By Merv Budd
Carol was a persuasive woman. Her first-hand accounts of her visits overseas were stunningly and attractively descriptive. When she spoke to Jake about her adventures it captured his imagination. On cold winter days he could feel the warmth of the sun on his back as she spoke. “Why don’t you go?” Carol challenged. She was a born persuader. “You’ll never regret it.”
Jake stammered an answer that didn’t even convince him. He had reservations but wasn’t sure he knew how to articulate them. “I don’t know” he said. Carol’s disappointment was crushing. The truth is Jake liked Carol and hated to be the cause of her pain. “Come on” coaxed Carol, “all you need to do is make a decision.” “Okay.” Jake conceded, “I’ll do it. I’ll go overseas. I’ve made my decision.” Carol was ecstatic. She jumped up and down barely able to contain her excitement.
That night when they were with a group a friends Carol urged Jake to announce his decision. “Go ahead,” she prompted “tell people what you decided.” Reluctantly Jake told the group “I’m going to go overseas.” Some of the people were obviously shocked, others were almost as excited as Carol and many people congratulated him.
Time passed and Carol’s visits slowly diminished. She was always out with others telling them about her experiences and adventures overseas, trying to convince them to make a decision to go. Jake signed out some books on exotic destinations and even inquired about prices. But the cost was more than he thought and it would have taken some great sacrifices to make the trip a reality. To anyone who watched it was readily apparent that Jake’s decision to go overseas had no implications for how he lived. He had no plan for saving money to go. No destination in mind. And, if he was honest, he had no real interest in going. He was pretty sure that he’d like it when he got there but there was still some reservation. Jake’s decision had become nothing more than a concession to please his friend.
If Jake’s decision was to translate into action he would have needed to have a travelling companion; someone who had travelled before and knew the ropes. He needed a friend who would have helped to get the location, set the dates, dream about the upcoming trip and share the memories with him. A person whose own excitement was contagious for those times when Jake had doubts and who could convince Jake that the sacrifices required to save money would be worth it once they were there.
The reality is that decisions need follow up. People on journeys need companions to go with them. We have for many years understood evangelism as a decision in time rather than a determination to journey. The results of our decision-getting efforts have been scores of people claiming to have made a decision for Christ, but not having made any real changes as a result of that decision.
As missionaries to our culture and to people, our task is to journey with others. It’s slower; it can’t be mass produced. And it requires a great deal of love, patience and commitment. But this is how Jesus journeyed with the 12 and I suspect we would be further ahead in our missional endeavours if we followed His example.