Enemies of Evangelism 7Note: Today’s post is by Pastor Jeremy Huston. In 2009 he started Foundation Baptist Church in Cary, Illinois, where he and his family serve today. I know him well. I have watched him through good times and bad, and I have a tremendous level of respect for what the Lord is using him to do there.
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” - Hudson Taylor
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
There is a trend today that is plaguing the local church. It is not a new phenomenon, but it is becoming too commonplace in fundamental Baptist churches. This trend is the weakening of our gospel witness: seeking to be attractive churches that draw, rather than churches who reach our communities with the truth.
This trend is an enemy of soulwinning. This perception or idea that our lifestyles and a concerted effort at niceness or friendliness without engaging in confrontational soulwinning will reach more of our society than the preaching of the cross is false.
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
A needed admonishment to us as Christians is to remember that though it is not the antithesis of our purpose to feed the world, or clothe the world, or bring healing and medicine to the world; our main objective is to introduce the world to the Bread of Life, to the One who robes His people in righteousness, and the Great Physician who heals by His stripes. And we simply cannot do that without sharing Christ crucified.
There is a danger of trying to have so much tact that we miss contact.
Soulwinning is a declaration of the gospel. It is a confrontation of sin; a refutation of religion. It is the articulation of the wickedness of man and the need of justification made possible by the righteousness of God.
Outreach is not the gathering together of people to clean up the community or operating a food pantry. Although community service can be a demonstration of love or an opportunity to let others know that our church exists, it is not effective in declaring enough truth that one could understand the gospel.
Is there a time and place for meeting needs? For feeding people? For changing oil for single moms? For cleaning up the park? For sponsoring youth sports or putting our churches’ names on or in sports programs? Sure, we can use these as opportunities to introduce our churches to our communities and let them know we exist to minister to them. But none of those service opportunities can replace the verbal declaration of the gospel.
We have become professional marketers rather than personal messengers. We sometimes think that putting a gospel message on our churches' websites and putting QR codes on signs or cards that lead people to our web page, somehow eliminates our obligation of going out and preaching the gospel to every creature.
Our focus too often has shifted from an emphasis on sharing the gospel to a desire of filling the pew.
Somewhere along the way it seems we have decided that we need to somehow soften hell in order to sweeten heaven.
Am I against trying to soften the ground before we throw in the seed? No. But I am afraid that we are trying to make something that is foolishness to the natural man (the preaching of the cross) palatable and have become satisfied with half-hearted and insufficient attempts to create awareness of God. And a seed that is not planted has no opportunity to take root and cannot bear fruit. If you and I do not share the gospel, people will not get saved.
Soulwinning is preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is the declaration of truth. It requires not just an opening of our hearts, and an opening of our hands, but an opening of our lips.
Love demonstrated is not the same thing as the gospel declared. Though Paul helped people, gladly spending and being spent, he boldly declared the gospel everywhere he went.
What is outreach? Is it just letting people know that a church exists and meeting physical, financial, or emotional needs? Or is it confronting people with the scriptural facts of a never-dying soul in need of an exclusive Saviour?
Are we yielding our ears to the post-modern evangelical world? Are we more concerned with church growth than the population of Heaven? Are we capitulating to societal pressures rather than obedience to the Great Commission?
If we care about the Great Commandment of loving God above all else and loving our neighbors as ourselves, then the Great Commission is to be the focus of our churches. We must speak the truth in love. Truth without love is brutal but love without truth is futile.
One thing that I believe has led to this damaging trend is that we have tried to equate and portray a church as a “community of believers.”
There is a difference between a church and a community. I agree that a church is not a building or a system of belief, but a grouping or assembling of people. I also agree that we are not to just carry out the business of the church within our four walls, but out in our society. Though people that live in a community make up the local church, its head is Christ. It is His body to fulfill His spiritual work in the earth in His stead. Christ dictates what a church does. A church is more than a group of people gathered together and committed to a cause, which is what a community organization does. There are plenty of organizations that do good deeds. But the church is the body and bride of Christ - it accomplishes His work. And His work is a spiritual work; it is only able to be done as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
A community is governed by the people. It is man-centered. But the biblical church is centered on Christ. We must not turn the Lord’s churches into community organizations.
This restructuring of the biblical description of “church” to the term “community” is to me a description of what Jesus said of the church of Laodicea. In Revelation 3:20 this church of the people had become so focused on their prosperity and popularity that Christ himself was portrayed as standing outside of the church door knocking and asking them to let Him come in and sup with them. I believe that our modern churches often mirror this church that had become a community organization centered on their own desires rather than remembering that the purpose of a church is to be subject unto Christ and carry out His work as His ambassadors.
So, what must be done to return our churches to an emphasis on biblical soul-warning and soul-winning and to avoid the temptation to slip to a seemingly convenient social gospel approach?
It is to see what soulwinning is:
- Soulwinning is Confrontation: our purpose in soulwinning is to make contact with every creature possible and to present the truth of man’s sinful condition and his need of the Saviour.
- Soulwinning is Expectation: not on us to be effective at building a church, but on God to build His church. We are not to be pragmatic in our approach to ministry. Though we should go on outreach believing that God will use us to see souls saved, our desired outcome in outreach is to be obedient to the command of God, to go and seek only the glory of God and the salvation of souls to populate heaven, not just the desire that our churches be filled. God uses us as his mouthpieces to declare the gospel and to tell people of Christ, but He will build His own church! When we tell people about the Lord, God can and will bring people to our churches, and quite often they aren’t even ones with to whom we have personally talked.
- Soulwinning is Articulation: faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. If we are not declaring the gospel in our community, we are not giving our society what they need to believe. If they do not believe, they will not call. They cannot believe and call if they have not heard the truth.
Preaching precedes hearing which provides faith.
Though we must have a Light to shine and a Love to show we must also have a Lesson to share.
If I treat someone with kindness, and do good deeds for them, does that fulfill the Great Commission and exclude me from my responsibility to preach Christ to them? If I help to bring physical healing to people in my area, but never offer them the balm of Gilead, how much have I helped them? If I meet a financial need for a family but never introduce them to the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, have I truly been a good witness?
We must not swallow the lies of the devil and try to conform to political correctness, if we will see God accomplish a spiritual work through us. Those who die without believing in the gospel of Christ spend an eternity separated from God in hell. If I believe that and do not declare unto them the truth of their need for Christ, then I am not walking charitably toward them no matter how nice I am trying to be.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
1 Corinthians 1:21-24
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
God uses the foolishness of preaching. We cannot do better than God’s way.
“As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.”
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”