward salvation.
Paul acknowledged this group dynamic when he said some of us plant and some water in 1 Corinthians 3. Your contribution to the salvation of another might be nothing more than offering a cup of cold water to a weary soul, a container of chicken soup for a hospice patient, a plate of pancakes in a church-turned-shelter during a winter blizzard, or a a prayer for a stranger in a hospital waiting room.
One missionary friend says it takes 100 acts of kindness from different people before a Muslim will even begin to listen to the doctrinal tenets of our faith. The Muslim – and I’m sure it’s true with other groups – need to not only hear us proclaim the gospel; they need to see us live it.
Why is evangelism so hard?
I’m a city-bred girl, dumped in the middle of farm country. I’ve spent half of ministry years with Preacher Creature among wheat, corn, and soybean fields. No farmer has invited me to drive a combine or grain truck – yet – but I’ve learned a bit about farming in those twenty-some years.
Farmers are the most pessimistic group of people I’ve ever met. Every farmer loses their crops a dozen times over before it reaches harvest status. It’s understandable. An early spring frost, a summer drought, an extra wet autumn or one nasty hailstorm can diminish the productivity of the harvest.
Farming is better than it used to be. Yields have increased over the last 100 years because of better techniques, more powerful machine-driven equipment, and the development of fertilizer and disease resistant grain. Despite the advances, factors remain that can hinder optimum productivity. I know. I see it on the faces of my farmer friends every year. They are not in control of the results and they know it.
God gives the increase
God gets the credit for salvation, not us. He is the one makes the message grow and come to life in a person’s heart. Whether in the farm fields of America or on the city streets of Brazil, God brings the increase.
What is our responsibility?
Many Bible passages tell us that we are still accountable for relaying the message of Christ. Here is what the Lord wants you to do:
Till the soil. Replicate the farming methods of the last century. Remove boulders. Sow more seed by proclaiming the Word to more people more often. Make your presentation resilient to corruption and sin disease. Train workers to become more effective planters, proficient at detecting fertile soil.
Plant the seed. If the sower doesn’t sow, the seed won’t grow. If you do nothing to tell the world or your neighbor about Jesus, you suppress the spread of Christianity. So, each day, ask God how He would like you to be involved in the planting process.
Look at the big picture. Harvest isn’t done until it’s done. Jesus told another parable that predicted the reality of weeds growing among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). He reassured his disciples that at the end of time, the harvest will be collected and God will give the final number (Matthew 13:36-43).
No wonder my farmer friends are pessimistic when I prematurely ask about harvest yields. How are they to know? They won’t know until they drive their combine into the barn the final time. Even as I write at the end of November, Western Illinois farmers are out in freezing cold weather, gathering what they can. If they had given up in early October when harvest is usually completed, they would have sacrificed a lot of grain left in the field. Yogi Berra’s famous quote, pertains to both farming and faith – “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Let God do what He does best. Our part is twofold:
- Proclaim – That’s the planning of the seed.
- Portray – We water the seed when we parade God’s grace, publicly displaying what a transformed life looks like. Our boldness in living the life God has called us to live shows unbelievers this Christianity thing really works.
From that point on, God’s Holy Spirit does the convincing and the transformation, working in tandem with the individual’s faith. He’ll call on you if He wants to work through you. After all, it’s his harvest field, not ours. The success of evangelism is not up to you. It’s up to God. You won’t know your rate of return – or God’s – until the final curtain call. You just keep faithful, recognizing the success of your labors will be revealed in Heaven’s courts.
Our responsibility is to preach the Word and live the life.
Whether you reach one, four, four-thousand or four every five years, your responsibility of winning the world to Jesus is to use your gifts and your influence to faithfully proclaim and portray God’s love and life. Someone in your blind spot might be watching and absorbing. Only on the other side of Eternity will you discover how the seeds of your influence took root and reproduced.
Who in your life needs a saving relationship with God? Prayer and love are your best tools. Email me privately and I’ll pray with you for the person who is most on your heart.