“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)
Wherever I go, there are some people who are getting things accomplished for God. They seem to have boundless energy, incredible output. The hardest working people I’ve known are missionaries. Of course, we’ve all met some of the laziest, too. But missionaries as a class work hard. In the Philippines a missionary heard God had blessed our efforts at church starting evangelism in Japan and wanted to know what methods we used.
“Did you do mass evangelism or personal? Did you go door-to-door or do street evangelism?” He never paused for an answer. “Inside the church or outside? Home Bible studies? Newspaper evangelism, radio evangelism? Friendship evangelism?” He paused to take a breath and I said, “Yes!” Then, before he had recovered from that I continued.
“We did more. We did chingdonya.” He wanted to know what that new method was so I explained about the ancient Japanese custom of advertising the opening of a new business or a sale. A group of men dressed in outrageous costume would snake through the community with trumpets, drums, and paper lanterns, producing a distinctive sound that would draw a crowd to follow them to the desired destination. Muriel’s chalk art is drawing people to our nightly tent meeting, I thought, but maybe we could do more. So I borrowed a drum, bought a trumpet at the pawn shop, lit a couple of lanterns and paraded a bunch of blond little chingdonya through the streets of Tsuchiura, drawing a crowd to the desired destination.
I didn’t tell my Philippine missionary friend that we only did that the first term. The second term we cut back to those methods that had worked well. But I wanted to make a point: Church planting takes unremitting hard work.
I tried to make the same point at a missionary conference in Japan where missionaries from various missions gathered each summer. We were back to that favorite theme, how to make the church grow in very difficult soil. Experts from the US joined veterans from our own field on the distinguished panel. It was the end of our first term and, as was my custom in those youthful days, I sat in the back and held my peace. Finally someone stood and said, “Why don’t we ask McQuilkin how he does it?” A clamor began until I reluctantly conceded.
“Well,” I began, groping for some useful idea, “I figure that in Japan if you want to have one person continue on in the faith you have to baptize 5. To baptize 5, you must have 20 professions of faith, to have 20 professions of faith you need 100 serious seekers; to have 100 seekers you need solid contact with 1,000 people, and to have contact with a thousand, 5,000 need to know you’re there.” Then I sat down.
Fifteen years passed and I had returned to Japan for the annual conference as the devotional speaker. Then the church growth experts from the US were introduced and we got back to our favorite subject. In the interaction time following the presentations a man stood and said, “Some years ago there was a scientific survey made in Japan and it was determined that to have 1 person continue on in the faith it was necessary to baptize 5, to baptize 5, 20 must make profession of faith . . .” I was astonished at the accuracy of his memory, but even more astonished that my off-the-cuff response had become a “scientific survey.” All I was trying to say, fifteen years earlier, was that it takes hard work, unremitting hard work.
Paul tells us in Colossians 1:28-29; “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
And so it is. If your labor is half-hearted or low energy it may be in vain. But if it’s hard work it will not be in vain. So how is it with you?