We are working through an article by Scott Thomas on replanting an existing church, that is, renewing a church so that it grows and matures as a church plant does.
Following a consideration of worship in the replanted church, Scott urges us to —
- Who can you reach immediately?
- What attitudes toward evangelism need to change?
- Where or how could you boldly make an impact with the gospel?
- What steps of faith need to be taken to reach the unchurched and the unsaved?
- How could your youth evangelize?
- How could households evangelize together?
- What worldwide impact could you make as a body (i.e. foreign missions)?
- How are you going to be an eternal value to your community?
Evangelism is tough for everyone. We are all struggling with how to get our members to be more effective evangelists. What about a replant would change that?
Have you ever noticed how very little Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers say about evangelism? You’d think that Romans should have ended with a long motivational speech on evangelism and the lost condition of the readers’ friends. It doesn’t. It talks about unity. There are certainly passages here and there, but not much. There’s much, much more about every day life as a Christian and much, much more about concern for the poor and needy. And there are entire books on unity. Ponder that one.
When you look very closely, you find some of the evangelism passages deep in passages dealing with good works.
(1 Pet 2:11-12) Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Did you catch it? Peter doesn’t say, “Knock on your neighbors’ doors” or “Here’s a tract to pass out.” He says that if we live sufficiently “good lives” and do “good deeds” they will “glorify God on the day he visits us.” Well, that means the pagans will have been saved — by virtue of the lives we lead and the good deeds we do.
(Mat 5:13-16) “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Notice verse 16. It’s obviously parallel: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” This is much like —
(1 Cor 14:24-25) But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
— which we considered in the last post. Christians are to live in such a way that unbelievers prostrate themselves and give honor to our God — and believe.
(Eph 4:11-16) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Notice the logical flow of this passage. Leaders in church equip the members for “works of service.” This builds up the body and leads to unity and maturity. This avoids doctrinal fighting. “Instead, speaking the truth in love” we mature into Christ — and the body grows. Hmmm…
“Truth” in Ephesians, and throughout the New Testament, generally refers to the gospel, the truth about Jesus (Eph 1:15; 4:21). Therefore, “speaking the truth in love” is speaking the gospel of Jesus in love. No wonder Paul expect that this vision of the church will result in a growing body!
And so, while we also see the powerful missionary activities of the apostles as examples we should follow, and we see the Christians in Acts converting their neighbors, one important part of God’s vision for evangelism is that his congregations have such love for their neighbors that they sacrificially serve them and, as a result, they draw the lost to Jesus.
This is not the only kind of scriptural evangelism, but it’s an indispensable element of evangelism. You see, to draw people to Jesus, we have to be like Jesus. And it’s not enough to have a like-Jesus-program. It has to be deep in our DNA. It has to be who we are. We have to be people of compassion — not people with a compassion ministry.