Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evangelism: A Practice, Not a Program

By Jesse Johnson@http://www.sfpulpit.com

The following is an article Jesse wrote for our church’s weekly bulletin, Grace Today.

“What does your church do for evangelism?”

I was meeting with a group of outreach pastors from other large churches in our nation. The topic was what our churches do to transform our communities. When the question about what we “do for evangelism” came my way, I knew the expected answer would look like a list of programs. People around the table—many of them from some of the most program-driven, seeker-sensitive churches in the country—turned to me. They were curious about what Pastor MacArthur’s church does to impact our community.

The man repeated, “What does your church do for evangelism?”

“We evangelize,” I answered. As the group laughed, thinking I was joking, it occurred to me that my answer was more profound that I had intended.

At Grace Church, our philosophy of evangelism hinges on the idea that evangelism is not a program. A church does not transform a community through activities and events. In fact, church-sponsored evangelism programs generally do not produce results. Rather, a church impacts its community through the lives of its members. The kingdom is expanded as believers are faithful in evangelism in their individual lives.

All believers are to be active in evangelism. In fact, all four Gospels end with Jesus commanding believers to bring salvation to the lost (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21). Jesus’ last earthly words were another repetition of this same command, to bear witness to the gospel (Acts 1:8). It is not an overstatement to say that all Christians should be driven by a love for evangelism. After all, it is our mission in life.

But while all Christians are called to be active in evangelism, not all Christians are equally gifted at this particular calling. Acts 21:8 and Ephesians 4:11 both imply that some have the gift of evangelism and some do not. But God in His wisdom has still called all Christians to evangelize.

Thus, one of the marks of a Christian is a love for evangelism. If you are fearful, evangelism gives you the opportunity to trust God for courage. If you are timid, evangelism gives you an opportunity to trust God for confidence. Christians are slaves to Christ, soldiers in His service, and sons of God. Our master, our general, and our Father has given us our orders: to reach the lost with the hope of the gospel.

As Christians, we love what God loves, and God loves the lost. As we become more and more sanctified, we become more and more like Christ. This growth causes us to grow in our love for those who are still God’s enemies.

Grace Church impacts our community because our members love those in our community. This love results in us reaching out to the lost, presenting the gospel to them, and seeing some of them saved. As we do this, our church grows, and our evangelism results in changed lives. In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:15 says “that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” In other words, the more we evangelize, the more God’s grace extends to our community. And the more His grace extends, the more He is glorified.

Don’t get me wrong—we do have evangelistic programs and outreaches, and we do have structured events. But what has consistently produced more fruit than any program is the faithfulness of individuals who express their love for their neighbors through evangelism.

So the next time someone asks you what our church does for evangelism, the answer is simple. We evangelize.

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