What are two things we can’t do in Heaven?
Scuba dive and surf? Maybe not.
How about sin and evangelise? Definitely not.
While I cry ‘Maranatha’ (come, Lord) as I think of a day when I won’t sin anymore, I also want the Lord to wait so that more people can come to know him.
One of the last things Jesus did before going to Heaven was to give us the Great Commission:
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 (Matthew 28:18-20).
These are our standing orders and the reason for the existence of the church. According to Jesus in Acts 1:8, mission is why we have the Holy Spirit in power. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis wrote, ‘The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ… If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.’
I wonder, how evangelistic are our churches and church members? Is mission something we find easy or hard? Let me give you three caricatures of why we may struggle.
Paula loves talking about Jesus. She is always inviting people to church. Yet things very rarely go her way. She can’t understand it. She is doing everything right; she is working hard, she is talking, she is explaining, she is inviting, and she’s ‘really good at it’. But Paula never prays. She doesn’t see why she should. She’s too busy… evangelising. Paula has gone solo. She has left God out of the mission.
I wonder, is that you?
Prayerlessness is one reason for ineffective evangelism. But we need to be careful that we don’t allow our prayer lives to lead us into functional hyper-Calvinism. You see, while evangelism is not less than prayer, it is more than prayer. We must pray, but we should pray for opportunities and clarity (Colossians 4:2–4). Furthermore, within our prayer lives we are ultimately asking God for himself. We want to draw near to him and see him more clearly and hold him more dearly. As Thomas Charles wrote, ‘Can the moon shine when the sun shines not upon it? No more can we, except the sun of Righteousness shines upon our souls.’
Fred knows that people need God. He knows that life is better when you live with God at the centre. Fred is a very practical man and likes to help people. In fact, Fred is very hard-working and generous. He is the ‘salt of the earth’. Yet none of his friends have become Christians. He’s prayed for his work colleagues and makes sure he’s always positive and fair… yet they’ve never asked him about Jesus. What’s the problem? Fred has never told them about Jesus. He’s never shared the gospel. He’s hoping that they’ll see his life and then become christians. Fred is fuzzy on the gospel. He’s forgotten that the gospel is a message about a person… Jesus.
I wonder, is that you?
Are you secretive about Jesus? Do you keep your head down in discussions about religion, faith, etc.? It has become popular to live by the maxim, ‘preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words’. However, as many have pointed out, this makes as much sense as saying, ‘feed the hungry at all times, and if necessary, use food’. The gospel must be proclaimed. Explained. Communicated.
Hilary prays every day. Hilary even has a prayer list for her friends and family. Moreover, Hilary is clear on the gospel, and she tells everyone about Jesus. But Hilary is confused, no-one ever comes to church with her. No-one ever asks her to pray for them. It’s like there is a wall between them. Oh, I forgot to tell you about Hilary: she slacks off in work, she blames others when things go wrong, and so she has a bad name. You see, Hilary is living a double life. She is a hypocrite.
I wonder, is that you?
Saying one thing, claiming to be a Christian… but you don’t live it? Simply put, we are always a witness. But we are either a good or a bad witness. Brennan Manning once said, ‘The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today… is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is simply what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.’
What is the answer?
Now, these are caricatures and no-one is 100% like these. But they give you an idea. Some of us will have elements of one or two of these people. My hunch is that if our evangelism is faulty, it’s for one of those reasons: prayerlessness like Paula, fuzziness on the gospel like Fred, or hypocritical living like Hilary. If the church is going to live up to its central calling of the Great Commission, we need to be constant in prayer, clear on the gospel and consistent in lifestyle. As the church encourages those three things through the weekly preaching of the Word, we will see the church start to do two things.
Firstly, the church will begin to go out and share the gospel organically and naturally. In homes and workplaces, at the school gates and bowling clubs, people will start living and speaking for Jesus. Secondly, people will be drawn to the church. As people hear the gospel and see the gospel lived out, they will want to come and see what is going on. The church will become, what Steve Timmis and Tim Chester call ‘an attractional community’.
Are you overwhelmed?
I’ll be honest. This all seems too hard for me. Can I really be constant in prayer, clear on the gospel and consistent in lifestyle? No, not on my own. But we are not on our own. Remember how the Great Commission starts and ends? With Jesus. He has all the authority and he is always with us. How? Through his Spirit promised to us for mission in Acts 1:8.
So, what should we do about this?
Stop sinning and start evangelising.