One’s beliefs always determine actions. That’s true for an individual as well as a local body of believers. What a local church believes about evangelism shapes its ministry and its approach to missions.
I’ve spent many years as a minister in the local church. Now I serve a missions organization as director of evangelism. My experience includes churches largely populated with Mr. Effective Evangelist as well as churches largely populated by Mr. Compassionate Carer. Currently my work is to equip and assist the church at large for evangelistic mission work. It is challenging, fun, and a great blessing to see God bring balance to out-of-balance viewpoints. Again, an illustration is useful. (And I do know I’m using a broad brush, engaging in a degree of hyperbole, but it serves it make a point!)
Church A — Evangelism in this church is all about soul-winning. When I try to engage its membership for missions, they think only in terms of soul-winning. Some of them will be mission volunteers and expect to have the opportunity to personally share the Gospel. Crusade work is eagerly grasped here. Other members in the congregation don’t see much other way for them to be involved. They certainly don’t see themselves as part of the mission since they are not going. I come into this school of thought to prepare these people for missions. I explain everyone in the church is part of the mission team, or can be. The mission volunteers are the tip of the spear, but a spear tip isn’t much good without a heavy shaft! The church prays, equips, provides, and participates in God’s rewards. Rewards? Yes, God is a Rewarder and a Gift Giver. I rarely let an opportunity pass to tell a church that Matthew 10:41 says God rewards His servants equally with those who equip them and/or send them. The thinking in this church is, only those who ‘go and tell‘ are involved in evangelism and missions.
Church B — Compassionate Caring defines evangelism in this congregation. This group readily embraces medical missions, supplying food to villages, building medical clinics and installing water purification systems. This group is challenged by preparing and sharing an upfront, Christ centered presentation of God’s plan for salvation. They understand the need to improve life for people but they often fail to connect life-improvement to sharing the Gospel. It’s really hard to preach to people when they are too sick to listen. If you helped make them well they will readily listen if you take the opportunity to share the Message. “Doing good” is humanitarianism until you share the Gospel; then it’s a mission! The ultimate expression of compassion is doing all we can to keep people out of Hell. That is best done when our actions back up by the words of truth we proclaim.
Bringing these kinds of groups/congregations/individuals together is a tremendous blessing for me, for them, for the people they encounter, and it expands the Kingdom. It also puts into everyday practice Paul’s warning about the body is not just an eye, or an ear, or a foot! And we are indebted to Paul for reminding us of the opportunity any of us have to be involved in the process of evangelism/Great Commission. It’s not about us, but the Lord because we may plant or water, but He gives the increase!
God’s design for His work is: We need each other. Let’s get it right and get on with the task of making more God-lovers!
Soli Deo Gloria!