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FIVE REASONS TO EVANGELIZE

Colossians 1:28 – “It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”

--Terry, J. M.

Five basic reasons should motivate the church to reach out to a lost and spiritually dying world.

Reason #1: Evangelize to Follow Christ’s Example

After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). That is, he was sending the disciples to complete the task he had begun. Jesus wanted the disciples to imitate his example. One reason why Jesus spent so much time with his disciples was because he wanted them to observe and imitate his actions.

Why did Jesus come to earth? He answered this question at Zacchaeus’ house when he said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Jesus provided a marvelous example throughout his ministry. He modeled evangelism for his disciples, just as effective church leaders do today. Jesus’ evangelism was personal, pointed, perennial, persuasive, patterned, powerful, and prayerful.

Personal. Jesus dealt with people personally. Leighton Ford has identified thirty-five personal interviews recorded in the gospels. Though Jesus often preached to crowds, he still had time to speak to individuals like Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, and the woman at the well. Jesus’ evangelism was personal because he dealt with individuals in different ways. He varied his approach according to the person’s understanding and needs. Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (John 3) differed from his conversation with the woman at the well (John 4).

Pointed. Jesus called people to a life of sacrificial discipleship. He offered them a cross to bear and a cup to drink (Mark 8:34–38; 10:38–39). Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give up his wealth, and he challenged James and John to give up their fishing nets. Jesus required his disciples to fully commit their lives to him and his kingdom.

Perennial. Jesus evangelized people at all times and in all places. He spoke with the Samaritan woman at noon and Nicodemus at night. Jesus encountered Bartimaeus on a road and Zacchaeus in a tree. Jesus met Peter at the seashore and the thief on the cross. Even in his dying breath, Jesus led someone into the kingdom of God.

Pervasive. Jesus evangelized people from every race and social class. Although Jesus began his ministry among the Jews, he also ministered to Samaritans, like the woman at the well, and to Gentiles, like the Roman centurion. Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). This phrase could be translated “all ethnic groups.” In this verse Jesus showed his concern for people of all races. Furthermore, he cared for the poor and outcast. Jesus healed the lepers and dined with tax collectors. He loved those whom most people despised. Jesus not only preached grace; he demonstrated grace in his ministry.

Patterned. Jesus modeled evangelism for his disciples. He told them what to do, demonstrated it, and sent them out to practice what he taught them by word and example. He used methods that were reproducible. Jesus set the pace and commanded His disciples to follow His example.

Powerful. The Holy Spirit empowered the ministry of Jesus. Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Luke testified that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross and rose from the grave by the power of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14; Rom. 8:11). The power of the Holy Spirit permeated Jesus’ earthly ministry and set an example for his followers.

Prayerful. Jesus’ life demonstrated the importance of prayer. He awoke early in order to give himself to prayer. Jesus prayed at his baptism (Luke 3:21), when he chose his disciples (Luke 6:12), before he fed the five thousand, before he raised Lazarus (John 11:41–42), and in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39–44). Truly, Jesus depended on prayer to sustain his ministry. If Jesus found prayer indispensable, should modern evangelists find it otherwise?

Reason #2: Evangelize to Obey the Lord’s Command

Jesus commanded his disciples to evangelize the world. This command alone should motivate Christians to evangelize faithfully. Mark 1 tells how Jesus called his first disciples. As Jesus walked along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon Peter and Andrew fishing and challenged them with these words: “Come follow me, … and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). Simon and Andrew made their living catching fish and bringing them to the market. Jesus called them to the task of catching persons and bringing them into the kingdom of God. Notice their reaction: they left their nets “at once” and followed Jesus. Jesus calls all his disciples to the task of evangelism, the highest calling.

The commands of Matthew 28:18–20. In the Great Commission, Jesus explained what he wanted his followers to do. He also explained their authority, their assignment, and their assurance.

In verse 18, Jesus declared that he had received “all authority.” By his resurrection Jesus demonstrated both his messiahship and son-ship. On the basis of who he was, Jesus possessed the authority to order his followers to evangelize the whole world. Therefore, Christians who evangelize do so in and through the full authority of Jesus Christ, the King of kings. One day Dwight L. Moody witnessed to a man on a Chicago street corner. The man took offense and said, “Why don’t you mind your own business!” Moody replied, “This is my business.”

In verse 19, Jesus commanded the disciples to “make disciples of all nations.” This was their assignment. Notice, the command here is to make “disciples,” not “converts.” A disciple is a mature, reproducing follower of Christ. A convert is a new believer who is still a spiritual baby. Jesus desired followers who would “obey everything” he had commanded them to do. He desired a full, mature commitment, not just initial enthusiasm. Jesus instructed his followers to disciple all the peoples of the world. The word translated “nations” in verse 19 is the Greek word ethne, from which we get the English word “ethnic.” The church’s assignment, then, is to make more and more disciples in every ethnic group in the world until the whole world is discipled. That is certainly an intimidating task!

You may wonder why I have not yet mentioned the word “go” from this passage in Matthew. It is because the emphasis in the Greek New Testament is on the phrase “make disciples.” Making disciples should be our primary concern and we will accomplish that by going, baptizing, and teaching.

In addition, Jesus spoke of the disciples’ assurance. If modern Christians, with all their resources, find the Great Commission a daunting challenge, imagine how the eleven apostles must have felt. Ever sensitive, Jesus immediately gave them this assurance: “Surely I am with you always.” Verse 20 reminds us that we do not work alone. Jesus Christ will be with us as we evangelize the world. Instead of feeling intimidated, we can declare the gospel with confidence, secure in the assurance of Jesus’ divine authority and constant companionship.

The commands of John 20:27. Jesus explained the mission of the church in these words: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ ” (John 20:21). This verse helps us understand Jesus’ vision for the ministry of his disciples. He wanted them to complete the mission he had begun.

Why did Jesus spend so much time training the disciples? Because he wanted them to carry on when he returned to heaven. Jesus knew his earthly ministry would last only a short time, so he prepared his disciples to carry on his work. You could say that he multiplied himself through his disciples. A veteran missionary once told me, “It is better to train ten people to do the work, than to do the work often people.” Jesus modeled that proverb in his own life.

This verse also explains the nature of the church’s ministry. Jesus not only challenged his disciples to carry on his work; he also directed them to do his work as he did it.

This direction implies at least three things:

      1.   Jesus commands us to submit. The basis of servanthood is obedience. Jesus himself prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). In Romans 1:1 Paul described himself as a “servant” of Jesus Christ. Christian evangelists must submit themselves to God’s authority.

      2.   Jesus commands us to serve. By his perfect example, Jesus modeled servanthood for us. In Mark 10:45 Jesus declared, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus served the people in almost every way imaginable by healing, feeding, comforting, and teaching them.

Many people approach the church with a consumer’s attitude: What can you do for me? Here is a better approach: What opportunities for service do you provide? Some church signs read: “Come help us grow!” Here is a more appropriate question for a church sign: “How Can We Serve You?”

      3.   Jesus commands us to sacrifice. He modeled sacrifice for his disciples by giving his time and energy for the people; ultimately, he sacrificed himself for humanity: “Now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26b). By his words and actions Jesus demonstrated a sacrificial love for humanity. Likewise, pastors and church members must sacrifice time, money, and effort in order to reach people for Christ. Jesus has sent us to sacrifice just as He did.

The commands of Acts 1:8. Just before his ascension Jesus told his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This statement is a blueprint for church evangelism. If you study Jesus’ words carefully, you will discover three key elements:

      1.   The power of the Holy Spirit is essential for evangelism. Jesus mentioned empowerment before he talked about witnessing. Effective evangelists depend upon the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin and convince them of their need for the Savior.

      2.   Jesus commanded his disciples to be witnesses. The Greek word used here, martures, refers to a group of people who testify to what they have seen and heard. The Greeks used this word to describe someone who testifies at a trial. Jesus instructed his followers to tell others what they knew about him. The memorization of Bible verses and evangelistic presentations are fine and good, but witnessing in its basic form is to simply tell what you know about Jesus. Every Christian is not called to be a “full-time” evangelist, but every believer should be a witness to the saving power of Jesus.

      3.   Jesus told the disciples where he wanted them to witness. They were to begin where they were, in Jerusalem; then they were to carry the good news to Judea and Samaria; finally, he directed them to carry the gospel to the whole world. These words of Jesus clearly teach us that missions is a natural outgrowth of local evangelism. Churches should maintain a healthy balance between local evangelism, home missions, and foreign missions. All three need our support and attention. Some churches effectively evangelize their local communities, but they seem to care little for the lost overseas. Other churches give large sums for foreign missions, but they do not evangelize their own communities. The same impulse that prompts the one should prompt the other.

Reason #3: Evangelize to Meet the World’s Need

A sound theology of evangelism rests on the belief that people without Christ are lost and without hope of eternal life. Professor Roy Fish of Southwestern Baptist Seminary has stated that most Christians are functional universalists. A universalist believes that all people will ultimately be saved. Most believers reject that concept, but they live as if they believe it because they never witness to others. Most believers can quote John 3:16, but many forget that John 3:18 says, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Hell is not a popular topic in North American pulpits today. Still, we cannot escape its existence; ignoring it will not make it go away. Jesus often spoke of hell, and he warned people of the danger of going there. Pastors and churches must warn people of their precarious position. In Rev. 20:15, John wrote about the judgment of all people: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the people would not accept him (Matt. 23:37). Evangelistic churches today weep over their lost cities. Like Jesus, they are concerned that the people in their community are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of humanity move them to witness and minister to people in the name of Jesus.

Reason #4: Evangelize to Imitate the Early Church

Engineers planning to manufacture a new car begin by building a sample vehicle or prototype. If the prototype tests out well, they proceed with production. In a sense, the apostolic church at Jerusalem is our prototype. We should study the actions of this, the earliest Christian church, and imitate them. What did the members of the Jerusalem church do? After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples, obeying the command of Jesus (Acts 1:8), returned to Jerusalem and prayed for ten days (Acts 1:14). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, and they proclaimed the gospel boldly (Acts 2:4). As a result of their preaching, they baptized three thousand people that day (Acts 2:41).

On another occasion the apostles prayed: they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they witnessed boldly. Notice the progression here: prayer—power—proclamation. Their experience provides churches today with a good model to imitate. Students often ask me why we do not experience the events of Acts today. Surely, one reason is that we do not imitate their example. If we prayed until we were filled by the Holy Spirit, we, too, would see remarkable things today.

The early church also faithfully carried out Jesus’ instructions in Acts 1:8 to preach the gospel in Jerusalem, then in Judea, and ultimately to the whole world. The Book of Acts explains how the church fulfilled this command. Peter took the gospel to Judea, Philip preached in Samaria, and Paul preached throughout the Roman Empire. Ancient church tradition holds that Thomas went all the way to India to preach the gospel. Many churches today call themselves “New Testament” churches. Churches that truly merit that description will devote themselves to evangelizing their community, their nation, and the whole world.

Reason #5: We Evangelize Because of Inner Compulsion

As mentioned above, the early Christians experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit, and they could not restrain themselves. They had to share the good news. Like a young woman with an engagement ring, they could not be silent. When the Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John to stop preaching, they declared, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). They were so excited about Jesus, they just could not keep quiet.

Christians also witness because the love of Christ moves them. As Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). The love and gratitude that Christians feel toward Christ moves them to share the good news about Jesus with all kinds of people (Rom. 1:14–15). The love of Christ living in believers’ hearts moves them to have compassion on those who are lost and doomed to hell. True New Testament Christians love Jesus, and that love motivates them to witness and minister in his name.

 

Source: Terry, J. M. Church evangelism: Creating a Culture for Growth in Your Congregation.


This article was published on Friday 16 July, 2010.

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