I have a file of articles I have collected that go under the heading of The Secret to an Evangelising Church. The following are some of the keys listed in these papers that will transform a church into an evangelising church :
- A church where people bring people to church
- A church that moves from being inward looking to outward looking
- A church that holds evangelism conferences
- A church where evangelism is everybody’s responsibility and not just the pastor’s responsibility
Whilst these keys address some of the symptoms that relate to churches that fail to fulfill the great commission, they don’t get to the heart of the problem which is that of motivation. The deeper issue is not how should we do it, but why should we make evangelism the priority of the church.
Allow me to share an illustration that got me thinking after I recently visited my doctor for a check up. My first point of contact was the doctor’s nurse whose job it was to take me through some preliminary tests to check the state of my blood pressure and heart. Before the tests started, she asked if she could tell me something that was obviously of high importance to her. Without even having a chance to answer, she went on to mention that she was soon to become a grandmother and took some minutes to tell me all the details.
After the tests with the nurse finally took place, and I was seated in the waiting room ready to see the doctor, I could not help but think about the conversation with the nurse. She had what was to her, good news, and when you have good news, you find a way to tell people and you don’t even need to take a course on how to tell good news.
About the same time as this encounter, I happened to be journaling through the gospel of Mark, and two encounters with Jesus jumped out at me. There are some similarities about these two stories. The first (Mark 1:40-45) is about a man who is healed of leprosy and “Jesus sent him away with a strong warning : ‘See that you don’t tell anyone.’………. Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
The second story (Mark 7:31-8:1) is about a man who was deaf and could hardly talk and he also was healed by Jesus, with similar consequences. “Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement.”
Let’s stop and see what these two stories had in common:
1. Both men had a life changing encounter with Jesus.
2. Both men had good news to share, which in spite of Jesus’ warning not to tell anyone, they couldn’t keep to themselves. They were unstoppable.
3. Both men started a revival in spite of the fact that they had been followers of Jesus for only a little while, they both had not attended a conference on how to share their faith and they both may not have even read the scriptures.
Now compare them to the religious leaders of the day who were full of traditions, who had a gift of flogging dead horses, who talked about the good old days and who made idols out of their programs and didn’t consider Jesus good news.
So what is the answer to a church’s failure to take the great commission seriously?
Surely it is not to deal with the symptoms, but to get to the deep cause of the issue. The answer is that we need to fall in love with Jesus again. Jesus needs to become good news to us again. Because you can’t stop a person talking about good news, even when Jesus tells you to keep it to yourself. Could these two stories be the only occasions where two people disobeyed Jesus but did not incur the wrath of Jesus?
The issue is one of motivation for “Christ’s love compels us” (2Corinthians 5:14)
I was talking to a pastor recently who went to a holiness conference and said,”I fell in love with Jesus all over again and I haven’t stopped talking about him since I’ve returned from the conference. I no longer talk about my denomination or my church, I talk about Jesus. And people are listening.” And this pastor’s congregation were deeply impacted by his testimony.
Could this be the key to what is really missing in our evangelistic endeavors?
Could this be why new Christians with a life changing encounter with Jesus can become our best evangelists?
And could this be the key to seeing our churches become great commission churches again?
“Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning; ‘See that you don’t tell anyone.’……
Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the (good) news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in a lonely place. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”