Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Driving Conviction about Evangelism: Essentials of a Missional Church, part 1

It is surprising to me how many believers go through their Christian life with little or no concern for reaching people with the gospel. While teaching a discipleship course on evangelism at my church last fall, one member, a leader in the church, commented that he really did not have a burden for the lost. He admitted that he had never thought of evangelism as an important aspect of his Christian faith. I am thankful that he was candidly honest about where he was. Unfortunately, this man is not an anomaly. His viewpoint is far too common and in many churches is the norm. Multiply that perspective by 150 church members and you have a partial answer for why a church is not effectively reaching their community for Christ.

It is a good thing for churches to be concerned about the discipleship of their members. It is important for churches to teach their members the truths of Scripture and help them grow in faith and in the image of Christ. However, such discipleship must include teaching believers to be missional Christians. How can we claim to be like Jesus if we neglect his very mission?

If a church wants to fulfill the Great Commission, it will require first that its members share the heart of Jesus for the lost he came to save. We must share the heart of Jesus who wept for Jerusalem (Luke 18:41). We must follow the model of Paul whose heart was for the salvation of his fellow Jews (Rom 9:1-3; 10:1). We must be compelled by the love of Christ for a lost world and take on the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:14, 18).

Still, in many churches, evangelism is something we talk about and list among other Christian duties. As Russell Moore quipped in Southern Seminary’s chapel last fall, we know we should evangelize in the same way we know we should floss. Until evangelism ceases to be a Christian virtue that we have not yet achieved and becomes the driving passion of our church and personal ministry, we will never fulfill the purpose God has set for us. To become a missional church, we must have a passion for the Great Commission – reaching persons with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the grand theme of Scripture. It should be our theme as well.

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