I am the son of a salesman. His mantra, which brought him much success & money, was "A good salesman always closes the deal!" My dad knew a hundred and one ways to bring a person to the point of decision; and he was a master at getting them to sign the contract. To him, that was the whole objective - - get the sale! One of his favorite sales techniques that he always taught my brother and I was, "Once you ask for them to buy, stay quiet because the first person to talk loses." My brother learned it so well after he asked a person a question on the phone, he sat in 20 minutes of silence waiting for the answer... and until he broke the tension, the guy was staying silent on the other end of the line. He must have learned the same thing from his dad...Weird!
I, however, am not built to be a salesman or a "closer". In fact, I really detest manipulation and trying to persuade people to make a decision. Well, I know in the minds of many of my congregants that doesn't bode well for me as a pastor; they secretly would love me to "get people to walk the isle, and publicly commit their lives to Jesus." I know they wish I would demand from our worship pastor more "Just as I Am" sermon postludes. "Yes Sir, I know someone out there is being moved in their spirit to come forward, so we will keep on singing to give you a chance to give your life to Jesus!" I am sorry, that kind of presentation turns my stomach.
Theologically I also am not a closer, I believe that the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of "convicting people of their sin, wooing people to himself, and causing life transformation." In fact, when he does move a person to decide on Jesus, it sure seems to last longer than a person moved by human manipulation. And when it really is God himself doing the work, people will want to go to church, read their bible and sing! They just can't help it.
But human manipulation really is impressive! It makes for a great show, and people get excited over excitement...even if the majority of it is manufactured and spurred on by a good salesman pastor who knows how to wield "guilt"; or powerful music sung by passionate people who often look like they are in tremendous pain as they raise their hands up as they sing, "This is the air I breath." I have to tell you: I can't buy into this, it feels so....what's the word...FAKE! The trouble for me lies in the fact that I know when a person makes a decision in this context it lasts as long as a "childhood romantic crush." And chasing people who are infatuated with God without being transformed by him becomes incredibly exhausting. I did this for awhile early in my ministry, it wore me out with minimal long lasting fruit. And when you stop chasing people, they get mad at you because "Isn't that the pastor's job?".
I know someone reading this will ask, "If you have no excitement because people are not walking the isles, or crying, or having the power balled tugging at their heart-strings, how can you keep preaching week after week?"
I have two answers: (1) Faith compels me: I trust God will answer his promise that the "Word of God will not return void." I really believe that. If I do the best I can, spill my blood trying to properly communicate his word with all I have, he will do his part and cause people to repent. After preaching for 10 years, twice a Sunday, I have found he does a wonderful job at changing lives. When you trust him to produce the fruit, it is so refreshing. It also isn't embarrassing...I dont have to wonder at the end of the service, "Did I do it right? Was my closing technique persuasive enough? Maybe I needed to pick a more emotional song to get them to walk the isle?" When you don't have faith that God will do it, you must control it. Tell me, how can you control the Holy Spirit? Jesus says, "He is like the wind, and he blows wherever he pleases." Boy are humans and pastors arrogant when they think they can control and make the Holy Spirit respond because they "closed in the right way."
Here is my second answer: (2) Mirth fills me: I really like, I mean really like the Bible and telling people about Jesus. It is my secret delight, and that to me is the definition of "mirth." Even if two people are listening and I get to talk about a Savior who forgives sin, I couldn't be happier! Do you like "Macaroni & Cheese?" Well, I do. I know it is a simple meal, not impressive, nobody will ever watch a cooking show centered on "How to make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese." I say, who cares, I still like it. Preaching the Bible, asking people to pray, and personally walking in the woods with the "God who is There" may not impress anyone, (I know there is nothing new about those things, nor can you sell 100,000 books on it at the Christian book store about it), but - - Who Cares? I love it, so I have to do it.
What is the real "Cement & Truth?" Jesus is my singular joy. Even if the whole world yawns at John 3:16, or they get angry that he is presented as "The Way," and they don't want to sign the "Born Again" Sunday morning contract that I presented so well, who cares? I am his and he is mine!
And that is the truth that matters!