You’ve heard them, I’m sure. Some well-intentioned but thoughtless man of God stands before a gathering of the Lord’s people and in urging us to evangelize our communities will overstate the case.
“Jesus told us to become fishers of men! He did not tell us to be keepers of the aquarium!”
Invariably, especially if the audience is made up almost exclusively of preachers, the statement will be met with a chorus of ‘amen’s.’
The only problem with that is while it sounds good, it is not so.
Jesus did not send His disciples just to reach lost sheep–He certainly did that–but commanded that we are to “feed my sheep.” In John 20, He gave that command to Simon Peter three times.
In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the pastors of Ephesus that they are to “shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”
And here’s another one, the one that set me off this morning.
In trying to motivate church members to get into the community with the gospel, the WIBT preacher* will say, “The Bible in no places commands the people of the world to come to church. It does, however, command us to go into all the world with the gospel.” (*Well-intentioned but thoughtless)
That’s so true, it’s almost totally true. But it lacks something critical.
Think of all the parables Jesus told in which the king or a father instructs his servants to go into the highways and hedges and “bring them in.” If that is not a word for the servants of Jesus, it is meaningless.
When we go to outsiders with the love of the Lord and the word of the gospel, we are to “bring them in.” And yes, we are aware the meaning is to bring them into the Kingdom.
In many cases, to bring someone into the Kingdom may involve bringing them into the church first. My own father is one who was reached as a result of going to church to meet other young people his own age.
The legalist in our midst will argue that there is no point in their coming to church until they are saved. We respond that experience has shown repeatedly that bringing an unsaved person into the fellowship of Christian people is one of the most effective methods of reaching him/her for salvation.
Question: How many techniques does the Holy Spirit have for reaching the lost?
Answer: As many as there are grains of sand on the seashore.
Does the Lord use soulwinners who go armed with the knowledge of the Word and a learned technique of witnessing? Absolutely. Does He use mass crusades? Clearly. Does He use the college student who opens a booklet and shares with a friend step-by-step how to be saved? Thankfully, He does.
Does He use radio or television preachers? No doubt. How about little old ladies in tennis shoes who teach children with flannelgraphs in back yards? That too. How about a strategic cartoon or even humorous article in a magazine?
There is no limit to the Lord’s methods.
So, let’s quit putting limits on them.
Let’s stop burdening God’s people by telling them unless they are going out into the community with memorized plans of soulwinning, they are disobedient and failures.
It is not so.
God often chooses to use something as simple as one friend telling another friend that “I think you would love our church.”
God has used something as elementary as a teenage girl saying to her beau, “I’d like you to come to church with me.”
God has used family problems to get people to the minister for counseling and He has led them to Christ.
God has used child-behavior problems to get parents to the minister for help, and willing to try anything, they start coming to church and soon come to faith in Christ.
Let’s quit discouraging God’s people from being light and salt.
Let’s stop telling them unless they do it a certain way, they might as well not do it at all.
They have believed us and have gone silent.
I keep hearing what our Lord said of the Pharisees of His day: They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers (Matthew 23:4).
Let’s stop scaring God’s people into believing if they don’t present the entire scope of salvation at one time and call for a decision, they’re failures.
We have so frightened the people of the Lord about soulwinning that they are afraid to bear a simple witness or to present a sack of groceries unless they also give a sermon along with it.
Meanwhile, our communities are filled with families and individuals who would love to come with us to church. They know there must be something better than what they have found, but assume by our silence about Jesus and the church where we attend that whatever it is they lack, we haven’t found it either.
I’ve heard preachers harangue their congregations with, “Sometimes silence isn’t golden; sometimes it’s yellow.”
The problem, I submit, is not that our people are cowards. It’s that they have been convinced by our preachers that their simple invitation to church does not count as witnessing and will not accomplish anything. I blush to rebuke these godly men whom I love dearly and count myself as one.
When Bill told a fellow carpenter that he had a hunger in his heart–which is precisely how this 30-year-old described it–his co-worker may not have known how to lead him to Christ. But he did something every bit as effective.
He took Bill to church.**
The fellow carpenter said, “Bill, come go to church with me Sunday.” And that’s how Bill came to hear the gospel and step forward during the invitation and come to faith in Jesus.
**(The remarkable thing about this is how it happened. The friend said, “Bill, come go to church with me.” Bill said, “How do I do that?” The friend was not sure he was hearing right. “How do you do that? You drive down to the church, park your car and walk right in and take a seat.” Bill said, “You mean just anyone can walk into a church?” The friend said, “Yes! Just anyone.” And that’s how it happened that Bill came to church, and for the first time in his life heard the gospel and stepped forward to be saved.)
By all means, bring your friend to Jesus.
And if you can’t bring him or her to Jesus by yourself, then bring them to church and let us help. (In the early verses of Mark 2, it took four men to get one fellow to Jesus.)