Read an Excerpt
Evangelism against the Odds
What Are We Trying to Do?
Listen, I've taken my questions to a pastor, a priest, and a rabbi. Not one of them was able to give me any good reasons to believe in God. In fact, they've just congratulated me for thinking it through so carefully. One of them even told me I'd given him some things to think about! I've spent a lot of time and energy on this, so don't think you're going to easily sway me into believing that your ideas are right."
So energized was the discussion between this young Jewish businessman and my pastor friend that a church usher actually stepped in to try to break up the "fight." But as soon as he did, both of them protested. "It's okay," my friend assured the usher, "we're both just very passionate about this."
"Not only that," added this intense seeker, "I can't tell you how refreshing it is to finally find a place like this where people seem to actually care about logic and truth. This is fantastic!" This man, like so many others today, was highly interested in discovering what is real in the spiritual realm, and he was eager to talk about it.
We see it all around us. From cover stories of national newsmagazines, to titles of best-selling books, to themes of television programs and movies, to songs on the music charts--people are hungry for information about God.
Spiritual interest is at a high level in our culture but so is bewilderment about what to believe and whom to trust. The good news is that although there is growing suspicion of organized religion, many men and women, like this Jewish businessman, are still willing to turn to an ordinary church like yours or like mine in the hope that they might--just might--find some answers there.
The question is, are we prepared to help them? Are we becoming the kind of people--and are we building the kind of churches--that will be able to assist them in embarking on spiritual journeys that will eventually bring them to Christ?
Evangelism. It's one of the highest values in the church--and one of the least practiced.
We all believe in it. I don't think I've ever met anyone who genuinely believed in the Bible but didn't believe in evangelism. When you embrace the truth of God's Word, it's pretty difficult to discount its call to reach lost people. It's on our bulletins, in our hymns, and throughout our creeds. It's posted on our marquees and peppered throughout our statements of faith. It's emphasized in our theology books, praised in our seminaries, and encouraged in our pulpits. Most Christian leaders list it as one of their ministry's top priorities. There is little ambiguity or doubt that evangelism is central to what we're supposed to be about.
The irony is that while many of us are in churches and denominations that have a rich heritage and strong reputation for evangelism, in many cases, precious little is actually happening. Let's be honest: in most ministries very few lost people are being reached for Christ.
Yet the words of Jesus in the Great Commission are seared in our minds: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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: 19-20). This mandate was given for all churches of all time, so it includes every one of us who is a part of those congregations.
Since we all agree that we are supposed to be carrying out the Great Commission, why aren't we doing more about it? Studies show that most Christians don't have very many--if any--friendships with non-Christians. The majority of church members can no longer quote the words in John 3: 16 about God's great love for the world, much less articulate a clear gospel illustration. A mere fourteen percent of pastors claim that their churches are heavily involved in evangelism. Only one out of three churches ever trains its people in evangelism.
We may talk a good game, but our actions speak louder than our words. Do we really care about lost people? Do we sincerely believe that knowing Christ is the best way to live and the only way to die? Are we convinced that everyone we know, without exception, needs to find the forgiveness, friendship, life, and leadership Jesus offers? Do we truly believe in hell, and that our friends and family members will end up there if they don't trust in Christ before they die? Do we really believe that? If so, are we willing to take risks to warn them? And are we willing to invest our time and energy in developing churches that will attract, challenge, and teach them to step across the line of faith?
Jesus has commissioned us to become persuasive communicators of his love and truth. That is, he asks us to become contagious Christians and to build contagious churches that will do everything necessary, through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to bring more and more people to him. If you know and love Christ, I'm confident that your spirit is saying, "Yes, that's right. I long to become that kind of Christian and to be a part of that kind of church. I really want to impact people's lives and eternities!"
We were made to fulfill the Great Commission. I believe evangelizing is the primary reason God left us here on the planet. We can spend all of eternity worshiping God, learning from his Word, praying to him, and encouraging and edifying one another. But only here and now do we have the chance to reach lost people for Christ. What a privilege and what an adventure!