I blogged on the implications of the Savior’s comment about the slowness of one’s heart to believe a year or so ago. I feel the need in my musings to revisit this phenomenon once more because of my perception that very few Gospel ministers give serious thought to the workings of someone’s immaterial nature and its effects on how evangelism ought to be conducted.
I am not persuaded most pastors who are seriously concerned with reaching the lost give more than passing consideration to wider contexts of such passages as Acts chapter two and the Apostle Peter’s great Pentecostal sermon (the only Pentecostal sermon found anywhere in God’s Word). It is assumed by most contemporary Gospel ministers that thousands of Jewish men were gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost (which is correct), without any attention being given by my colleagues to the mood of the Jewish multitudes given their awareness of what happened seven weeks earlier (a man considered by most Jewish people to be a prophet was crucified and many were persuaded that same man had risen from the dead) or those men’s personal histories (Jewish men having been taught the Law of Moses from birth and were, therefore, steeped in God-consciousness and profoundly concerned with their nation’s relationship with God). These factors made Peter’s Pentecostal audience about as different from any audience faced by a youth leader as one can imagine.
Therefore, when considering the Lord Jesus Christ’s rebuke directed to the men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24.25 (“slow of heart to believe”) it should be understood that what took place on the Day of Pentecost when 3,000 were saved in response to Peter’s sermon should not be thought of by anyone as a rapid response to a surprising sermon. Consider that Peter was preaching to men who had traveled to Jerusalem over great distances and at great expense to engage in religious activities and to worship God according to their lights. Consider that those same men were likely more familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures than almost any modern Bible scholar. Consider that those men felt the weight of national responsibility and national guilt, and they at least thought seriously about the recent crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and their religious leaders’ role in His execution. Consider, finally, the miracles associated with the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (especially foreign languages and the association with the warning found in Isaiah 28.11-12 that speaking to the people in foreign languages was a warning of impending divine judgment).
Thus, the sermon delivered by Peter on the Day of Pentecost may have been surprising, and it may have seemed sudden, but it can only properly be understood as the culmination of a long process that climaxed with Peter’s sermon and the conversion of 3,000. In some respects, it was the culmination of what began fifty days earlier in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. However, in other respects, it was the culmination of those men’s entire lives being subjected first to the Law and then to the Gospel. I point this out to refute the notion that those saved on the Day of Pentecost were anything like quick of heart to believe. Such could not possibly be the case with such personal histories as those converts had.
How does this apply to young people leaving our Churches and young Gospel ministers leaving our movement? If there are two parts that comprise our natures, that which is physical and that which is nonphysical, the immaterial, then a portion of our immaterial (which would include that is called soul, spirit, conscience, heart, and mind) moves and reactions much more slowly than the other portion. The mind moves and reacts quickly while the heart moves and reacts slowly. Why is this important? It is profoundly important because it is with the heart man believes unto righteousness. Therefore, just because a youth leader can change a teen’s mind and provoke him to close his eyes with regret for sins and pray a prayer does not mean the Spirit of God has so persuaded a young sinner’s heart to trust Christ.
In my musings, I would not be so bold as to tell any Gospel minister what to do. But neither would I expect a Gospel minister to discard without serious attention a proposal that he consider something never before considered because that would be a Semmelweis-reflex and we know how bad Semmelweis-reflexes are. More is involved in evangelism than merely changing someone’s mind. Evangelical repentance is more than merely changing one’s mind. A miracle must be associated with it because the new birth is nothing if it is not miraculous. Perhaps so many teens leave is because their minds were merely changed, and that so quickly that hearts remained unchanged. And perhaps young Gospel ministers are leaving a movement they judge to be far too concerned with a simplistic formula and far too unconcerned with heart-affecting evangelism.