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Intentional Evangelism As The Church

 

Pastor Milton Bost

 

These are our marching orders:

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

 

Dear church,

            This is My commission to you - in fact, you might even call it a great commission. You are to go to all people everywhere and call them to become My disciples. You are to baptize them and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. Don't forget, I will be with you always to help you, even to the end of the world. I will never leave you nor forsake you, because I love you. This is the bottom line of all that I ask you to do in My Name.

With all My love, Jesus Christ.

 

Dear Jesus,

We acknowledge the receipt of Your communication. Your proposal is both noble and challenging; however, due to a shortage of personnel, as well as financial and personal considerations, plus the time restraints due to our other commitments, we will need to give this further consideration. A committee has been appointed to study the feasibility of Your recommendation. We should have a report to bring to our congregation sometime in the future. You may rest assured that we will give this our careful consideration, and our board will be praying for You and Your efforts to find additional disciples. We do appreciate Your offer to serve as a resource person, and should we decide to undertake this project at some point in the future, we'll get back to You.

Cordially, The Church

 

This was written somewhat tongue-in- cheek, but, sadly, it conveys a blatant reality. If you compare the purposes for which Jesus established His church to the present day focus of most churches, such a response is more than accurate.

 

Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway, made the following observation: “I see a simple but profound pattern among the declining churches.  Stated simply, the most common factor in declining churches is an inward focus. The ministries are only for the members. The budgetary funds are used almost exclusively to meet the needs of the members. The times of worship and worship styles are geared primarily for the members. Conflict takes place when members don’t get things their way.

After studying and consulting with thousands of churches, I began to see clearly this pattern. Even more, I began to recognize symptoms of an inward focus. See if you recognize a few of these:

 

 There are very few attempts to minister to those in the community.

 

 Church business meetings become arguments over preferences and desires.

 

 Numbers of members in the congregation are openly critical of the pastor, other church staff, and lay leaders in the church.

 

 Any change necessary to become a Great Commission church is met with anger and resistance.

 

 The past becomes the hero.

 

 Culture is seen as the enemy instead of an opportunity for believers to become salt and light.

 

 Pastors and other leaders in the church become discouraged and withdraw from effective leadership.

 

 If the churches are a part of a denomination or similar affiliation, meetings of those denominations mirror the churches in lost focus and divisiveness.

 

David Millard Haskell, Professor of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, this past January wrote an article for The Washington Post. In it he stated the following:

            Mainline Protestant churches are in trouble: A 2015 report by the Pew Research Center found that these congregations (United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches, United Church of Christ,  Congregational Church, Disciples of Christ, Quakers, Reformed Church in America), once a mainstay of American religion, are now shrinking by about 1 million members annually. Fewer members not only means fewer souls saved, not the primary concern for some clergy members, but also less income for churches, further ensuring their decline.

 

Faced with this troubling development, clergy members have made various efforts to revive church attendance. It was almost 20 years ago that John Shelby Spong, a U.S. bishop in the Episcopalian Church, published his book “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” It was presented as an antidote to the crisis of decline in mainline churches. Spong, a theological liberal, said congregations would grow if they abandoned their literal interpretation of the Bible and transformed along with changing times. to decline.

 

What explains the growth gap between liberal and conservative congregations? In defense of liberal churches, one might venture that it is the strength of belief, not the specifics of belief, that is the real cause of growth. In this case, pastors embracing liberal theology are just as likely as conservative pastors to experience church growth, provided they are firm and clear in their religious convictions. Yet different beliefs, though equally strong, produce different outcomes.

 

For example, because of their conservative outlook, the growing church clergy members in our study took Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples” literally. Thus, they all held the conviction it’s “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” and thus likely put effort into converting non-Christians. Conversely, because of their liberal leanings, half  the clergy members at the declining churches held the opposite conviction,  believing it is not desirable to convert non-Christians. Some of them felt, for instance, that peddling their religion outside of their immediate faith community is culturally insensitive.

 

It should be obvious which of these two convictions is more likely to generate church growth. While our research helps explain the dwindling ranks of liberal mainline congregations, it isn’t likely to bring much “joy to the world” of mainliners, especially those on the theological left. But, if it’s any consolation, when it comes to growth in mainline churches, Spong and other liberals are right to claim that Christianity must change or die. They just get the direction of the change wrong.

 

Here is Jesus’ bottom line: 

Luke 19:10 (NKJV) for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Acts 1:8 (NKJV) But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

 

If you carefully study the life of Jesus and the development of His Church, you must conclude that His purpose was about ministry to human need. However, his care and concern for people covered the totality of human need in the sense of seeking to redeem the whole person. He was concerned about their physical health, their social health, their mental health, and their spiritual health. He opposed oppression and offered mercy and grace. He addressed oppression directly and aggressively. But

His view of these things was rooted in His view of the depravity of humanity…the sinfulness of humanity. He was very clear that the human sin problem was the main problem and must be addressed and eradicated.

 

Therefore everything He did was intentionally pointed to the ultimate goal of redeeming people from the condemnation of human sin and restoring people to righteousness for the purposes of His Father.

 

This was the foundational purpose and ministry of His church. Whether feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons, clothing the naked, ministering to the imprisoned, teaching the Word…every ministry of the Lord’s church was intentionally pointed toward reaching lost people with the gospel.

 

Yet from the very church that He intended to bring this good news to the lost world we often hear and see something else. To show love, mercy and grace… Oh, absolutely. To feed the hungry, to provide medical care to the sick, to seek to minister to the mentally ill, the addict, the troubled, to provide clothing and housing, to minister to those in prison…You’ve got it, that’s what we’re about. Open the doors of love and concern and show the world we love them…Preach it, Brother!

 

But don’t tell them their beliefs are wrong. Truth is relative. Don’t tell them that their lifestyles are in error. That’s being judgmental. Don’t tell them that God is angry at them. That’s not the kind of God we want. Don’t tell them that they are lost. That is bigotry. Don’t tell them that they are sinners. That’s just too harsh. Besides, who are you to judge?

 

WHAT?

John 3:16-21 (NKJV) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

 

Don’t you see it? Evangelism must be at the very heart of every ministry that we do in Jesus’ name. If we do good things, if we do helpful things, if we do admirable things, but we do not share the gospel, we are fraudulent.

 

If people are fed, if they are clothed, if they provided housing, education, healthcare, if they are counseled so that they feel better, live wisely, and live morally, but they are never told of their need for salvation and how to find it, we have failed miserably. People don’t simply need a better lifestyle, they need redeemed. People don’t need simply to be happier, they need to be saved. People don’t simply need to have a healthier self-perspective, they need Jesus Christ! People don’t simply need their problems fixed, they need the source of their problems eradicated.

If you were walking past your neighbors' house, and you looked in and saw that they were watching TV, but you also saw that their house was on fire, you’d rush up and bang on the door yelling: Your house is on fire! You wouldn’t stand there saying, I don’t know. They look so happy and they’re having such a nice time. They’re right in the middle of a movie. I don’t want to upset their evening. If you interrupted their evening of comfort, would you be considered a pest or a lunatic? No! You’d be a hero.

 

You knew without a doubt their house was on fire and that they needed to escape …because if they didn’t, they were condemned. Right!

 

Church, our first and primary goal for Re-Envisioning is to:

Instill a desire and implement a deliberate process for us to reach our region with the gospel.

 

We must become intentional in everything we do as the Lord’s Church to share the gospel with people. We should feed the hungry, but our intent will be to tell them about their need for Jesus. We should clothe the naked, but our intent will be to tell them about their need for Jesus. We should educate people how to manage their money, raise their children, build a healthy marriage, but our intent will be to tell them about their need for Jesus. When we invite children to Adventure Week or the Fall Festival, we are inviting them to hear the gospel, not have a high attendance for Adventure Week. When we enroll children in CDC, we are going to share the gospel with their parents and teach these children about Jesus, not merely prepare these children for the next step in school. When we encounter our neighbors, our fellow student, our fellow workers, we are going to intentionally develop relationships with them in order for them to hear about Jesus, not merely make their acquaintance.

 

We are going to expand our relationships beyond our regular circle of influence because others need to hear about Jesus. They need to hear about Jesus because, like we once were, they are lost in their sin and condemned already.

 

People need the Lord. Do you believe this?

Warren Wiersbe told this story in one of his sermons. On a Sunday evening, William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then about 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco permeated the air. William Booth said to his son,” These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.” Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, “The impression never left me.”

  

Intentional Evangelism must be the theme of the ministry of our church. It must undergird, overarch and interlace everything we claim, everything we say and everything we do. We must turn our attention not so much away from the inner workings of the church, but to the appropriate and accurate inner workings of the church so that we reach those outside of the church…those outside of Christ. As our leaders and committees begin meeting and planning, I ask each of you to be praying that we will be able to coordinate and finetune CBC into and Intentionally Evangelistic Church. I ask each of you to begin praying that God would give us, and therefore you personally, a vision for sharing your faith at every level.

 

Our goal is not to survive as a church. Our goal is not to isolate ourselves from our world. Our goal is not to compete nor outdo any other sister church. Our goal is to fulfill the goal of our Master…to seek and to lead to salvation those who are lost…to fulfill the Commission He has given us.

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