Ministering To The World
We live in a beautiful world of sunshine, smiles, and changing seasons. But sometimes we get so used to the beauty around us that we don’t even notice it any more. As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Many times what we do begins with what we see—and how well we see it!
Your eyes are like a camera. Both the eye and the camera have an opening for light to enter, a lens system, and a screen for registering an image of what you see. When your eyes do their job properly, you can appreciate and react to your surroundings. When they don’t, you lose your vision.
So it is with your spiritual eyes. Just like your human eyes, they need to be able to see objects far away as well as nearby. Through your spiritual eyes you must see not only the needs of those nearest you—those within the church—but you must also see the needs of those in the world beyond. The church’s ministry to the world begins with a vision of its spiritual needs.
The Great Commission
The church is a chosen body of people called by God to take the message of salvation to the people of the world. It is a community of God’s people that worships, fellowships, and has a mission to fulfill. This mission is given in the words of Jesus which we call His Great Commission, and which we discussed briefly in Lesson 6: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples” (Matthew 28:19-22).
It is the responsibility of every generation to declare the truths of God in its own time and situation. The unchanging truths of the gospel must be shared with people of every language of the world. It is the task of the church to show the world that the Bible has meaning for our present day.
Go is an active verb, a commandment to action. It signifies the church going out from itself to evangelize the world. To do this is to follow Christ’s example. Christ did not wait for the world to come to Him. His mission was to seek and find those who were lost. These were His words to Zacchaeus, the tax collector: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Christ came to fulfill His Father’s will. He went about doing good, and healing all who were bound by the devil.
Jesus’ ministry on earth was very short—only three years. At the beginning of His ministry He chose 12 men who became His disciples. For three years He carefully taught these disciples how to share the good news of salvation. At the end of the three years, Christ was nailed to the cross by His enemies. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the suffering of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in death’s power. But before Christ returned to heaven, where today He is at the right hand of God, He appeared again to His disciples. To this group of followers, and to all believers who came after them, Christ said, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind” (Mark 16:15). These disciples became the original church. They were given the task of establishing the church.
The gospel of Christ is universal in nature, and the task of the church is also universal. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”
Notice in this Scripture that I have emphasized the words the world and everyone. The gospel goes beyond racial or national boundaries. It is for everyone who believes, regardless of race, color, social, or economic position. The apostle Paul said that the gospel is “God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles” (Romans 1:16).
Unless we have the vision that the gospel is for the whole world, the church cannot fulfill Christ’s commission. As long as there is even one person in the world who does not know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the task of the church continues.
The Believers Response
For I have an obligation to all peoples, to the civilized and to the savage, to the educated and to the ignorant. So then, I am eager to preach the Good News to you also who live in Rome (Romans 1:14-15).
When the apostle Paul wrote these words to the Romans, he was a missionary in Corinth. He had a real concern for Corinth, but his vision was broad enough to include other places as well.
It is natural for us to feel our first responsibility is for those who are closest to us—our family, our neighbors, our friends, our community. But we must have a burden for the total work of God. We must minister to the lost in every part of the world.
We are a people who are in debt. Paul acknowledged this debt, or obligation, and wanted to do something about it. He was willing to discharge, or pay, his debt to the grace of God by taking the gospel message to others.
We must never forget that we are debtors, that we have an obligation. We have been saved by God’s grace.
For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
In seeking to pay our debt to grace, we must respond by going out with the spirit of grace to tell lost men and women in every walk of life of the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting high and exalted on His throne, he saw himself as a man with unclean lips. He saw his own unworthiness, and said, “There is no hope for me! I am doomed” (Isaiah 6:5). But the Lord sent a flaming creature to touch Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar, saying, “Now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7).
Then Isaiah heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?” Isaiah immediately answered, “I will go! Send me!” (See Isaiah 6:1-8).
We, too, are unworthy of the grace of God. But He has included us in His plan of redemption. Now our guilt is gone, and our sins are forgiven, through Christ’s sacrifice. Like Isaiah, we can only respond to the Great Commission with a grateful heart, “I will go! Send me!”
The Specific Task
The Work of Evangelism
Jesus won souls. He called men to Himself, and they heard and answered His call. The multitudes sought Him and heard Him gladly, but He sought individuals, and those individuals sought others and brought them to Him. John the Baptist brought Andrew, and Andrew brought his brother Simon. Christ found Philip who found Nathaniel. This is evangelism.
In the work of evangelism, the believer presents Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to people, so that they have a desire to give their lives to Him. Those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior are then brought into the fellowship of a local church, where they, too, become involved in the world-wide redemptive work of the gospel.
Evangelism for a Growing Church
Evangelism is the communication of the good news of God’s redemptive acts. The purpose of evangelism is that lost men and women can be set free from sin and have new life in Christ. Evangelism is God’s people in action and obtaining spiritual results in faithfulness to God’s command. They proclaim Christ, and persuade unbelievers to become His disciples and responsible members of His universal church.
Every believer has a part in carrying on God’s redemptive purpose for the whole world. Every effort is made to give every person in the world a chance to say yes to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit in Evangelism
After Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to continue God’s redemptive mission to the world. The Holy Spirit was active in the life and ministry of Jesus. Now He is active in the church, giving power for service, and bringing men and women to conviction and repentance.
1. Power for service. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit make it possible to win people to Christ. The secret to winning the lost is not in a particular plan or project, but in the person of the Holy Spirit. Our plans and programs will be effective only if they reflect the will of God and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Christ made it very clear to His disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He made this promise:
But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The book of Acts gives the results of the Holy Spirit’s power in the lives of the disciples. The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to face opposition and win the lost. He changed their lives and gave them the ability to change their world for God.
The Holy Spirit prepares us to be better witnesses, with joyful and successful service. The two important words in the Lord’s promise of Acts 1:8 are power and witness. The baptism of the Holy Spirit transformed (changed) the disciples. They became brave persons. The Holy Spirit also changed the effectiveness of their testimony: there were greater results because they spoke with power.
What does the coming of the Holy Spirit mean to us today? It means that the power of the Holy Spirit is not something special which ended with the early church. Nor is it for a select group of people. Just as salvation is for all who want to receive it, the Holy Spirit and His power are available to all who will receive. Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost to the crowd that had gathered, saying:
For God’s promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the Lord our God calls to himself (Acts 2:39).
From a human point of view, the task of reaching the world for Christ seems impossible. Just as the disciples did, we feel helpless. However, the Lord has promised to be with us. He has sent His Holy Spirit to give us the power to do what He commanded us to do. Since the Day of Pentecost, all Christians have the right to claim the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.
When we live in the power of the Spirit and know His leadership, that in itself is an assurance of joyful and successful service. The Holy Spirit desires to witness through each believer, and through the church as a whole.
2. Preparation of the unbeliever. Not only does the Spirit anoint the words of the believer and give him a powerful witness, but He also works in the heart of the unbeliever, preparing him to receive the message. It is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction of sin to the unbeliever and leads him to repentance.
God in His love and grace has provided everything that is necessary to bring men to Himself. Man has only to make the choice to accept what God has freely offered.
How, then, shall we escape if we pay no attention to such a great salvation? The Lord himself first announced this salvation, and those who heard him proved to us that it is true. At the same time God added his witness to theirs by performing all kinds of miracles and wonders and by distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will (Hebrews 2:3-4).
The Ministry Of Evangelism
The church is the agent of the Holy Spirit. The specific task of the church is to carry out God’s mission—to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.
The word mission comes from the Latin missio which means to send. As we use it the word refers to the Father sending His Son Jesus Christ, and the Son sending the disciples. Both are sent to fulfill God’s redemptive purpose for humanity. Mission is the church’s action on earth. Evangelism is the specific task of mission. The success of the mission of the church to evangelize the world depends on its divine conditions and directions.
Conditions for Evangelism
1. There must first be an attitude of worship. The church is a “spiritual temple” and a “holy priesthood” responsible for the offering of “spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The church is called to serve (or worship) God through its service to those in need. Evangelism is a sacrificial service to God. The church’s mission is an act of worship—indeed, it is probably the greatest expression of worship the church gives to God.
2. The church should also perform a priestly function. In the Old Testament the priest was a mediator (a go-between) between God and man. He represented God to the people, and the people to God. The temple was never without worship, and there was never worship without a sacrificial offering. Now the relationship of the church with Christ, our High Priest, has made the church the “King’s priests” (1 Peter 2:9). We read in Hebrews 9:11-12:
But Christ has already come as the High Priest. . . When Christ went through the tent and entered once and for all into the Most Holy Place, he did not take the blood of goats and bulls to offer as a sacrifice; rather, he took his own blood and obtained eternal salvation for us.
Jesus’ one-time sacrifice of Himself in behalf of all men has made it possible for the church to become His royal priesthood, the mediator between God and men. Now the church represents God to the world, and represents the world before God. Not only do we take God’s message to the unbeliever, but we also have the ministry of intercession (prayer) for the lost, as well as for other members of the body. James 5:13-20 is an inspiring encouragement to the Christian concerning the power of prayer. Read this Scripture, and note especially verses 16, 19, and 20:
So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.
My brothers, if one of you wanders away from the truth and another one brings him back again, remember this: whoever turns a sinner back from his wrong way will save that sinner’s soul from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.
3. The church must have divine power, or enablement, for the task. The disciples were told: “But you must wait in the city [Jerusalem] until the power from above comes down upon you” (Luke 24:49). The apostles and disciples of the Lord were not qualified for testimony and service without power from Him. We have seen that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to give us the power we need to witness. The church today most surely needs the divine help that comes by the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
4. The final condition for evangelism is that of faith. We can have faith in God’s promise that He will bless the speaking forth of His Word. In Isaiah 55:10-11 we read this promise from the Lord:
My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for planting and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak—it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.
The one who proclaims God’s message must have no doubt about the results, knowing full well that “we can trust God to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23).
Directions for Evangelism
The church has been given clear directions for evangelism. First, it must go with authority. The Lord Himself has given the church the authority to go into all the world and tell the good news to everyone. The field is the world, and the good news is for every man.
The church must also go with a purpose. The church’s purpose is to preach the gospel with the intention of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them (Matthew 28:19-20).
Third, the church must go with a message. It has no message of its own, but it is the Lord’s message that the church is to proclaim. The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “do the work of a preacher” (2 Timothy 4:5), “to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it . . . with all patience” (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching correct doctrines, or truths, is necessary for evangelistic success. But what are the doctrines? What should be the content of the church’s message?
1. The church should have a Christ-centered message. Paul gave credit for his success among the Corinthians to the fact that he preached nothing except “Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The simple message of Christ’s death, resurrection, and return should be the heart of the church’s doctrine.
2. The church should have a Bible-centered message. The Word of God is the heart and core of Christian truth. Truth is not invented by man, nor can it be found in him. The Bible is the source of all truth. The Bible can be related to every experience of man and is a guide for every step that we take.
3. The church should have an eternity-centered message. All men must face eternity: “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God” (Hebrews 9:27). All of life is really just a preparation for eternal life. The church’s message must reflect this lasting value of salvation. Titus 2:11-13 reminds us of the eternal value of life in Christ:
For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all mankind. That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world, as we wait for the blessed Day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will appear.
The coming of Christ to the earth brought a new age. His life, death, and resurrection were a direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. The return of Christ, as Lord and King, will also mark a new age. Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead (Acts 3:19-23; 10:42). This is reason enough to call all the people of the world to repentance.
Finally, the church must go with a sense of urgency. Jesus told His disciples, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). When Jesus sent out 70 men to the towns around them, to preach the good news, He told them, “There is a large harvest, but few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he will send out workers to gather in his harvest” (Luke 10:2). Notice that immediately after telling these disciples to pray for workers, His next word to them was “Go!” (Luke 10:3). When we pray for the Lord to send out workers, we should not be surprised if we are the ones he sends! What is to be done must be done very soon. Churches must be established in every nation and among every language group of the world!
How is the church to establish its evangelistic work? Melvin Hodges, a veteran missionary, gives us these four key words which define how to do the work of the Lord: Presence, Proclamation, Persuasion, and Participation.
1. Presence. This means simply that Christians evangelize just by being there. The Christian’s life is a testimony, especially when it is filled with acts of love. The church witnesses to the community through the Christ-like character of its members. What the Christian is speaks louder than what he says. We have already seen that what he is he reveals by his Christian service. His very nature makes it possible for him to minister to others in their need, whatever that need may be.
2. Proclamation. A chief purpose of the Christian mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the divine and only Savior. The gospel must be lived among unbelievers, but it must also be proclaimed. To proclaim means “to herald, to tell forth.” The proclamation centers on the person of Jesus, is directed to the needs of all people, and calls for a decision.
3. Persuasion. The ministry of the church is more than simply communication. The church seeks to persuade, or convince, the unbeliever of God’s message. It calls for a decision—it asks the unbeliever to change his course of life and turn in faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. The church seeks to persuade unbelievers to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
4. Participation. The end result which the church seeks is for men and women to become active participants in the body of Christ. Effective evangelism must lead to change away from wickedness and sin, and toward God and His people. The new convert must become a part of the church. For the new Christian, the church becomes a family where he can have fellowship and communion with other believers.
Once they have become a part of the church, new converts then must be taught to be involved in the spread of the gospel to the world.