Summary: Addresses the basics of evangelism.
Reaching the World
By: Pastor Kent Wise
The primary text for developing my theological perspective on Evangelism is found in the Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)
This pericope is commonly known as the Great Commission. For the purposes of this paper, this text will serve as the primary text with other scriptures in support. Scriptures supporting evangelism are found in both the Old and New Testament. Making disciples for Christ should be our primary focus as believers.
In the Matthew text, Jesus gives his disciples one last command. “Go and teach all nations” is the assignment that Jesus gives them. It is the same assignment that Jesus gives to us today. An assignment that is not being carried out in most mainline churches today. Making disciples is such a foreign concept in many churches that generations are missing among the members. No denomination appears to be exempt from this opportunity of lost membership and generations.
The United Methodist Church has suffered membership declines for three successive years. Last year, the church realized a net decrease of 69,141 members. Only one conference in the United States realized a net gain of membership. Frantically, the Bishops and Evangelism Board are trying to solve the problem. However, in my opinion, they are trying the wrong thing. Planting new churches is not the answer. Especially when, you have so many established churches that are in need of capturing the initial energy that started the church. Lyle Schaller states, “It is easier to start a new church than to change an old one.”(Schaller, 109) Many reasons are given, but primarily it deals with churches focusing inwardly on self instead of outwardly on others. No one wants to be rejected. Rejection is one of the primary fears that keeps believers from practicing evangelism.
Most of us are intimidated by the word EVANGELISM. Evangelism takes us out of our comfort zones. We look at evangelism as a win-lose situation forgetting that evangelism is a two step process of sowing and reaping. The parable of the sower found in Mark 4:1-9 offers us an inside look at the four hearts found in the church.
4Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”9 Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (NIB)
Billie Friel describes the four hearts as the Wayside Heart, the Stony Heart, the Thorny Heart, and the Good Heart. (Friel, 36-41) The Wayside Heart is the person whose heart has become hardened. Seeds sown on this person will not take hold. The seeds simply lay by the wayside only to be eaten by the birds. The Stony Heart person is one who has no spiritual root. Enthusiasm for Christ is short-lived when trials and suffering creep back into their life. This person is characterized by what I term an “attitude of scarcity”. The Thorny Heart is a person who is more occupied with materialism than with Jesus. This person would rather play golf than go to church. This person is living for the moment. Finally, we have the Good Heart person. This is the person that we all want to meet. This person is the “wildfire” from the divine spark. However, we can not pick and choose where we sow seeds. We are commanded to sow the seeds everywhere. We must be cautious not to develop the attitude that we can save someone. Salvation is not up to us. Salvation is from God through Christ. Our job is to sow.