Summary: This is the first in a series on evangelism based on Bill Hybel’s book of a similar title. What is our motivation for reaching out with the gospel of Jesus?
Who can name the five purposes of the Church? Do you know what they are? Can you name one of the five purposes of the Church? (Worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism).
To be honest, I think that after the three ships most of us start scratching our heads. A study revealed that less than 1 out of 10 members could name all 5 purposes of the Church. And less than 1 out of 4 named evangelism as one of the purposes of the Church. So it is not surprising that we have trouble naming all five. And who came up with this list anyways? Well, it is a good list and evangelism, though neglected, is indeed a major purpose of the Church.
In his book The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren reported on another survey that found 89% of church members believe the Church’s purpose is to “take care of my needs and those of my family.” Only 11% said, “The purpose of the Church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.”
We as a church are looking at our vision for Church Growth. For some of us that means deciding how to increase our building space. We need more room for Christian Education programs. We need more sanctuary space for our growing congregation. Church growth is often equated with the size of a building. That is not completely false, but if our purpose is to get bigger for the sake of getting bigger, we have no vision.
The Apostle Paul likened the Church to a body with Christ as the head. If we compare the Church to an organization, we get an image of rules and bylaws and buildings. If we compare the Church to an organism, like the body, we are compelled to look at the Church as something that is intended for growth. Take this metaphor to the extreme, because I think we can, and you will admit that even though you are an adult your body is still regenerating. We lose dead cells every day and, if you are still breathing, your body is replacing them. That’s how it is with the Church. New cells have to be added constantly or the Church dies. How does the body, the Church, regenerate itself? Through evangelism. As we intensify our look at Church Growth over the next few months, I have been inspired and encouraged to focus the next five Sundays on the heart of Church Growth – Evangelism. For without evangelism, the Church is not truly the Church, it is simply a group of people intrigued by religion.
So okay, is this another ‘smack over the head’ sermon on evangelism? Is this another guilt-trip to motivate you to get out there and start handing out gospel tracts? Maybe. Does the thought of expanding our facilities motivate us? Could a sermon break through the fear we have of evangelism? What motivates us to share our faith? Why should we bother?
Looking At Wrong Motives For Evangelism
While we are on the subject, why don’t we look at some wrong motives for doing evangelism? We are so easily defeated in our efforts to share our faith; we are discouraged when it comes to witnessing for Christ. Why is that? We need to understand that wrong motives will sabotage any zeal for a good cause. What are these wrong motives?
a) Guilt – Let me share a story from Crestview Fellowship. At one point the Church under our leadership was growing and vibrant. It seemed like a golden era for this body of believers. Then, in a period of less than a year, our congregation of 135 saw 46 people leave. Amazingly, none left in anger. All left because of work found in other places or for various related reasons. Much of our leadership was part of this exodus. It was hard but we managed.
Not long after this exodus, a deacon and close friend of mine became obsessed with altar calls. We argued over the philosophy of it – he thought we should have them every Sunday – I resisted because a group of 85 would lynch me if I hounded them that often. As a result, the deacon and his family left Crestview to go to a church that believed in evangelism. He wrote a letter stating as much to our church.
There we were, licking our wounds and wondering how to build our church up again. Having been accused of not being evangelistic also smarted. Along came the Power To Change campaign, and our church jumped at the opportunity to prove the deacon wrong. We went door to door, 5000 of them, and came back with little to show for it. Our evangelistic effort and desire died with that experience because we were out there for all the wrong reasons. Guilt was not enough to keep us reaching out to our community.