Evangelism is a part of Great Commandment
Don and Diane Combs are serving through the International Mission Board as Southern Baptist missionaries to Kazakhstan (pronounced… you should feel free to pronounce that any way you want to?). Don and Diane were friends to Myra and me when we were in our first pastorate and our children are similar in age. Don and I were classmates at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and we were both pastors in the Concord Baptist Association. I was blessed to serve the Friendship Baptist Church just outside of California. Don was pastor to the Tipton First Baptist Church.
Don was new to Tipton and he and his daughter, Jessica, were exploring the community when they found the Tipton City Park. As they entered the park, Jessica asked her Dad, “Why can’t there be evangelism in the park?” Don, of course, was perplexed by the question until Jessica showed him a sign at the entrance to the park. She said, “Right there, it says evangelism prohibited.”
Many of us also, have been misreading the signs.
We see a society that is on a downhill slide. Our culture has descended into the deep pit of shameful immorality. Some people look at that sign and assume that modern society is too far gone to be saved. Too many of us look at the scars of sin on our society and see a sign that says “Evangelism Prohibited.” But we are misreading the sign. We have not gone further down that slope than did Sodom and Gomorrah. And you remember, do you not, that the Lord committed to Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if Abraham could find just ten righteous people in that city. Just ten. That’s all. Ten righteous people would have been enough to save Sodom. Are there not ten Missouri Baptists willing to fully follow the Lord? If so, there is hope for our land.
We also see a society that seems to be totally wrapped up in itself. Too many in our society have created their own god or they claim to be gods. They talk about God. They believe in God. But their God is a god of their own creation. And too many Christians today look at an idolatrous society and see a sign that says Evangelism Prohibited. But we are misreading the sign. We are not more idolatrous than was Israel over and over again. Yet, God forgave their idolatry and made Himself known to the nations of the world through Israel. I am convinced that God is ready, willing and fully able to make Himself known to the world through Missouri Baptists.
As well, we see a society filled with humanistic, atheistic philosophies. Many people look at that sign and assume that the world is not at all interested in hearing about God? There is a lot of spiritual talk today, but not a lot of genuine God talk. But too many of us look at those circumstances and see a sign that says Evangelism Prohibited. But we are misreading the sign. The truth is there is more “spiritual talk” going on today than ever before. Not since the Apostle Paul spoke to the crowd on Mars Hill have we seen so much baseless, religious talk. People are talking. They are debating. They are asking questions. We need are some modern day Apostle Paul-like Christian’s willing to point people to the unknown God.
The nature and outcome of evangelism was the focus of the 2008 Missouri Baptist Convention Evangelism Conference. The theme, Restoring Passion… Reducing Lostness pointed conference participants to the Great Commandment. Sermon after sermon and song after song challenged Missouri Baptists to “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the Great Commandment. One conference speaker went so far as to encourage Missouri Baptists to simply bless the people we encounter. Become “blessing people” he said. He gave us several examples of the way that opportunities to share Christ will emerge from “blessing” conservations. The speaker encouraged us all to be aware of situations in which people are in some sort of distress, and to simply ask the question “Can I pray and ask God to bless you?” “I want to pray for you.” “What kind of blessing do you need today?” And may I say that if every Missouri Baptist would follow the Great Commandment, and I few would repeatedly ask people about their needs, and if we would continually pray for those people and follow up on our initial visit; I am sure that we would see more people come to Christ and the number of baptisms in our Missouri Baptist churches would rise even above the 13,000-plus goal Gary Taylor gave us.
But only when conformity to the Great Commandment is followed by compliance to the Great Commission. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations”.
It’s not enough to be blessing people. It’s not enough to simply follow the Great Commandment. We must be equally committed to the Great Commission. The baptismal rate in our Missouri Baptist churches will not be turned upward until “blessing people” also become “witnessing people.” Yes. We must love our Lord. And we have to demonstrate that love by loving people. And we ought to point people in the right direction by the way we live and love. But we also have been commanded to tell people, specifically and clearly, how to be forgiven and saved.
Blessing people begins the discussion. Verbally sharing the plan of salvation settles the matter. Blessing people increases their morale and improves their circumstances in the here and now. Speaking plainly and specifically concerning the forgiveness and salvation of Jesus Christ offers people the opportunity to spend the hereafter with Him.
Evangelism is not out of style or outdated. It is, in fact, in vogue for Christians who are committed to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is not old fashioned or outdated. It is, in fact, up to date and fully relevant for generations of people desperately in need of a Savior. Evangelism is not prohibited. It is, rather, commanded.