Postmodern thinking has strongly influenced many to reject the Bible’s teaching concerning what the Church is and what its purpose should be. For some, doing “church” could be talking about anything over coffee on Sunday morning at a local coffee shop. Others are seeking to be entertained and/or emotionally supported by the “church.” For many “church” has become merely a social affair. Was this God’s design for the Church? The true Church is a heavenly reality with earthly significance (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1-3). The Church is the “body” of Christ and is composed of those who have trusted Christ as Savior (Eph. 1:19-23). According to Scripture, there are three particular ministries in which the Church should be presently engaged.
Ministries Of The Church
1. The upward ministry of the Church is offering up worship to the Lord (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Each true Christian is a believer priest (1 Pet. 2:5,9) and is to exalt God in worship (Rev. 1:5-6).
2. The inward ministry of the Church is to build up the body of Christ. Each true Christian has a work of ministry to edify the body of Christ, which is the Church (Eph. 4:11-12).
3. The outward ministry of the Church is to reach out to the lost (Mt. 28:19-20). Each true Christian has been commissioned to evangelize the lost and disciple those trusting Christ (Mk. 16:15).
If a local church lacks any of these three activities it will suffer spiritual decline and shrink in numbers over time. While none of these three ministries is any less important than the others, and each has scriptural precedent and should not be neglected, the outward ministry of the Church is the focus of this article and can be characterized by three commands.
Three Commands For Outreach
The Lord Jesus extended three evangelistic commands to His disciples, and each is a critical activity for effective outreach ministry:
1. “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest” (Lk. 10:2).
Prayer demonstrates dependence upon and submission to the Lord. Christians who are self-reliant or unyielding to Scripture will see no need for prayer and consequently lack spiritual vitality. History has shown that revival in the Church always precedes revival among the lost. The disciples were told to pray and soon found out that they were the answer to the prayer – they were the laborers to be sent out (Acts 1:14). Pray for bold evangelical laborers (Acts 4:29), and don’t be surprised if you are the answer to your own prayers. Pray for the lost also; without God’s work in their hearts they will not believe in Christ as their Savior (Jn. 6:44, 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:14).
2. “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (Jn. 4:35).
Christians should be aware of the needs of others to properly serve them. The Lord Jesus is the satisfier of all needs, spiritual and physical. He repeatedly met the needs of the lost before addressing their spiritual condition, often using the physical need (and solution) as an illustration of the spiritual. If we are unwilling to lift our eyes to understand personal need, or are too busy to meet those needs, why should we be surprised that our testimony for Christ lacks fruitfulness.
3. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:19-20).
Praying for the lost and understanding their needs should naturally result in “going” to share Christ with them. C. H. Mackintosh concisely summarized these three evangelistic commands this way: “Pray ye. Look ye. Go ye.” As with the three purposes of the Church, all three are necessary, and none can be ignored.
Two Steps To Be A Witness
1. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16).
Generally speaking people first respond to what they see and then to what they hear. Consequently the believer must live the gospel to have the privilege of sharing it effectively. Words are necessary in evangelism, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17), but as James declares “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20).
2. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).
As believers pray for opportunities, look for opportunities and go when doors open, the lost will become acquainted with Christ. Evangelism is not a weekend activity but a lifestyle! Personally, I find that if I pray for opportunities and leave home with gospel tracts in my pocket I am more mindful to share Christ throughout the day, and usually find opportunity to do so.
The Local Church And Evangelism
Praying, looking and going are often easier when we are working together with other Christians. This is not to diminish personal evangelism, but some outreach is more effective when done as a group effort. So how can local church members work together in gospel seed-sowing? Here are just a few ideas.
- Go door-to-door distributing tracts, calendars, etc. Ask people for prayer requests as you talk with them. This may lead to sharing the gospel.
- Hand out tracts at events such as concerts, races, fairs, festivals, movies.
- Set up a gospel booth at the county/state fairs or flea markets.
- Conduct outreach activities in public parks, using adult and children’s tracts.
- Contribute gospel articles to the religion page in your local newspaper.
- Become part of a regular nursing home program and chapel service.
- Volunteer in the local rescue mission chapel service.
- Volunteer in the local jail ministry.
- Develop after-school Bible clubs. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that these can be held in public schools.
- Go door-to-door Christmas caroling and distributing seasonal tracts.
- Have a neighborhood picnic or cookout and share the gospel after eating.
What Are You Waiting For?
John Wesley once said “give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and such alone will shake the gates of hell.” Evangelism is not and should not be a high-pressure sales program. If the Lord is not in the activity, it will be ineffective, but if He is in it, watch out (Acts 5:38-39). Evangelism is simply being available to share with others what you know to be true concerning salvation.
A young D. L. Moody once heard a preacher say: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Christ.” After hearing that statement Moody looked up to heaven and said, “By the grace of God I will be that man!” The world is still reaping the benefits of Moody’s ministry which led tens of thousands of souls to Christ.
May each of us likewise answer the call to faithfully live the gospel and, as opportunity permits, convey it in words. Let’s pray, look and go!
By Warren Henderson
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org