Over the past month, I have heard the phrase “Say Yes to Jesus” in four situations. Each time I heard it, a certain level of concern arose in my soul over how the term was being used. So first, let’s talk about ho wit seems to be most commonly used, and then how I have heard it used recently.
If you google the phrase Say Yes to Jesus you will get back a long list of Christian web pages that are primarily targeting non-Christians with an encouragement to Say Yes to Jesus. For example, the first result in my search was for a church in San Diego, California that stated, “Saying YES makes Jesus Christ more than a religious icon; it makes Him your personal Savior!”
The second search result was for Zion Convent Church with an article that includes, “To SAY YES is to believe that Jesus is Lord, that he died for the sins of the world, and that he defeated death and offers you new life?”
Many of the websites that address saying yes to Jesus are targeting non-Christians who are grappling with letting Jesus Christ become their savior. There are a few results that target Christians. In that case saying yes to Jesus concerns matters of lordship; giving Him full reign over certain areas of a Christian’s life.
But there seems to be a third use of the term which is how I have heard it used lately, and results in this blog. Here’s an example:
A college campus church leader (this is a church planted on a college campus, not a para-local-church campus ministry) said that when he was a college student the campus leader would invite students to a summer training program near Estes Park, Colorado. Each invitation included the phrase, “Say yes to Jesus.”
As soon as I heard that trouble began to bubble up inside of me. And the church leader I was talking to agreed with me reaction. It was being implied that Jesus was directly inviting the student to attend the summer training program. The complication arises that if the students declines the invitation, he’s actually saying “No” to Jesus.
Since that first conversation, I’ve heard this phrase three more times. Since I’m writing this during the school Spring Break timeframe, there are probably plenty of invitations beginning in anticipation of a training program that will begin in two-to-three months.
Summer training programs are useful. Participants learn spiritual disciplines and develop in community in ways that may not easily occur on campus. Campus ministry leaders put a lot of time and energy into developing these programs, and they desire as much participation as they can raise. However, conflict arises when the desires of the campus leader is different than the student’s. Some college students deeply desire to work as an intern during the summer. This gives them something significant to put on their resumé and, potentially, get hired by that company after graduation.
The conflict is over the word “significant.” To the student, wages to pay college costs and a job after college are significant. To the campus leader, attendance at the training program and potential spiritual development is significant. Leaders can attempt to resolve this conflict by using a trump card – “Say yes to Jesus.”
And if one trump card is good, two must be even better! I attended a wedding that was the direct result of a training program. While dating is frowned upon during a training program, this couple began to date immediately after a training program that they both attended.
The guy originally did not want to go since he just graduated and felt the need to get a job. But the first trump card (say yes to Jesus) was successful, and then the campus leader used the second trump card – if the graduate had not said yes to Jesus, the couple would not have met and gotten married. That leader will probably be able to use that second trump card for several years on other students.
But what about us; people who are committed to discipling, mentoring, and coaching others. Often in our discipling, we have an objective, a place to where we want to see someone arrive. We earnestly desire that best for each person we meet with. What happens when they don’t “take the bait.” Do we go for a trump card? Some catchy saying or story that makes it harder to decline our suggestions?
We need to make sure that if we’re asking or advising someone to “say yes to Jesus” that it’s actually Jesus wanting the “yes” and not us. If there is a Scripture verse that clearly advises compliance, we should be free to point that out. I just don’t know of any passages that invite people to attend activities, no matter how well-planned they may be.
Say “no” that un-due pressure and marketing tactics that do not actually reflect the way of Jesus.
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