The spreading of the gospel is what created the church (Col. 1.5-6), and the primary message of the church is the gospel (1 Cor. 15.1-3). By saying that, the spreading of the gospel is the primary message of the church, it is meant that we begin with the process of telling others the truth of Christ and salvation. Salvation in Christ is not only believing, but accepting. Accepting the Salvation offered through Jesus Christ means you HAVE BECOME A DISCIPLE. Disciples MAKE disciples. This is what evangelism is, the start of that process.
Probably the most powerful verse in evangelism is what we call the great commission. In this Jesus meets with his 12 disciples on a mountain and gives them one last bit of encouragement and a command.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28.19-20).
A successful business has a business plan, and in that plan covers the vision and the goal for the business. The Great Commission is that for the church. It gives us our mission: What we are called to do; Our Vision: Where we hope to go; Our Plan: How we will get there: and Our Response: What we need to do. We are told to “go”. We should be a reaching church, ever expanding our message. If you study things in nature, they are always growing, or they are dying. If a tree stops growing then it rots from the inside-out. This is the condition we see allot of local churches in today.
Jesus said, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you (John 20.21). This was God’s plan from the very beginning. From the Old Testament on into the New Testament God demonstrated his plan of repentance and salvation through the word of mouth shared by men to men (mankind to mankind). This spreading of the Word of God came through prophets, teachers, scribes, kings, Apostles and, finally, disciples. In Acts 1.8 scripture tells us that we are to be witnesses of Jesus, starting in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We read in the gospel of Mark that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16.15).
We are not to be idle and wait for people to come to us. We are to actively take the gospel to all nations, all peoples, all tongues. This means we should reach out not only to foreign missions, but in our very neighborhoods. We reach them by preaching, and teaching. We have to teach them about the love of God and the salvation in Jesus Christ. We have to proclaim what is acceptable to the Lord God. We have to teach them how to apply these lessons in their life. We are to baptize them in accordance to the profession of their belief in Christ. Immediately we get them in an outward expression of faith, showing others that they are disciples of Christ Jesus. Evangelism is never an end of means. Evangelism is a starting point for the new convert.
Evangelism is part of a continuing cycle of growth in the Christian and in the local Church. Evangelism is a beginning in once sense and the process is a continuing of growth in the other. Like a tree that grows from a single seed, it puts out roots, stretches for the sky, bathes in the Sun and grows up and puts out more seeds that are carried by the winds to new locations. Christians should focus everything in their lives to keeping the gospel message at the center of our mental, spiritual, and emotional life. This is achieved through deliberate, prayer rooted in Christ, Spirit led, lovingly felt, fervent Personal Evangelism.
One of the deacons shared a story in my Sunday school class on Personal Evangelism. He told of how a woman had come in to the church just before the service and asked for money for food. One of the members went out and talked with the couple and believed that their situation was sincere. The member gave them some money and told them that after they had eaten to come back to the church and join the service. While that was a good and noble thing to do, it was a wasted opportunity. What would have been so wrong with two or more members missing service and going with that couple, buying their meal or even some groceries and then sitting with them right then and sharing Christ? That would be keeping the gospel the center in the situation. If we look at the examples of Jesus and the Apostles in the New Testament we see that they met the immediate need, but they also went further to identify the real spiritual need and offer a solution. Yes we are to care for the widows, and orphans, and the poor and needy, but we need to care for their spiritual needs as well as the physical, medical, and financial needs. We do this by sharing everything we know about Christ.
Evangelism is probably the best way to keep the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ a reality in our lives. If we are actively evangelizing and concentrating on spreading the gospel it is less likely we will be distracted by the world. Having gospel conversations with unbelievers builds up our knowledge and confidence in the scriptures. Being intellectually challenged drives us to seek a deeper understanding of Christ in the scriptures, in history, and in science. We get to learn more about God’s character, his holiness and judgments, we gain a deeper understanding of how God works in man. We have to think through how to explain all these concepts to different types of audiences. This gives us better tools to study and trace God’s truths in scripture and see the evidence in life itself.
Soldiers are taught tasks and skills then immediately are made to go and teach other soldiers these newly learned skills. This makes them learn the tasks and skill development on a deeper level than they would have ever know in just listening to lectures. Philemon 1.6 says “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Knowing and explaining the gospel to someone who does not understand it or believe in it is different than having an academic understanding. This process of personal evangelism enlightens the one teaching as well as the one receiving. Brian Parks in his 9Marks Journal gives 6 Benefits of Evangelism fir Disciples:
- Evangelism helps keep the gospel central in our lives and churches
- Evangelism deepens our understanding of the most fundamental truths of Scripture
- Properly motivated evangelism grows our love for God and neighbor
- Evangelism prompts unexpected questions and objections from non-Christians, which can deepen our faith
- Evangelism protects us from mistakenly assuming that those around us are saved.
- Evangelism increases the likelihood of being persecuted for the gospel which leads to our growth
(“Six Benefits of Evangelism for Discipleship.” 9Marks, www.9marks.org/article/journalsix-benefits-evangelism-discipleship/.)
Evangelism by individual members has a direct effect on church growth. If we look in the book of Acts there are several examples of how the local churches grew after a short period of active evangelism by its members. Acts 11:19-26 tells us of how, that after persecution in Jerusalem, some believers went to Antioch and began telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus and how the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. It goes further to say that believers in Christ were first call Christians at Antioch. The strength of the evangelism effort has a direct relation to the growth of the church. The local church and its membership should be a vibrant and dynamic reality in the local community.
The early churches demonstrated a recognition of needs in the local area, and even in other distant churches. Each member of the community was concerned about the welfare of the whole and the individual above themselves. Resources were shared and this created a social-economic system the benefitted all those around the church area. The effects of evangelism made it possible for these churches to grow and have a positive effect on their neighbors, their civil governments, and eventually the whole country and even the world. The church is responsible for the widespread use of the tablet form of writing, what we call a book today. The church is responsible for the advent of schools, hospitals, and vocational centers, for rehabilitation centers and even the Constitution of the United States, the freedom from slavery instituted in Britain and the U.S. came from church movements. The “Ivy League” schools were originally schools of Biblical Study. Personal Evangelism has had a great effect on the world.
Christian organizations supply food and clothing to poor, war torn communities all over the world. Christian legal teams fight slavery, sexual trafficking, Christian and Jewish persecution, and abortion not only in the United States, but in places like Africa, Iraq, Israel and all across Europe. Without evangelism efforts these Christian churches would not have the resources to send missionaries to local neighborhoods, much less to the foreign mission field. God provides for these missionaries from the harvest of the evangelism effort. The building up of the local churches and the resources that they share are affected by the evangelist efforts put forward in their own communities. With all the good that we do in our neighborhood and in the world around us we must not forget that these are by-products of the spread of the gospel. Evangelism is for making changes in people’s lives.
Remember back to Matthew 28:20, Jesus commanded that we are to teach the nations “all that I have commanded”, and to “observe all that I have commanded.” The command is not just to have them confess Christ, but to teach them to be obedient to what Jesus has commanded. Remember the Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice. He must be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth. Those who obey His commandments demonstrate the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Faith that saves has the sign of obedience. Scripture tells us that we should not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of the mind. The renewing of the mind is accomplished by the Spirit of God by the study of scripture and fellowship with Christ. Is this what we are doing?
“How do we usually read this scripture, which is familiarly called The Great Commission? Ordinarily we read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can sing in the choir as a substitute and let someone else go for you, teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Other people read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you don’t want to go, you can teach a Sunday School class on Sunday morning as a substitute for going and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Or, sometimes folks read it like this, “Go ye therefore, but if you are afraid to go or don’t want to go, you can paint on the church building as a substitute and let someone else go for you teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” There’s just one thing wrong with all these various renditions of the scripture as the church members ordinarily read it; it’s not in the Bible. No matter what you say when you get out your Bible, you m7ill still read Jesus saying to you, “go YE therefore and teach all nations.” It does not say anything about if you do not want to go or are afraid to go. It simply says, “GO!” I’m afraid that we in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ of America have not been going like Jesus Christ told us to go.” (“God’s Plan for World Evangelism.” Sermon 15a)
The sad thing is that most modern Christians have never won a soul to Christ. In fact most church going Christians do not even try to share their faith, or even invite friends or family to their church for fear of rejection of ridicule. The danger in this is that Jesus said that whoever is ashamed of me in from of men, him I will be ashamed of in front of my Father. Many churches don’t even get out in their local cities and perform a corporate level of evangelism. There is virtually no effort to train or hold church members accountable to participate in Sunday school recruitment or youth development or recruitment programs. The lack of identifiable leadership in evangelism is often used as an excuse by the members of the congregation to avoid their obligation to share the gospel. The result is that local churches are closing their doors all over the United States. Members are disenfranchised and quit. They lack the vision and without a vision they eventually give up and die. The following statistics were released in 1993 from Michael Parrott of Spokane, WA.
Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
Seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the great Commission.
One particular denomination did a survey on its leadership ministries. The results are as follows:
- 63% of the leadership in this denomination, including deacons and elders, have not led one stranger to Jesus in the last two years through the method of “Go Ye” evangelism.
- 49% of the leadership ministries spend zero time in an average week ministering outside of the church.
- 89% of the leadership ministries have zero time reserved on their list of weekly priorities for going out to evangelize.
- 99% of the leadership ministries believe that every Christian, including leadership, has been commanded to preach the gospel to a lost world.
- 97% believe that if the leadership had a greater conviction and involvement in evangelism, that it would be an example for the church to follow.
- 96% of the leadership believe their churches would have grown faster if they would have been more involved in evangelism.
Because of this, our results in evangelism have been mediocre, at best.
(“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.)
We should constantly analyze ourselves with regards to the “Great Commission”. Are we effectively reaching our neighbors? Are we teaching those we reach? Are we seeing lives changed because of the gospel message we proclaim? What are we that we should not be doing? What are we NOT doing that we should be doing to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? The uppermost desire for every Christian should be to bring someone to Christ. You can do the personal work that you are called to do as an individual Christian. You can work and win a soul to Christ. All it took was one man crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord!” Jesus started by getting one disciple. Then one disciple got another. All it takes is one person in your neighborhood to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
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“Street Level Evangelism, Where is the Space for the Local Evangelist,” by Michael Parrott, Acts Evangelism, Spokane, WA, 1993, pp. 9-11.