bits from bob....
We must become serious again about the Great Commission if we are to accomplish the purpose of God in this world. John Stott connects mission with evangelism and social responsibility: "Mission is our human response to the divine Commission. It is a whole Christian lifestyle, including both evangelism and social responsibility, dominated by the conviction that Christ sends us out into the world." What is the place of evangelism in the Christian mission?
Evangelism results in new Christians and new churches. When effective evangelism occurs, people decide to become disciples of Jesus and new churches are planted. The goal of such evangelism is clear in Jesus' Great Commission: make disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). How can we do this? How can we answer this call? How can we reach our (God's) goal? There are many different methods one can employ. In general, however, there are five developmental stages in the life of a person who moves from unbeliever to active, dedicated disciple or Christian.
In the Great Commission, Jesus said we are to make disciples, baptize them, and continue to teach them. I have found the following summary of this text helpful: we are to make disciples, mark disciples, and mature disciples. The process is not complete until the new Christian is involved in the local church and is maturing in Christ.
Evangelism results in new churches and growing churches. Evangelism wins people to Christ and makes disciples of the nations. This results in growing congregations where souls are added to the body of Christ and live near enough to an already existing congregation to become a part of that congregation. This also results in new congregations where preaching points have been established and new Christians are now brought together to share worship, prayer, study, and outreach. Such new congregations reach out and bring in other new believers. Older congregations assist in forming new congregations, and thus churches grow and are multiplied through evangelism. When we think about growing churches, we must not think merely of numbers. We must always be concerned with spiritual growth. Adequate attention must be given to all areas of growth-spiritual, numeric, organic, and organizational.
Not all mission efforts result in church planting and new disciples. That people are involved in mission and evangelism does not automatically mean new churches or new Christians. Many mission activities are labeled as evangelism and mission work, but in reality have nothing to do with bringing people to Jesus or establishing new church. Many Christians are afraid to talk to their neighbors about Christ in their own neighborhoods, and do not find more boldness when they travel to other countries. Some Christians on mission trips are not committed to establishing sufficient communication to share the gospel, even when such can easily be done through translators. Certainly, there is a value in demonstrating the spirit and attitude of Christ through benevolent and educational works, but the purpose of God in sending us is to tell the good news of Jesus.
Sometimes efforts are not fruitful because ministers and members in local churches are not anxious to add additional members, knowing that more people mean more problems. How often we are too easily satisfied in mediocre numeric measurements. How can it be that Christians are not be avidly evangelistic, seeking to add souls to the kingdom of Christ and to bring people to a saving knowledge of Him? In addition to the hesitancy that may come because of potential problems or mediocre satisfaction, five other factors may contribute to the failure of the contemporary church to become involved in and reap the harvest of effective evangelism.
Finally, we must conclude that the failure of the modern church in evangelism is at heart a failure to honor the biblical mandate for outreach. The importance of evangelism is clearly visible in the Bible. In closing, consider the following.
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