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From “Duluth Vineyard: How God Increased One Church’s Evangelistic Effectiveness in Startling Ways”

Michael Gatlin

Michael Gatlin

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Michael Gatlin

No matter how missionally oriented we think we are, there is always a lot of room for growth. This is true about every area of my life (husband, father, pastor, everything). One of the things I’ve discovered indispensable for leadership is that I need to get honest with what is really going on. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “The path to change begins when we are regularly confronted with the brutal facts of our current reality.” I need to accept true reality before I can subscribe to my dreams about leadership.

A while back, one of the things I noticed in my life is that when I take the time and space to really get honest—about my personal life, about my leadership, about the results—a couple of things happen. First, the results of my honest evaluation are not usually stellar. I’m generally not as well off as I would like to think I am. In fact, I’m not sure there’s real honesty going on if all the news is good news. And secondly, I have an opportunity for real growth. That’s really where the story begins.

Conflicted Views of Evangelism
Evangelism had always been something I was not naturally very good at. I had attended a good Baptist Bible college. I’d heard all the talks, some bad and some good. The bad ones left me feeling like a failure because I didn’t have enough notches on my belt. After listening to these things and replaying them in my mind year after year, I actually began to wonder if I was even saved myself.

I always felt a bit tongue-tied and clumsy as I tried to share either my faith or the claims of the gospel. I felt embarrassed, in a junior-high-telling-a-girl-that-you-liked-her kind of way. I’ve never thought that I had the “gift of evangelism” or that I was in any way an “evangelist.” In fact, to be completely honest, people that claimed to possess this gift generally annoyed me. I often felt as though they were looking down on me because of my lack of effectiveness (whether or not that was actually true). And I felt as though they were driving me toward something I had no hope of ever accomplishing.

Discipleship Is a Process
But actually, people take all sorts of different paths to come to Jesus. There was this cute girl in high school who wouldn’t let me take her on a date to anywhere but church. So I took her there…and eventually, I heard about Jesus. For other people, maybe it was a crisis, a feeling that life was about to overwhelm them in some way.

All of the early disciples traveled some sort of unique path in moving toward Christ. And I began to realize that I didn’t care exactly what path people took, as long as I could help them move just a bit closer to Christ along the way.

So I started to think that discipleship and evangelism was a process. And I just want to be involved—to play that game.

– from Cutting Edge, Spring 2010

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