Josh 24:21-22 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
It is very clear that the people who were interacting with Joshua in this exchange were the elders, and not the entire nation. For one thing, it would have been logistically impossible for this to have happened with more than a few hundred people at most. That their commitment was real is evident from what it says a bit further on: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” (Joshua 24:31) These people could speak for themselves, but they couldn’t speak for others. They probably did a pretty good job of communicating the truths of God to their own families, but couldn’t ensure that others did that as well. We are back to the truth that the Church is always just one generation away from extinction. That’s why in the Great Commission Jesus said to “make disciples,” not “make converts.” (Matthew 28:18-20) A disciple will be self-replicating, leading others to faith and knowledge of Christ. We have a strong tendency to stop once a person is baptized, but that’s just the birth ceremony. That’s why we have so many infantile Christians running around, compromising with and being deceived by the world and the devil. We need to examine our own lives as to whether we are any better than that ourselves, and then strive not only to draw closer to Christ in grateful obedience but also to lead others to join us in that quest.
As a pastor, this is a description of my life. However, I too am tempted to just focus on me and not worry about whether others are drawing closer to God. How foolish! Doing that shows I’m not drawing closer to God myself, because if I’m focused on Him, I will have His heart for those around me. I deal a lot with issues of people being self-centered. I might go so far as to say that covers a majority of the issues I deal with in ministry. As easy as it is to see how damaging that is for others, I still tend to overlook it or excuse it in myself. I cannot force anyone to change, but I can follow Paul’s instructions: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) I am to teach and admonish with the wisdom God provides, not relying on my own, which is no wisdom at all, speaking the truth in love so that people may be grounded in the truth in order to grow on their own, not always depending on someone else for their spirituality. In other words, I am to make disciples, just as Jesus said.
Father, this is my perennial quest. I rejoice in the successes, but they seem so few! Help me not focus on numbers, but on leading however many You give me to be self-replicating themselves. If we will do that, Your name will indeed be recognized as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!