For our churches to become more effective, we must do much more than return our focus to evangelism. I have listened as many today speak of the need to return to an emphasis on evangelism in our churches, and I applaud that. I want to be clear; I am in favor of that. But I want to suggest we need more than that in our efforts. We need a renewed emphasis on missional evangelism. Let me suggest that if we understand evangelism to be the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ with a lost world, we need to recognize that missions is about knowing how to effectively share the Good News. After years of pastoral counseling I discovered that what we say is not always what someone else hears. Many disagreements are often a result of the breakdown of communication. So let me suggest that it is important that we do more than simply share the Gospel with all people everywhere. We need to be sure that we share the Gospel in a way that all people have an opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel.
Missional evangelism not only seeks to understand “how” to share the Gospel in a way that it is clearly heard, but it must be seen as inseparably tied to the responsibility of discipleship. Jesus did not commission us to simply make converts. Matthew 28 clearly proclaims the mission as going to all people groups and making disciples. That process of discipleship means, in Jesus’ own words, that we teach these new believers to obey the instructions of Christ, not just know them. (Matthew 28:18-20).
Missional evangelism recognizes the value of multiplying laborers in this discipleship process. In Luke 10, when Jesus commissioned the 70 to go and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, He gave some instructions about what to do and what not to do. One of the things He said was to not move from house to house, but to stay in the house of peace. Multiplying laborers occurs when we invest in new believers the time and effort to equip them to be missional evangelists. The last church that I served as pastor was in a community that had 180,000 people within a 10-mile radius of the church. There was no way that our congregation could share the Gospel with that many people in a timely manner. But each disciple investing in making disciples could quickly accomplish the task. If you struggle to comprehend the mathematics in this process, look at the results of taking a checkerboard and placing a penny on the first square, and then doubling it on each square. Look up the Google results of that multiplication. A little secret, if I give you the choice of that versus a flat one million dollars, choose the penny duplicated one square at a time.
Missional evangelism doesn’t get confused about the priority of responsibilities in the process. Today we speak a lot about Church Planting. I do not have a problem with that concept at all. But I think we must remember that Jesus did not command us to plant churches. He commanded us to make disciples. I believe if we make disciples we will get churches. I also believe we can plant churches and never make disciples. As some like to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” The main thing is more than just evangelism. It is missional evangelism.
While there are many other things that could be said to describe missional evangelism, let me conclude by noting that missional evangelism has an Acts 1:8 strategy. Jesus instructed us to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. It is important that He did not say “in Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria, or the ends of the earth.” He also did not say “in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then the ends of the earth.” What is important about noting those two realities? Our call to missional evangelism does not give us a responsibility to choose where we work, or even the order in which we work. It is a simultaneous effort, not a sequential effort, or even an effort based on geography choices. God has commissioned us to develop an effective strategy in our churches that includes each of these areas. (See blog post: Is Your Church a Great Church?) The same principles of mission apply across the street and around the world, especially as our communities become more and more diverse.
For help with missional evangelism, contact us at www.ChurchUnleashedGlobal.org