Richard had attended our church for many weeks. As I visited with him in his home, I had talked to him about salvation, baptism, and church membership. He could make his decision to do so either at home or during the invitation time at church. He said he would consider what he needed to do.
After one church service, he told me that if we had sung one more verse of the invitation hymn, he would have relented to come forward.
That was in my mind the next service he was there. The congregation sang through one set of verses, but Richard did not leave his seat. We sang through another set of verses. Still, no response. We must have sung eighteen verses. It was a long invitation time, for sure.
If you are part of a church laboring diligently for the Lord, spiritual encouragement is often needed. But, the Scripture says, “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
It was on the day of Pentecost, as related in Acts 2, that the promised gift of the Holy Spirit came to the Jerusalem believers in Christ. The experience transformed them into dynamic witnesses. Peter preached a sermon. The summary of it says,” With ‘many’ other words did he testify and exhort.” At the end, 3000 people decided to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.
If we are not careful as we read about it, we can get the perception that this great result happened at the snap of a finger. And, in the process, we make comparison to our own feeble ministry results as inconsequential and failing.
But, the needed encouragement to our churches today is tipped off by the summary statement of the Pentecost event, “With ‘many’ other words…”
There is no doubt that church people would like to see three thousand get saved after the pastor finished his sermon. As bad as my preaching is, I would probably have a fit of apoplexy if such happened. But, while God will do as He sees fit, the general experience for most churches is that any responses come after ‘many’ labors have been done.
“Many” suggests the key by which churches find encouragement to keep on doing those things necessary for the advancement of the Gospel.
For example, it takes “many words.”
What words did Peter use to testify and exhort? He most certainly used important words like “saved” to explain God’s work through Christ on the Cross. Perhaps there was uttered the ideal word of “Heaven” to give hope for eternity. “Hell” is a necessity to emphasize the judgment of God. “Forgiveness” was certainly cited to assure them about the love of God.
It takes many words on our part to convince and explain that God has a better way for those who turn to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. While football and politics are a part of our usual jargon, know that you need to speak often about the things of God.
Second, it takes many works. Ministry is fruitful when the church does many works, which find expression through the principles of Scripture. There are “water works” (I Corinthians 3:6-9), because it takes a lot of watering of the seed before God gives the increase. There are the “ordained works”, because we are ordained to do many good works representative of God (Ephesians 2:10). Consider “woven works”, which are blended with emphasis in the name and love of Christ. Just be encouraged that it takes many works.
Third, it often takes “many wonders.” It seems to be an uncanny reality that eye-opening events or experiences are needed to get the attention of people who need God. The perils of humanity are purposeful in emphasizing the timeliness of turning to God in faith. When there is opportunity, we should use the perplexities people experience to lovingly point to the necessity of faith in God. Even the personal problems we experience can give opportunities to point out benefits of faith in God.
Remember that “many” is the key.
By the way — Richard finally came forward after those “many” verses were sung.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.