Some time ago, I proposed that those of us in the community of Christ need to lose the absurd phrase, “God showed up.” This week, I want to look at another “Christianese” phrase that needs to die a quick death – the phrase, “I led [insert name here] to the Lord.”
This phrase is almost always presented as a badge of honor, a boast, as though we strategically, or through great effort, accomplished something admirable.
“Added another one to my resume. I won Jackie to Christ.” There is something so “look at me, look at me” and self-aggrandizing in that statement.
Before we go any further, let’s just set that in perspective against what the apostle Paul told the church at Corinth.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 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. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7, ESV
It is important to understand the context of this statement. Just prior to this, Paul was sternly rebuking the believers in Corinth, going so far as to say that he couldn’t even address them as “spiritual” men and women because they were so obsessed with human alignments. He called them “infants!”
I follow John Piper!
Oh that’s nothing. I follow Ravi Zacharias.
Oh, I’ve got you both beat. I was led to Christ by J. I. Packer!
Such silliness exalts humanity over deity in direct violation of the very principle Paul is battling in his quote above. The people at Corinth were dividing into factions, or camps, on the basis of whose personality or theology they best aligned with.
Some said, “I follow Paul,” while others said, “I follow Apollos.” And still others said, (get this!) “I follow Christ.” Do not lose sight of the reality that it is possible to declare yourself a follower of Christ in a way that is divisive!
Evangelistic outreach is important, and while it is not within the scope of this blog posting to investigate this, I do believe it is the responsibility of every follower after Christ to contribute to the evangelistic work of the kingdom of God. But I completely reject the idea that our evangelistic work is a cause for boasting.
Furthermore, I reject the idea that any one person completely on their own “leads a person to Christ.” Paul planted. Apollos watered. God caused the increase. There are three entities involved in that process.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. – 1 Corinthians 3:10, ESV
We might say, “Damon laid a foundation, while Aaron and Cheryl gathered construction materials. Phyllis served as morale officer. David and Tim trued up the framework while Jackson cut and built girders and rafters.” And when all of our human efforts are completed, it is still God who grants the increase.
We throw seed, and we water seed thrown. Sometimes I am watering seed I have thrown, and other times I am watering seed others have thrown. Seeding and watering are tremendous responsibilities and privileges, because they have eternal implications. But in every case, it is God who causes the growth.
Many years ago, I reported to a board of elders who failed to understand the reality that we are seeders and waterers only. They would regularly berate me for what they considered a low conversion rate. I was throwing and watering seed on a daily basis, even on weekends and days off. Though I never did so, I wanted to point out to them that their their irritation with and indictment of me, was in reality an irritation with and indictment of God who gives or does not give the increase.
Keep sowing, and keep watering, and pray the Lord of harvest will send forth reapers (Matthew 9:38), or better yet, BE a reaper, as the fields are white unto harvest (John 4:35), and the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2).
But just don’t say, “I led [insert name here] to the Lord.”