Making Evangelism a PriorityMay 3, 2017 Missions/Evangelism
Acts 1:8 is programmatic for the entire book: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Holy Spirit has a missionary character. He fills his people, and they bear witness to Christ. Luke reports the church’s witness beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 2-7), spreading throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1, 4), then finally continuing to the Gentiles through Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13-28).
At the end of Acts, Paul’s words motivate the Christian reader to continue Jesus’ mission to the end of the earth: “Let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28). We’re the witnesses now. The nations will listen. Jesus doesn’t need us, but he chooses to use us in the unstoppable advance of his kingdom across geographical boundaries and ethno-linguistic barriers. The kingdom grows as we announce to all peoples the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47).
Yes, this definitely entails evangelism, persuading others to surrender their allegiance to Jesus Christ, trusting that he died for their sins and rose victorious over sin, death, and the devil. The following are only a few considerations (though there are more) in making evangelism a priority as we continue Jesus' mission to the end of the earth.
1. True Theology Will Have Missional Impact
Something that has always encouraged me about Redeemer Church is that we're devoted to sound theology. We have been right to emphasize that there will be no mission without true theological foundations. Yet we must also never forget that true theology will have missional impact. If our theological foundations are truly biblical, then they will drive every part of our being into God’s mission. Truth and mission go together like lyric and song. Lyrics are meant to be enjoyed through finding their expression in song. The truth of the gospel is meant to be enjoyed through finding its expression in mission. So the next time you pick up a theology book, consider how it compels you to snatch others from fire.
2. Holy Living Embraces God’s Mission to Save Others
Many of you pursue holy living. You fight against sin; you pray for purity of heart; you love righteousness. That is very good and you should continue in that pursuit. But let me also encourage you in light of God’s mission not to reduce your Christian life to the pursuit of holiness devoid of mission. There is no authentic holiness without mission. Just look at your God: “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9). “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa 52:10). God’s holiness and God’s mission go hand in hand. Our passion to be not of the world must remember that God left us in the world for mission and sacrificial love toward the lost as we preach the gospel to them. Christian living is not mere “sin management.” Christian living is treasuring Jesus Christ such that sin cannot compete with making Jesus famous among all peoples.
3. Gospel-centered Motherhood Serves Mission
We have four children, and my wife homeschools them. I'm very aware how moms could potentially be overwhelmed when it comes to evangelism efforts—you know, because it sounds like “another thing to add.” Yet let me begin by saying that your labors as a mom are super significant for the advance of the kingdom as you teach your children the faith, as you support your husband, and as you show hospitality to those who enter your home (Tit 2:3-5). All of these labors contribute to the task of making disciples, and therefore you should be encouraged how the Lord is already using you.
But let me also encourage you to take advantage of opportunities to engage other lost women with the gospel in your motherhood. God has given Christian mothers a unique “inroad” to sharing the gospel and I have seen the Lord use the godly example and testimony of some of you mothers already to open a door through which to proclaim Christ. Play dates with other moms and their children at the local park, inviting a lost girl over to hang out (even when things aren’t “all together”), helping your husband show hospitality to a family next door, taking some girlfriends to get coffee and meet lost people while the husband watches the kids, are all ideas you might consider.
Only be sure the avenues for outreach are wise, considerate of the household, not overwhelming, and will work best with the rhythms of your week. And as questions rise, use them as opportunities to speak the truth. For example, “Why do you discipline your children that way?” Answer: allegiance to Christ in targeting heart-motives over mere behavior change. Or, “How are you so patient with your children day in and day out?” Answer: my heavenly Father is patient with me in Christ. Or, “What keeps you going all day long?” Answer: fellowship with and contentment in God through the Spirit.
Husbands, you have a great opportunity to lead, encourage, and equip your entire household in this way, especially by also including your wife in praying for the salvation of those you may encounter at work each day.
4. Erect No Barriers, Since Jesus Saves Sinners
Jesus is spreading his gospel to "the end of the earth." There's a geographical dimension to that, but there is also an ethnic/social dimension. Jesus saves sinners of all sorts from every tribe, tongue, people, and race. His encounter with the Samaritan woman is instructive. Even though Jews and Samaritans had "no dealings with one another," he drew near to offer living water. Moreover, could Jesus have chosen a better witness for his saving grace to the Samaritan village than an adulterous woman who encountered him? That’s not to say that her adultery was commendable; it wasn’t. It was rebellious. But that makes her testimony to Jesus all the more accurate. Her testimony is helpful because it highlights two key things about Jesus: he knew she was a great sinner and yet he still pursued her. In fact, these are the only kinds of people Jesus pursues and saves—sinners. This helps us put aside all our self-righteous stereotypes and tear down any barriers we unnecessarily erect between other sinners when we meet them.
5. Seek Further Equipping in Personal Evangelism
There are some of you who see that the fields are “white for harvest” and you want to labor well, but you simply don’t know how. That’s why God has blessed you with the church. There are brothers and sisters in Redeemer that I know would love to spend time training you to labor well in the harvest. Connect with each other. Make evangelism a part of your regular conversation with each other. Pray for each others’ efforts as well as the people you encounter. Follow up with your care group members that they too might join you in ministering to the lost people you meet. You might also consider a couple of good books like Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism or Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth. The church is God’s gift to you in making disciples. You are not alone in the task.
6. Share a Mentality of Multiplication
With the Book of Acts, I think it would be helpful if our congregation (and care groups especially) shared a mentality of multiplication. That’s not to say that multiplication is the primary goal. Worship is. Rather, multiplication is the result of living as Jesus has called us to live. When God’s mission sets the priorities for our lives, then mission and multiplication is the fruit God will be pleased to bear. That doesn’t mean we should measure our faithfulness in terms of how fast we multiply. That is ultimately in God’s hands. Nevertheless, it does mean we’re at least viewing ourselves and our gatherings not as ends in themselves, but as part of God’s means for multiplication. So, seek out guests on Sunday morning, preach the gospel to the neighbors where you live, and schedule similar opportunities with your coworkers.
7. Pray for God’s Mission to Advance through You
Finally, let’s not forget prayer. Pray for God’s mission to be accomplished not apart from your involvement in it, but through your involvement in it—through your own efforts made with family members, local neighborhoods, at the workplace, and in your leisure. Ask God to use you. Some of you just need to start there, asking God to use you. Even Paul asked the churches to pray for him, “that God would open to him a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” See your jobs in a kingdom context, and pray that God would make you faithful in your labors and in your witness (e.g., Tit 2:9-10). The more we pray for God’s Spirit to open a door for the gospel to advance through us, the more likely we are to be in tune with the Spirit when he does.