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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Priorities...(First in a Series)

This series has been brewing for a while now. I don't know how long it is going to last or how many installments it will take. I have a lot to share here and some of it is already formulated and some of it is still in germination.
For the past 8 or 10 months I have been kicking around the idea of where my next step will be and what my future is going to look like. I pondered a career in motivational speaking, and I certainly am equipped and qualified. My story is inspirational on a lot of levels and there would be no shame in pursuing that.
But something happened on May 11th that began a real sea-change in my soul and I am unable to settle for a career that is based on monetary gain or personal preference. I have had to reshuffle my priorities and realign my vision to match with God's and what follows is, and will be, different from what I had planned for the last year or so.
Most of you know, but for the sake of the few...I graduated from Liberty University this past May 12th. 28 years and half a lifetime in the making, my degree was the culmination of dreams that date back to my teenage years. May 11th was our Baccalaureate service. This years speaker was Dr. Luis Palau, the renowned evangelist from Brazil. It was at this service that my plans began to change and my vision was recast.
Dr. Palau preached an exciting, invigorating, stirring message about big faith, big dreams, and praying big prayers. He gave an example that has kept me up at night since that day.
He told the story of meeting the widow of Arthur S, DeMoss, the legendary Christian businessman, founder of National Liberty Life Insurance Company, and benefactor of Liberty University. I knew his youngest son while a freshman at LU. David was a great young man whose death came tragically ahead of time for those who knew him.
Dr. Palau related how Mr. DeMoss' wife told him that after his death at age 53, in 1979, she found a journal containing the names of every person he had personally lead to Jesus Christ in his lifetime. These were personal commitments, not people who were reached by reading one of his books or hearing him speak at a church. These were one-on-one, tell your story, listen to theirs, and show them to the Cross conversions.
The journals contained 32000 names.
Read that again...Thirty-Two Thousand
I was in awe when Dr. Palau said that number. The next day at Commencement, there were 35,000 packed into Williams Stadium. At one point during the excitement of graduation I looked around and the number came to life. "One man..." I said to myself, "One single man witnessed and prayed with this many people in his lifetime."  I was stunned.
What was even more amazing...Arthur DeMoss died at 53. I don't know the circumstances surrounding his conversion but assuming he was a Christian as early as age 16, (I believe it was much later than that) and he died at 53, that's 37 years. That's 865 people per year he lead to Jesus. That's more than 2 a day on average.
I have been thinking about this for almost 2 months now. 2 per day. Can you imagine what it's going to be like for us to watch his awards ceremony in Heaven? That is going to take a while.
The more I thought about it the more I realized it was really illuminating to me. It shed light on what's really wrong with the church today...particularly the church in America and especially the church in the American South.
You win 2 people a day to Jesus have to be trying to. You have to want to. You have to be ready to. You have to have it as your main priority and goal. You have to prepare and pray and wait, and be so in tune with the Spirit that you don't miss so much as one opportunity to share the Gospel. There can't be hesitation or delay. You can't be weak or scared or ashamed. You have to know the Word and have it committed to memory and be ready to give your answer in the blink of an eye.
Soul winning has to be a priority if you are going to win 32000 people to Jesus in a short 53 year life.
Soul winning. Not "engaging" not "encouraging" not "uplifting, equipping, anointing", or even "Discipling" Before all those worthy and necessary things can be must evangelize! You must win them before you can work with them. 
We have gotten so far afield from where we were told to go and what we were told to do. Art DeMoss didn't win 32000 souls by reading McDonald or C.S. Lewis or even Manning. He surely read those authors but my point is Art DeMoss wasn't about a soft-sell method of  "Taking Jesus to the Market place" He was about causing "Head-on Collisions with the King of Kings". This has become my favorite phrase of late and I long to see it happening in my own life.
Art DeMoss didn't spend a lot of time reading and learning from Hybels and Driscoll and Stanley. He didn't write books about small groups or soothing, emotionally based praise and worship. He wasn't about service structure and surveys and focus groups.  He parked himself every single day on the well in Samaria and told the people who came out about the streams of living water that Jesus promised would flow from their bellies. He was up into the wee hours with thousands of Nicodemus' who came to him by night and who did not leave until they heard "Marvel not that I have said to you ' You MUST be born again..." and in almost every case they prayed with him.
Art DeMoss met fisherman on the shore unloading he biggest catch of their lives and dared them to follow Jesus instead.
Art DeMoss was hard after the things that Jesus was all about...causing those unmistakable head-on collisions.
I find myself thirsting fiercely for this same sort of experience and life calling. I am filled to overflowing with small-groups and mega-churches, and bumper stickers and engaging, uplifting equipping and encouraging. I want to be EVANGELIZING! I want to find--as Dr. Greene always so perfectly put it--"That soul closest to Hell" and pray and wrestle the enemy for his eternal destiny.
I doubt I will ever approach a number like Art DeMoss achieved in his short time on Earth. But I can achieve the fervor, focus, devotion and urgency that he possessed.
I am in the process of reshuffling my priorities to accommodate this. I hope to encourage others to follow along with me. The only hope this world has is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I Cor 2:2.
Until tomorrow...

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