This is how exponential growth is supposed to work, why doesn't it?

In my early Christian discipleship I was steeped in a system that encouraged us to share our faith. This was a good thing. We were often encouraged by some sort of simple diagram which showed us the power of exponential growth. If we just shared our faith with two people a year, and they shared their faith with two people a year in a very short time the entire human race would be won to Jesus. It never happened, at least not yet, why?

Exponential growth works. The problem isn’t with exponential growth; the problem is that we haven’t worked on developing an environment where exponential growth can happen. Our reality is that most Christians don’t lead other people to Christ in their entire lifetime, let alone two a year. Why? Is it because sharing our faith is a difficult task? No. It really is quite simple. Is it because most Christians haven’t been trained in effective evangelism? No. Most of what is termed effective evangelism is usually seen as too aggressive, forceful and confrontational by those doing the evangelism and those being evangelized, hence it isn’t particularly effective. But even that isn’t really the problem. Then perhaps the problem is that most Christians are too weak in their faith and don’t know enough to share their faith. That’s not the problem either. Have you ever noticed that most effective witnessing is done new Christians who are excited about their new salvation?

So what is the problem? Well, in my opinion, it is not so much that there is one problem but an interconnected set of problems that creates an overall ambiance where evangelism is difficult and non-productive. Let me just mention some of these problems. We have a Christian environment where personal life on life discipleship is very rare; consequently many Christians have shallow spiritual lives. Since most Christians are living shallow Christian lives, they are not particularly attractive to those who don’t know Christ. The church environment that most non-Christians know is not reflective of the values of Jesus or the life that early Christians led (for example, see my last post Kingdom Economics). Because many of us are basing our lives on worldly values, actually living our lives in the flesh, instead of the power of the Spirit, we don’t live lives where supernatural power is evident to outsiders. Because of these “ambiance” problems and many more like them, when we do share our faith, we are most often rejected, which makes it harder to share our faith the next time.

So what’s the solution? Is it to witness more often? That’s what was being encouraged by my early mentors. I’m all for sharing our faith often, but I’m not for sharing it in an environment where Christ is likely to be rejected. Instead, I’m suggesting we go back to the fundamentals. I’m not talking about the fundamental doctrines of the faith, we all believe those. I’m talking about the foundational life practices of the faith. We live our life in the power of the Spirit, not our own fleshly abilities. We love other Christians and our neighbors as we love ourselves. We allow Jesus Christ to actually be our Lord, not just as a doctrinal belief, but by listening to his inner voice and then radically obeying him. Those Christians who are more mature (elders) and know this life, not by mere knowledge, but by practical experience, show less mature believers how to live like this.

If the Church in general were to live like this we would become, in a word, beautiful. Then our lifestyle, our selfless love and the way we loved one another would be as attractive as honey is to bees. I believe that is what Peter was talking about when he told the early believers: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (I Pet. 3:15-16). That kind of individual and communal life creates an ambiance where exponential growth happens. It doesn’t need to be forced because people want to know what is going on in our lives. In reality they are seeing the beauty of the Spirit, and that’s attractive.

  • Do you believe that most non-Christians see Christians as having such beautiful lives that they are attracted to it like bees to honey?
  • Are most Christians churches beautifully attractive to outsiders?
  • Do most of the Christians you know live the vast majority of their lives following the individual instructions of Jesus their Lord in radical obedience? If they aren’t is he really Lord? Do you live like that?
  • Do you think the gospel is so powerful and believable that without the demonstration of spiritual lives, it is attractive to most non-Christians?
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