Seek the lost. Love neighbors. Preach the gospel.
No matter if times are easy or hard, Christians are to continue doing these things. There is no reprieve from the call to follow Christ and share him with those around us. This month, we prayed for Chinese believers to persevere in evangelism. We are praying this because Chinese pastors have shared specific concerns that their churches have become too inward-facing. Even though persecution has increased in recent years, the church is still called to persevere in sharing the good news with the world.
We prayed for Chinese believers to persevere in evangelism. We are praying this because Chinese pastors have shared specific concerns that their churches have become too inward-facing.
In Season and Out
In 2 Timothy, Paul exhorted Timothy, a young leader: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
What does the call to “be ready in season and out of season” mean? Christians do not get to wait until the time is convenient to share the gospel. We do not wait until the people with whom we are sharing the gospel are ready to hear. Believers are to share Jesus at all times, to tell who he is and what he has done. Whether it is convenient or inconvenient; whether the climate is hospitable or inhospitable; whether the person in front of us seems to be hard and barren soil, or soft and welcoming.
Evangelism is hard: personally, I’m not persuasive, and hate trying to talk people into things. But the gospel is too weighty for these flimsy excuses. If we truly believe “the wages of sin is death,” offering those weighed down by death the gift of “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” is both duty and joy.
One of the most beautiful experiences of my time in China was seeing people come to faith in Christ. Yet I was always struck by something: no matter their story, I don’t think I ever knew of a person who became a Christian the first time they ever heard the gospel story. In every case (both in my own experiences and in the stories I heard from others), new believers started to believe in Jesus because they heard the story, and then heard it again. Perhaps they heard the story many, many times before they responded. Some heard of Christ from a grandmother, others from a high school teacher, a neighbor, a friend, or a stranger who told them a bizarre and unbelievable story. At the time, they rejected all they heard. Their heart was hard. But later, when the Holy Spirit was ready to move, they heard again – and that time, they believed.
What does the call to ‘be ready in season and out of season’ mean?…We do not wait until the people with whom we are sharing the gospel are ready to hear. Believers are to share Jesus at all times, to tell who he is and what he has done.
This week, an American friend who lived with me in China texted me out of the blue. She asked if I remembered “Zhang Yu,” a mom friend of hers whose child attended preschool with hers and who lived in the same apartment building. Back then, my friend shared the gospel with Zhang Yu. When she did this, Zhang Yu rejected the good news. I remember talking with my friend then about their conversation – my friend felt anxious, and silly, and worried about what her boldness meant for their relationship. She shared, but nothing happened.
But this week, years and years later, she got an out-of-the-blue email from Zhang Yu. After some back and forth, Zhang Yu wrote: “After my dad passed away [several years ago], I believed in God and the Holy Spirit… now I often go to church, and pray to God every day. I always remember that you gave me a Bible as a gift. I’m so grateful.”
“God Gave the Growth”
So, that’s what I am praying for Chinese believers. For many, it might feel like they are sowing out of season – planting tomato seeds in November, not March. What is the point? Pressure is strong, and many churches are struggling merely to survive and hold their next worship service. The frost will come, the ground will freeze, and nothing will come of all their evangelism.
I would venture to say it often feels the same for those of us in the West. Hearts are hard; even those who grew up in the church are streaming out. “Preaching the word” feels as though it will not result in fruit, but only rejection.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Yet God’s plans are higher and better than ours. In good times and in bad, he is still working. All of us are to seek the lost, love our neighbors, and preach the gospel. He is still calling the lost to himself. We do not know what he will do with our labor, and we do not know when he will cause the seeds to germinate. But we know the growth process is in his hands.
Years later, she got an out-of-the-blue email from Zhang Yu. After some back and forth, Zhang Yu wrote: ‘After my dad passed away [several years ago], I believed in God and the Holy Spirit… now I often go to church, and pray to God every day.’
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” To stick with the agricultural theme (which Jesus used so often in Scripture), we do not always know the types of seeds we are planting. Some, like daffodil bulbs, must be planted in autumn so they can bloom in the spring. Others, like green beans, grow quickly once placed in the ground. No matter the times, Christians are to continue sowing and cultivating, and God will give the growth in his good season.
So, join me: let us pray that Chinese believers will remain faithful, “in season and out,” to love and serve and preach. When seeds are planted, the Lord will surely bring them to fruition.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband pastors a small PCA church.
Pray for Chinese Christians to hold fast to evangelism, even in times that do not seem to be as fruitful.