The Heart of Evangelism?

On Thursday, we presented the annual emphasis before our local church. This biblical truth is especially relevant considering the renewed heat of the abortion issue in our nation.

For our church, 2019 is the year of evangelism. I want to challenge our church body to boldly pursue the mission of Christ as we go. I want to look at the basic process in Scripture. Before we look at the prospect of evangelism, we need to know the authority with which we go forth. First of all, we need to recognize that we are not the ones who build Christ’s church. Christ is (Matthew 16:18) and He builds His church upon His revealed word through His people (ref. v. 17). We are not the one’s, then, with the responsibility to build God’s church. In evangelism, our goal is never to bolster numbers or get people to come into a church building using some method that we have developed. The local church exists for a higher purpose. We are not building the kingdom of a pastor or even the kingdom of The Church at Sunsites. We are participating with Christ as He builds His own church and He receives all glory.

In Matthew 9:35-38, we read:

Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

There are a couple of key points I want to share to start of the Year of Evangelism. We often think of evangelism in terms of church strategy, events, organized visitation, or some sort of formal service to our community as a local church. Though these may all be good things, they are not the heartbeat of evangelism. Following the idea the Christ alone builds His church, He reveals here that the harvest is already abundant, though the workers are few. His instruction is that His disciples should pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Then, Jesus instructs His disciples in the next chapter to go and participate in the harvest. He would not instruct them to go into the synagogues and preach. He would instruct His disciples to go and meet people where they were at.

Evangelism, for us, doesn’t begin with a mere command to go and make disciples. God’s eternal mission is to seek His own glory through the exaltation of Christ and in the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit. His work of salvation from before the foundation of the world is meant to make us complete creatures, fashioned in God’s image and abiding in His glory and clothed in His righteousness alone. When we participate in evangelism, we know that we are participating in God’s eternal mission. We can’t will ourselves to practice good evangelism.

Jesus made this comment to His disciples as He was looking at the crowds of people, having compassion for them because they were weary and worn out (like sheep without a shepherd). This is the truth that drives us to practice evangelism, to participate in reaping the harvest that we did not sow (John 4:38).

Jesus has compassion for those sheep who do not have a shepherd. If we follow Jesus and if our mission is the same as Christ’s mission, then we will be so burdened from a Christlike compassion that we will have to share life in Christ with those around us. This is not some works-based call to evangelism. If we don’t have such a compassion for those around us, then we need to check our relationship with our Lord. As we have compassion for people, we yearn for them to know Christ as we know Christ. We want them to have the life that we have. Evangelism begins to produce in our personal connections. God, through His people, is reaping His own harvest.

Without this compassion manifesting in personal evangelism first, it will not profit much to develop an evangelism strategy as a church. We must, by the grace of God, develop genuine compassion first. Evangelism is a movement, not a method.

So, we consider all of the people in our community and beyond. There are drug addicts, alcoholics, youth, home-bound, impoverished, morally confused and people who have come to follow a cultural or Jesus who isn’t described in the Bible. There is the temptation we have to condemn. Our Lord calls us to compassion. Compassion requires that we go out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). It requires that we not be so internally focused. When we have great compassion for our community and beyond, we will take the Gospel out to our family, friends, and community personally. Our participation in God’s evangelism begins with compassion. My plea, then, is for our local church family to, this year, cultivate a sincere and compassionate heart for the community in every member.

For every Christian: What makes a genuine Christ-follower different, is that he or she is given, through sanctification, a compassionate heart for those sheep without a shepherd- for the unborn as well as those who have an unreliable moral compass. Christ is the only one who can produce such a compassionate heart in people. It is amazing to me how vastly different people who have a relationship with Christ think about their unborn children. As Christ gave His life for our good, so they deny self and consider any degree of suffering an honor and a privilege because they have love within them. The Scriptures have said that we love because Christ first loved us. The culture of death we find ourselves in is a result of selfishness and hatred for any inconvenience that may threaten our livelihood. Only sacrificial love in our hearts can cause us to love our children. Only Jesus Christ can give us that kind of love for the unborn and compassion for those sheep without a shepherd. This compassion leads us not to be condemning, but to desire those shepherdless sheep to realize the higher purpose to which all people are called, a satisfaction found only in willing self-sacrifice and unconditional compassion for all people.

Let us grieve. Let us be moved to action. No, not the sort of action that causes us to condemn others. The sort of action that speaks life in Christ and invites those in this culture of death to come under the good shepherd of life. Christ came to bear our iniquities. He came to make dead people alive. He does so despite our great sinfulness.

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