Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Showing Up

A good friend once told me (and several other people) that 90 percent of evangelism was “just showing up.” He was being slightly facetious, but only slightly. He was usually trying to get a rise out of “the professionals” involved in outreach ministries and missions. He was a missionary at the time he said this, so no one openly disagreed.

His point was this: we worry and fret about evangelism, and how to do it, and what we should do, and the strategies for doing it, and our goals and objectives and vision statements. And in all of this “busy-ness” we forget that our work will be totally useless unless God is working at the same time. And sometimes we simply need to make ourselves available, prepared, yes, but available.

Speaking more generally than only evangelism, Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace says that “God’s work does not make our effort unnecessary but rather makes it effective.” That, to me, strikes the balance between the point my friend was making and the people whom he offended.

In the chapter “Dependent Discipline,” Bridges talks about a discipline for grace that both actively involves us but is totally dependent upon God. It’s not a passive thing; we just don’t sit back and “let grace happen.” Instead, we train ourselves, much like Paul “exhorted Timothy to train himself, to be godly (I Timothy 4:7).” Bridges says that for “training” Paul used a word that originally referred to the training of young athletes for sports competitions but had come to include mental and moral training. “Paul used it to refer to spiritual training.”

Bridges goes on the explain that discipline is not necessarily a reliance on human effort. We don’t simply “turn it over to the Lord” and let Him figure out how to bring discipline to our lives. We have to be actively engaged as well, but not to the extent that we try to do it all on our own.

We are, Bridges says, to pursue holiness (and grace) with all the intensity that the word “pursue implies.”

It is more than “just showing up.” But we do have to show up in the first place.

Over at Informing the Reforming, Tim Challies is leading a discussion of The Discipline of Grace. To see the discussion on this week’s chapter, “Dependent Discipline,” please visit Tim’s site.

1 comment:

Fatha Frank said...

Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors and I've been meaning to pick this up. I also didn't know Challies has been doing a discussion on it. I'll have to check that out too. Thanks, Glynn! And I like the balance you point out. I think it's a fine line between grace and works and it is very easy to fall to either side at any time. We need to be mindful to seek the balance even when our own nature and circumstances drive us to one extreme or the other.