Thursday, March 15, 2007

Evangelism

I think Randy's comment on my blog yesterday may be the answer to why I don't keep up with sports as much as I used to. I am not saying this is true for anyone else, OK. But it just feels to me like a waste of time. I watched the Mavs last night. They have a safe lead with about a minute left, and then just hand the game to the Suns. So, I have spent several hours watching this game for what? And even if they win the championship, studies show that a person experiences about 30 minutes of satisfaction. Again, this is not to indict anyone else. Just me. I'm sure I do things (like play golf) that others would consider a waste of time as well.
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I have been thinking lately about the "lack of evangelistic zeal" in the church. For my whole life, I have gotten (and probably contributed to) regular doses of guilt over not being evangelistic enough. In the church it is almost like we have come to expect a periodic guilt-laden sermon about how we need to be sharing wtih others, yet I have seen no visible effect from all of that. What is the deal?

Here are my personal observations:
1st, I think that guilt is probably the poorest motivator there is. There has to be another way.
2nd, perhaps the fields where we are are not ripe to harvest right now. There are times and places in history when that is the case. There are many placed in the world that are ripe today. But there are many that are not. In Scripture we have examples of both. Was Noah a failure at evangelism? Not one convert in 100 years. Was Jonah the greatest evangelist ever? A whole town (Nineveh) repented. But I would take Noah over Jonah any day of the week. Perhaps America has been evangelized as much as it is willing. That doesn't mean we don't keep sharing Jesus. But it could explain the lack of conversions. And don't think the growth of the megachurches is a sign of people coming to Jesus. Their growth is coming by stealing members from
other churches.
3rd, we have been conditioned to think that evangelism is a "program" that has to follow a certain procedure (asking people if they want to "study", etc.) It is not that clinical. It can be messy and time-consuming. It means getting involved in the lives of hurting people who have made messes of their lives.
4th, maybe we are just lazy and apathetic. Maybe we are so caught up in our own lives that we forget the eternal consequences awaiting the unsaved.
5th, what is our motivation? This has been heavy on my mind lately. Is our motivation so we can have large numbers on Sunday? Or is our motivation to bring salvation, healing, hope and transformation?

Any thoughts?

4 comments:

jross said...

Some things just amaze me. I am sitting here working on my sermon and I am preaching on the VERY thing you are talking about. When you get here, you may not want to use this material, because they will have already heard some of it. (My text comes from Matthew 9:27-31).

GREAT THOUGHTS!

Josh Ross said...

Good thoughts.

While the heart of the gospel never changes, the methods must always adapt to our surrounding culture. In some areas, we have (and are) adapting well. In other areas, we haven't.

The future of evangelism is going to have to be outside the 4 walls of the church.

The motivation is not converts. The motivation is faithful disciples.

Again, good thoughts.

randy said...

Alas, I don't have any good thoughts about lack of evangelistic zeal but I'm going to share them nonetheless.

1) I don't show or feel the joy in the Lord I should. Spending a lot of energy fighting off my melancholy male personna along with the guilt I should not feel makes it difficult to share. And I'm not the only one.

2) Having a great many things to work out in my own life, I hardly feel confidence in sharing my faith with unbelievers - its difficult enough with fellow believers.

To some extent, rightly or wrongly, I blame both problems largely on trying to work my way outward from enslavement to legalism.

Jeff said...

I have to check my heart and my actions regularly to make sure I'm looking for the opportunities God presents me. I also remind myself that God gives the increase and that I can't get down when those I have shared with don't make a commitment to God.
The "health and wealth" track seems to be a favored choice lately and why wouldn't it be. Satan loves it and makes it look wonderful.
I would love to see our church building full of committed hearts while a building full of pew warmers would be depressing. I rejoice today that our local congregation, while not full, seems to contain a high number of people committed to being disciples, to sharing the Gospel message and to finding ways to reach the lost.

Maybe I'm kidding myself but I'm more encouraged about the group of Christians I worship with and their desire to be servants both inside and outside the church building than I have ever been. Having a dedicated and active group of Elders and a really good preacher simply encourages more.

That said, I love March Madness. I enjoy watching the pure joy of college athletes enjoy their sport and their successes.