Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Is Evangelism Essential?

This past weekend I was involved with the training of a group of church leaders in Witbank (a mining town in South Africa) in evangelism. The group of eight leaders came from two different churches. The one church is actively involved in evangelism, using Evangelism Explosion (EE III) while the other church is planning to start with an evangelism program.
During the weekend I, together with my co-lecturer, emphasised over and over again that evangelism is the core of the New Testament message. Looking at the four gospels, each end with the command to take the good news about God’s love into the world:
Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Mark 16:15: He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
Luke 24:46-48: He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
John 20:21: Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
But somewhere during the course of the lectures, my co-lecturer asked the question: “Why the heck are we doing this? Honestly, we are all overworked, spend too little time with our families, have too little time to relax. Why bother about evangelism? We’re not getting a cent into our own pockets by doing this. Why are we doing this?”
The short answer is because God wants us to do it. The story is told that on the day when Jesus left the earth and he had given the almost pathetic group of disciples the command to go into the world and to preach the message of salvation, an angel asked Jesus: “Tell me, if those disciples fail to become your witnesses as You told them, what are You going to do? What is plan B?” And then, according to this story, Jesus answered the angel: “I do not have a plan B! If they fail, the whole plan fails!”
But I also have another answer. And this answer is that I have seen the effects of the gospel on people’s lives. I have seen how radically people can change once they have encountered the love of God in their own lives. I have witnessed this too often to explain this merely as coincidence. I have seen how really tough guys break down before the Lord once they come to realise how much God cares for them.
But possibly, more than anything else, I have seen how people get hope, not only for themselves, but for their families, for their country and for the world, merely because they have personally discovered the source of their hope.
As the weekend progressed, I just wondered why it is necessary to convince people within the church about the importance of evangelism. Shouldn’t this come naturally to each one who had experienced the love of Christ personally in their own lives?

Monday, August 25, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Evangelism, Evangelism Explosion, Grace, Hope, Mission, Theology

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