“The Church did not develop its creed and literature and then, one day, with everything neatly packaged and ready, begin to evangelize. Rather… members of the early Church began to “make disciples”. Through that process they developed a creed and literature…”
– Reclaiming the Great Commission, C. Payne & H. Beazley
Keeping the main thing the main thing… it can be so much more difficult than it sounds. How easily we get caught up in “churchianity”. For the average person in the pew, it’s usually pride in one’s own church and/or denomination. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with being very happy and thankful to be part of a wonderful church or fellowship group. But how often have you heard people say “well I’m Presbyterian…” or “well I’m Charismatic…” or “well I’m Catholic…” as if all other options are second-rate?
(“Well I follow Paul…”
“Well I follow Apollos…”)
And if you’re in ‘professional’ ministry, whether ordained or lay or in seminary, it gets even worse. The pressure to declare your colors and choose a ‘camp’ can be intense.
I’m going to lay down a challenge for myself here: I’d like to see how long I can be in seminary, taking active part in the lectures and discussions, before I either get pigeonholed or lose my cool and declare a camp (even if only temporarily). I want to say, I want to always say, “well I follow Jesus”.
Because that’s what the early church did. They didn’t come up with dogmas and creeds and denominations and councils, good as those things can be sometimes. (And now that we have them, we need to remember they are servants of the mission, not ends in themselves.)
Members of the early church just told everyone they met about Jesus, this amazing son of God who was executed on trumped-up charges and three days later walked out of the grave alive. They were crazy about Him. They wouldn’t shut up about Him. Not even if it meant being executed themselves.
The message of evangelism: Jesus Christ. The process of evangelism: word and deed. The reasons for evangelism: because of the resurrection; because we love Him; because He loves us; out of joy and gratitude for what He has done; and so we don’t miss an opportunity to move in and with the Spirit in helping bring new life.
“It is a critical mistake to… think that evangelism is a child of the church. The Church is the child of evangelism.” (ibid)