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Making Evangelism a Priority

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In his book Let the Nations Be Glad!, John Piper tells the story of Joseph, a Maasai warrior who found Jesus Christ one day on a hot, dusty African road. As Joseph was walking along, someone shared the gospel with him. Then and there, he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

The power of the Holy Spirit began immediately transforming Joseph’s life. Filled with excitement and joy, he wanted to share the transforming power of Jesus Christ with the people in his village. Joseph began going door to door, telling everyone the message of salvation and expecting them to receive it with the same excitement he had.

To his shock, the villagers reacted violently to his message. The men seized Joseph and held him to the ground, while the women beat him mercilessly with strands of barbed wire.

They dragged Joseph out of the village and left him for dead in the bush. After days of passing in and out of consciousness, he found the strength to go back, determined to again share Jesus Christ with his fellow villagers. Once again, they beat Joseph, dragged him unconscious from the village, and left him to die.

Days later, Joseph awoke in the bush, bruised and scarred but still determined to go back. When he returned to the village, they attacked Joseph before he could say anything. As they were beating him for the third time, all he could say was “Jesus Christ is the Lord.”

Before he passed out, he saw the women who were beating him begin to weep. When he awoke in his own bed, the ones who had beaten him were now trying to save his life and nurse him back to health. Because of Joseph’s witness and determination, the whole village came to Christ.

Sharing the gospel isn’t just for those in foreign countries. For the past two years the Church of God (Seventh Day) has made evangelism one of our top priorities through personal witnessing. Our mission is to help lost people change their destiny from eternal death to eternal life no matter what it takes or no matter what we face.

Jesus’ command

In Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus gives the church His Great Commission, also called the Great Command:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In this commission, Jesus commands us to do four things: 1) Go. As we go through life, we are to 2) make disciples. We are to share our faith and help people find Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them and through us. 3) Baptize them. Bring them into the body of Christ through baptism, an outward symbol of their inward change. 4) Teach them to observe Jesus’ commands — to mentor new Christians. We are to help them grow in their relationship with Christ and help them become self-feeding Christians. We must also teach them how to have a daily walk with God and Christ and how to pray, read, study, and apply the Word of God to everyday life.

Jesus gives us a promise in the Great Commission, that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age as we fulfill this command. He gave it to us because it was His top priority and mission, the reason He came to this earth: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV). This is why He came to earth. He came to bring lost people into a saving relationship with Himself and God.

Jesus’ message

When Jesus began to preach, His first message was a command to repent: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17, NIV). Throughout Jesus’ ministry, His message never deviated. Several texts in the Gospels tell us that Jesus went throughout the region teaching and preaching the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14). His singleness of vision was to reach lost people, and His primary message was about salvation. Jesus never lost sight of His purpose for coming: to seek and save the lost.

Disturbing statistics

Evangelism needs to be a priority to every believer who is a part of the body of Christ. In an online article titled “Understanding Ex-Christian America” (Public Discourse: The Journal of the Witherspoon Institute, April 12, 2023), Professor Stephen Bullivant defines nonverts as those Christians who have walked away from their faith. In addition, Bullivant estimates that there are 59 million “nones” (atheists, agnostics, etc.) in the US, and that number is increasing.

In an Internet article “At What Age Do Americans Become Christian?” Southern Nazarene University quotes a survey by the International Bible Society. It indicates that 83 percent of Christians make first-time commitments to Christ between ages 4 and 14. This implies that sometime after their first commitment, those children stray away. Perhaps part of the problem is little to no discipleship/mentoring taking place in churches to help influence these children to stay committed to Christ.

Southern Nazarene University also quotes a study by the Barna Research Group that discovered a probability rate of accepting Christ. It found that children between ages 5 and 13 have a 32 percent probability of accepting Christ. As children grow older, that probability rate drops dramatically. Youth or teens between ages 14 and 18 have only a 14 percent probability rate of becoming a Christian. Unbelieving adults 19 years of age and older have just a 6 percent probability of becoming believers.

Church’s mission

This helps us see the urgency of presenting the gospel to all ages. But we can’t stop there. Once we reach people for Christ, we need to make disciples of them. In other words, we need to have a mentoring process that helps these new converts establish their relationship with Christ and become self-feeding Christians.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Paul calls Christians “ambassadors for Christ” and says that God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation, bringing lost people back into a relationship with God. He intended for the church to be the conduit through which the gospel would go to the world. The church is not buildings, hymn books, or doctrinal beliefs. The church is composed of people who are committed to Christ.

For us to be ambassadors for Christ and be involved in the ministry of reconciliation, we must share Jesus whenever we can. Our society’s rejection of biblical values, increasing violence, growing despondency, and increase in suicides among young people should make us realize how much people need Jesus. He is coming back, and people without Him are lost for all eternity.

Jesus’ emphasis

In Luke 14:15-23, Jesus tells a story of a man who was preparing a great banquet and invited several guests to come. He sent an invitation to those originally invited, but they all had excuses why they could not come. The second invitation went to the disadvantaged, the street and alley people who were poor, crippled, blind, and lame. They came, but there was still room at the banquet for more people.

The third invitation was sent to anyone whom the servants could get to come: “Compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (v. 23, NIV). The word compel indicates Jesus’ sense of urgency in wanting to see lost people saved.

Jesus wants us to have that same sense of urgency as Joseph had in his village. It will compel us to go out into our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, families, and friends and share the message of salvation. If we don’t feel an urgency, let’s ask God to develop in us a burning desire to see lost people saved and motivate us to action. Let’s pray that God will give us divine opportunities and divine appointments to share our faith with anyone who will listen. In these settings, we can share Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.

Michael D. Vlad
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