I read a book last semester that dealt with the idea of evangelism in the Church. The author is a pastor of a mega-Church and he spoke highly of the idea of 'come and see' evangelism. Basically, this means that evangelism is simply inviting people to Church to see and hear the gospel. Yet, after reading this pastor's arguments I had to ask: is this the best approach to corporate evangelism? As a member is your only responsibility in evangelism simply getting people to 'come and see'? So, then, what is your responsibility in evangelism in the local Church? This is the question we want to ask and answer this morning. Before we begin, I would like to share just a word about my trip to Illinois a week ago. I must confess, I was unbelievably challenged by the boldness of the men we were working with at the University of Illinois. They were so faithful in simply proclaiming the gospel to lost men. Their boldness really forced me to reconsider my commitment to simply speaking the gospel to lost men. Although this morning our focus is evangelism in Community, or corporate evangelism, I still want us to be challenged to speak the gospel to lost men. Hopefully we will flesh this out more as we talk.
III. What is evangelism?
A. We need to begin this morning by simply trying to make sure that we understand what is meant by evangelism in general. For much of the Church, evangelism is misunderstood because conversion is misunderstood. The goal of evangelism is that people would be mature in Christ, not simply to sign a card, walk an aisle, or make a profession (Colossians 1:28-29, Ephesians 4:11-16, Hebrews 3:12-14). For the Church to reduce evangelism to simply getting people to pray the 'sinners prayer' is a great injustice to Christ's call for His disciples to 'make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you' (Matthew 28:18-20). We must guard ourselves from misunderstanding the biblical call to and the biblical definition of evangelism.
B. Thus, evangelism involves making disciples out of lost men by the power of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20). This is what we want to affirm this morning as the biblical definition of evangelism. Again, we must labor to understand biblically what is involved in people coming to Christ. As we have seen from the passages mentioned above, Christianity involves more than a one time 'spiritual experience.' Rather, it is a lifestyle of repentance and faith in the work of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Thus, our evangelism should involve all of the Christian life and not just the beginning.
C. However, this does not mean we are to give up on the idea of people being converted. No, people still need to hear the gospel, be made alive, repent and believe for the first time (Acts 16:25-34). In fact, evangelism, in one sense, cannot occur apart from the speaking of the gospel to lost men that they might repent and believe in Christ (Romans 10:14-17). For this is how the Christian life begins. Yet, we cannot allow our definition of evangelism to lead people to believe that conversion is the end as well as the beginning. No, the call is to make disciples. This definitely begins with conversion (at least for our purposes here) but it does not end until glorification. God really taught me in Illinois the importance of speaking the gospel to lost men. Their only hope is the gospel. We must labor to make disciples by first speaking the gospel to lost men and then laboring with them, through God's grace, for their sanctification. Thus, in the end, we need to expand our idea of evangelism to include all of the Christian life.
IV. What about corporate evangelism?
A. In speaking about corporate evangelism, I want to first look at a couple of passages that deal with this idea. The first passage is one that we have spoken of over and again this semester, namely Acts 2:42-47. As the early Church is involved in the Apostles' teaching, Community, and fellowship, we see the Lord bless it and use it as a means to add to their number those that are being saved. Thus, there is a call to this Community witness that we see in Acts. In the Gospel of John, we get maybe a more clear picture of what is going on in Acts. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Thus, Jesus seems to be communicating that our love for one another will be a witness to the world that we are disciples of Christ. This is seemingly what we see happening in Acts 2. Also, in John 17:20-23, Jesus speaks of our unity as the Body of Christ being a witness to the world that the Father has sent the Son and loves us even as He loves the Son. Thus, we see from these passages that there is a corporate witness to the work of Christ in the lives of believers as they live together in Community.
B. Before we move on to some practical suggestions, I want us to ponder some other considerations in corporate evangelism. First, bearing witness to the whole counsel of God involves a Community effort. We need each other in seeking to communicate the whole gospel message to others. Second, our resources to support missions can be used together (3 John 5-8). As we saw a couple of weeks ago, by supporting this local body, we can partner with many believers all over the world who are seeking share the gospel and make disciples of lost men. One last consideration I want to mention is that we can offer prayer and support for one another (Acts 4:23-31). Again, we need each other. Speaking the gospel to lost men is difficult, indeed, it is a war. Praying for our lost family members can be wearisome. Laboring for others (and for yourself) to understand and obey the Scriptures can be discouraging. Thus, we need to pray for and support one another in these efforts of evangelism.
VI. How do I get involved?
A. I want to close this morning by offering some practical suggestions for getting involved in corporate evangelism (and evangelism in general) here at Cornerstone. First, be intentional about finding ways to labor for one another's sanctification. One example of this has been Lili and Karna's labor in Blair Tritt's life. As people profess Christ in our Community, we need to labor with them and by God's grace for their sanctification. Many college students would love for some of our adults to labor in their lives for sanctification. Likewise, many of our adults would love for college students to labor in their lives for sanctification. Again, we must remind ourselves of the importance of this and we must be intentional as we about trying to labor to this end.
B. Identify people that you know need the gospel and allow the Community to pray for and aid you in sharing the gospel with them. A clear example of this we had last semester in this Sunday school was from Erik Marple. He asked us to pray for him as he was trying to share the gospel with his co-worker. This is also something we try to be intentional about on Sunday evenings when we gather to pray for one another. So be involved in those activities.
C. Labor to maintain unity in the Church. As we saw from John 17 (which is Lee's sermon text this morning), one of the ways that we can corporately bear witness to the gospel is by maintaining unity in our Body. Thus, labor for unity among your brothers and sisters here.
D. Love your brothers and sisters openly, honestly, and practically. This is something that I have discussed with numerous people in the Church. We need to meet each others needs as we can. It is a powerful testimony to our neighbors to see that the Body of Christ labors to provide for each others needs. One word of caution: we must be careful that we do not do this simply to be praised by men (see Matthew 6:1ff).
E. Have fellowships (meals, cook-out's, etc.) with other members and those who need to hear the gospel. Again, this is just a practical way that we can reach out to our neighbors.
F. Finally, I simply cannot encourage you enough to be intentional about speaking the gospel to lost men. None of these suggestions will amount to much if at the end of the day we are not faithful to simply speak the gospel. Again, this is exactly what God challenged me with during my week in Illinois. More than anything, lost men need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ if they are to have any hope. Our great privilege is that we get to proclaim the message of Christ to such men, all the while, trusting that God will call men to Himself through the power of the spoken word. May we indeed labor to this end!!
V. Close in prayer