At the age of 30, I left a good secular job to be the pastor of a small Native American congregation in California. More than 90 percent of my people were without Christ, and I was determined to change this situation.
In my zeal, I have been trained (and trained others) in various evangelism methods, including my own contextualized models. I have taught evangelism to young pastors in seminary. Now I have been in ministry for more than 30 years, and 90 percent of my people are still without Christ.
What must we do to reach Native Americans for Christ? That is the question that has been my constant companion in ministry.
A few years ago, I went to the People’s Republic of China. Christians in China have limited religious freedom. Many have endured persecution for the faith. Yet, Christianity is flourishing in China. I noticed something different about the testimonies that the Chinese Christians gave. The outline of their testimonies was similar to our testimony outline. It went like this:
1. My life before Christ
2. How I received Christ
3. My life after Christ
It was the third part of their testimony that caught my attention. When we talk about our lives after receiving Christ, we tend to talk about how God has blessed us. When they talked about their lives after receiving Christ, they talked about the people they have led to Christ.
That is when it dawned on me. My focus has been on changing the masses. But Jesus focused on changing 12 men and teaching them to do the same. I realized that when I die, the sermons that I preached and the classes that I taught will be forgotten. But if I can win a few people to Christ, and teach them to win a few, a tipping point will be reached, and the Gospel will incarnate my people. My name will be forgotten, but my ministry will endure through multiple generations.
I read something by an unknown author that makes sense. It is called “I Wanted to Change the World.”
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.
Paul said it this way in 2 Tim. 2:2— “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”