It is a true statement of most churches, genuine or not, I have been in. They were planted by a missionary or by a local group of people. They talk about evangelism. They talk about sharing the good news of Christ with the community, but that is where the evangelistic work of most local churches stops. Okay, we send money to missionaries. This isn’t the instruction that we receive in Scripture. Christ commanded us to “go make disciples of all nations. ” (Matthew 18:19-20). He did not say, “Send money so others can go.” He instructed His people to go.
This verse can be read in two ways. Christ could have been instructing the individual to practice personal evangelism. As you go, look for opportunities and share the Gospel. I’ve heard that preached before, and it sounds good. Christ also could have been instructing the church as a whole to go and make disciples. I’ve heard that preached and it also sounds good. If we read the instruction as a personal instruction, then we might be tempted to think that there is no need for the local church to actually have organized and strategic evangelism. If we read this instruction as a community instruction, we may be tempted only to do evangelism if it is organized for the church body. I think, ultimately, we need to practice evangelism both as individuals and as a community.
Paul, and two members of his missionary team, wrote a letter to one of the churches they planted. We have named the letter 1 Thessalonians. In the first chapter, Paul writes about how his missionary team arrived in Thessalonica, preached news about Jesus, and saw many people in that city turn from idols and begin following Jesus. In verse six, Paul commended the local church that his team had planted for becoming imitators of us (the missionary team) and of Christ. As a result of their experiencing this life change, the word of the Lord rang out from them, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place that their faith in God has gone out (v. 8).
The word was getting out from this local church into the community and to other communities because the people were becoming more like Jesus. Jesus took on human flesh. Paul’s missionary team, like Christ, went to people. Now the members of this local church in Thessalonica were also actively going out to people. If we are being conformed to the image of Christ, then, evangelism will be a simple part of what we do on this earth. If we are a local church that is striving to be like Christ, regular, organized evangelism will be a part of what we do on this earth. If evangelism is absent, we aren’t really Christ-like. The Gospel doesn’t stop when a church is planted. A genuine, healthy, local church will continue to be a mission in its community even after, like the church in Thessalonica, the ‘missionaries’ have moved to the next area. We are here for our communities, that they might know Christ who rescues us from the coming wrath (v. 10).
Thank you for reading. Please remember to check out my latest book, Church(ish).