There are many obstacles to committing to being a sidewalk outreach team member. Nearly every sidewalk team I have worked with across the nation complains of struggles getting and keeping volunteers. In a fantastic recent podcast by John Piper, titled It Will Be Worth It, many points he made could be applied to our work as sidewalk missionaries. I strongly recommend listening to the podcast but in this article, I will be applying what he said about global mission work to sidewalk outreach.
Common Voiced Obstacles (or Thought)
- I’m not worthy
- I’m not called
- I’m not able
- It’s not my job
- I want to deal with the cultural war with political and social change
- The end times are bleak and it is futile in the face of hard hearts. The world is unfixable so why bother?
- Is it really worth it to give up so much earthly comfort and face so much persecution?
The first four objections listed are easily dealt with. If we are in Christ, we are worthy and able. Rescuing the vulnerable and voiceless is a Biblical mandate so we are all called in some manner, and it is all our jobs. The last three obstacles are where I will focus.
Obstacle: Cultural war needs political and social change and that is where I should focus my efforts
This objection is an important one. There are so many good things that could impact our world. How do we know where to best put our time, money, efforts? One way to discern this might be to answer this question.
What has shown the greatest effect in cultural transformation?
Many people seek to end abortion as part of a cultural and social humanitarian effort. Love Life is Gospel focused. We understand that mobilizing the church to seek the lost with biblical truth and focus on the transformation of hearts through faith in Jesus is ultimately the only way to end abortion effectively.
There is VERY interesting research to back this up and to steer people from approaching abortion as a cultural/social issue but as a sin/Gospel issue. Around ten years ago, Robert Woodbury wrote an article for American Political Science Review titled The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy.
He cited research that found the single largest factor in insuring the health of nations. The areas where missionaries had ministered exhibited greater economic development, better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy and higher educational attainment.
Of most interest, the research showed that it was NOT just any missionary effort that promoted change. The highest impact was through “conversionary Protestants.” These were missionaries who focused not on social or cultural issues but on the life changing message of the Gospel, encouraging people to follow Jesus to save their souls from perishing. The effects of Catholic groups (prior to 1960) or government-appointed religious groups did NOT have this impact.
In a sense, the wonderful social benefits were an unintended consequence, not the goal of these conversionary Protestants: The goal was to expose sin, renounce false beliefs, lead to repentance, and proclaim the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection to pay the penalty for sin, and to rescue souls from the wrath of God.
Humanitarian efforts are wonderful, but they will not change the heart the way the Gospel can and will! This is true in all areas of sin, and for our ministry, specifically, the horror of abortion.
Obstacle: Hard hearts and end times make our work impossible
It is certainly true that as the end times approach, we are warned of lawlessness growing, harder hearts, growing rebellion to the Lord, and all kinds of disasters and wars. The picture is bleak. It is easy to conclude that the world is unfixable and we should not bother.
Matthew 24 is a strong rebuke to this kind of thinking:
“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:4-6; 9-14).
- Do not be deceived
- Do not be troubled
- Do not lose heart in the face of wars and destruction
- You will face persecution
- Lawlessness and cold hearts will abound
- We must endure to the end
The terrible calamity accompanying the end times is not the time to give up. And who are those who endure to the end? The on-fire, martyr-willing, red-hot Church ready to give ALL for the sake of the Gospel – what an incredible privilege to be a part of this group ALL IN for Jesus!
Obstacle: Is it Worth It?
All this leads to the objection that sidewalk ministry doesn’t seem to be worth the effort. Results are few and lessening each day it seems. Persecution and struggles grow. Immense efforts and sacrifice seem futile. We are giving up so much earthly comfort to do sidewalk ministry and sometimes we go months or years without seeing anything but the most meager fruit.
Is it worth it?
YES! Here are eight biblical reasons why it IS worth it:
- Whatever is lost for the sake of Christ will return a hundred fold: “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).
- This life is a short, but a vapor, but God’ pleasures are forevermore: “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11).
- Though all forget and forsake you, Christ never will: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).
- If you lose the audience rejoicing with you, remember millions of angels in the presence of God are rejoicing over each sinner who repents: “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
- If you feel alone and unnoticed, remember God sees and will reward you: “that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:4).
- If you feel your accomplishments are small and you are wasting your life, remember nothing in the Lord is ever wasted: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
- Rewards are eternal and greater sacrifice brings greater reward: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- When loneliness threatens to overwhelm you, never forget the promise of Jesus: “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).
One day, we will leave this earthly life and be ushered into the presence of the Lord. I believe it is very possible that lined up behind Jesus, ready to greet us, will be the babies whose lives you fought for. They will thank you for seeing their value when no one else did. For mourning their deaths.
And then there will the line up of the ones thanking you for saving their lives. Some you will remember, those hard fought victories you knew about on earth. But then…there will also be the ones you never knew about. The lives saved in secret … that now God reveals in the fullness of joy.