So if there is nothing we can do enable or prevent the Spirit's converting work, what are we supposed to do? Here are three ideas.
For one, we can stop marketing the faith as if it were a product in the marketplace. We can stop thinking it our job to convince or cajole people.
Second, we can do what Jesus told us to do. He did not tell us to market our neighbors, but to love them. That means refusing to treat them as potential customers or clients who need to be talked into something. What made us think non-Christians would enjoy that type of relationship with us in the first place? Instead, we are called to love, to take the initiative to get to know others, to not hold their sins against them, to be generous with our time and goods, to be faithful and kind, and so forth.
This requires a lot more effort, discernment, and sacrifice—and the grace of the Holy Spirit!—than any evangelistic campaign we might work up (which may be another reason we'd much rather market people).
Third, when we have the opportunity to tell another about Jesus, let's avoid come-ons, rhetoric, sales pitches, and pressure. Just a simple explanation of what Jesus has done on the cross and is doing in our lives. Francis de Sales, author of the devotional classic Introduction to the Devout Life, was one of the most effective preachers of his day (late 1500s, early 1600s). But his "method," if we must call it that, was simple. His motto was: "He who preaches with love, preaches effectively."
In order to share the gospel that announces God's extraordinary love to dead sinners, doesn't it make sense that instead of trying to cajole people into faith with marketing techniques, we would simply love them as God loved us all?
Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He is author of many books, including the forthcoming Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Work of the Holy Spirit (Baker).
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
See also our January 2009 cover story, "Jesus Is Not a Brand."
Previous SoulWork columns include:
One Wedding and Six Funerals | What it can mean to participate in the life of God. (January 20, 2011)
Blessed Are the Poor in Virtue | Why some people may want to abandon New Year's resolutions as soon as possible. (January 6, 2011)
Me? Favored? By God? | The remarkable announcement to Mary—and us. (December 22, 2010)