When I tell Utah Christians about the Sego Lily Foundation and the resources that we provide, the most common reply I get goes something like this, “Lord bless you, brother, but that’ll never work.”
If the situation permits, I always try to follow that response with an honest question: “What do you think could work?” And the answer is always the same: an exhale, a frown, and a confession — I don’t know. But if I could take this thought one step farther, it seems the prevailing, unspoken attitude among born-again Christians in Utah for evangelism is this, “that’ll never work because nothing ever works.”
Let’s allow the God of hope to speak joyfully to our discouragement (Romans 15:13).
Setting a clear goal of success is essential for our mission. If we define evangelistic success among Latter-day Saints as a public profession of Biblical faith from Spirit-wrought conversion, then we have set an inappropriate goal.
“Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9); God alone is responsible for the act of conversion (1 Corinthians 3:6; Acts 16:14). Yet, God still commands that we endeavor to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19–20) so that they may “be glad and shout for joy” (Psalm 67:4).
The apostle Paul is the quintessential example of a successful evangelist whose methods rarely worked. Paul’s trademark approach was to reason from recognized authorities in plain language. When he spoke to Jews, for example, he expounded the Hebrew Scriptures (Acts 17:1–3) in the Hebrew language (Acts 21:40).
When he spoke to the Athenians, he began with their own religious inscriptions (Acts 17:23) and quoted Greek poets (Acts 17:28). And, still, by and large, it didn’t “work.” Paul was chased from city to city by mobs of angry Jews and mocked as a madman by Roman intellectuals. And for all its failure to “work,” his preaching turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
The Decisive Factor
How did that happen? Well, my friend, the only answer is this – God was in it. That’s how. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), a fact even the gospel’s enemies recognized. Just as Gamaliel’s advice proved to be prophetic, “if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them” (Acts 5:39), so Demetrius understood the power of Paul’s gospel over his pathetic silver idols (Acts 19:24–27).
As Paul would later say, the preaching of the cross is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Success in evangelism isn’t found in the result, but in the very act. Every faithful attempt to declare the true gospel in terms our audience will understand “works” in that it faithfully obeys the commission of our King who exclusively controls the results. Results aren’t the issue; faithfulness is (1 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:2).
Simply put, the Sego Lily Foundation is our attempt at faithful obedience to the Lord’s commission. In fact, I would strongly encourage every Christian to ask themselves the question, What am I doing to fulfill my commission?
But as you consider your calling, just know this — inactivity, even if born of discouragement, doesn’t cut it with our King (Matthew 25:25–29; Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:1).