By Eric Myatt
Last fall I invited over a dozen people to a program at my parish designed to reach those who don’t go to church. I was psyched to give people I know who have wandered away from faith a chance to have another look at life’s big questions. I invited with great expectations that God was going to do something incredible. I was ready to see some serious evangelistic fruit! I’m a missionary! Woo!
No one I invited came. Not one. Zero people. Pas de personnes. Adding insult to injury, when it was my week to chip in on the potluck, the salad I brought was the only dish left unfinished. Dang.
Since then my invites have gone a bit better, but in these situations I find I react in one of two ways: I’m discouraged or discontented.
Evangelistic Discouragement tends towards being frustrated that things aren’t going as we hoped. People don’t show up. Events feel lame. Those that do come don’t seem to respond. Discouragement should move us to action if it is well founded. Was I lazy or cutting corners in my invitations or preparation? Was I narrow in my invitational net-casting, only inviting those that I’m positive will say yes? Was the event or activity I invited people to less than excellent?
If I say “yes” to any of these questions, then my discouragement is well founded and I need to try to get better. I’ve got to make that extra phone call. I’ve got to get up the guts to ask my friend who may say no. I need to go the extra mile to make people feel comfortable and welcome, or make a really, really boss salad.
Discouragement is hard to shake sometimes. But if we are discouraged even though we were faithful to our evangelistic efforts, there is something amiss. Discouragement isn’t discontentment.
Evangelistic Discontentment is a deep longing for God’s kingdom to come. It’s the cry of our heart that says “Just one more Lord! I’ll do whatever it takes for one more person to know you.” When ten people say they’ll come and nine show up, Evangelistic Discontent says “Thank you God for the nine, but where is the one?”. It’s holy. It is part of the call to be a missionary. It’s a sure sign that the Heart of the Shepherd – the heart that’ll go after the one that strayed – dwells within.
St. Paul said it best: “Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy shown us, we are not discouraged. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord. For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:1, 5b, 6)
So invite! Don’t give way to discouragement, but give way to a holy discontent.