“Evangelism is of highest priority since knowledge of Christ is the deciding factor for eternity, and all other ministry proceeds from its fruit.”
I can’t do everything. There simply is not enough time. Plus, let me confess, that I don’t have the resources of energy and or will to do all the things I know I should do. Some activities do, strangely enough, seem to get wedged into even my busiest days. For example, it may be tough but somehow, I find time to eat and sleep. We all need priorities.
“…knowledge of Christ is the deciding factor for eternity.” I know this is true. It is not good works or good intentions that determine eternal destiny. It is knowing Jesus Christ as personal savior. No exceptions. Final consequences.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20: 14&15 NIV)
And the other part of our statement is accurate: “all other ministry proceeds from its fruit.” If you are not born again, to life in the kingdom of God, then there is no basis for the joy and challenges of spiritual life, growth, or service.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8-10 NIV)
As John Nyquist reminded us in a seminar on evangelism a few years ago, coming to Christ is a call beyond ourselves – “it is not just making a decision having to do with our own personal destiny. It is the decision to join a family, to be a part of the family of God.”
OK, hard to disagree with those two truths, but personally I find the challenge in our Core Value statement to be in that first bit, about maintaining this commitment as “highest priority.” Aye, there is the rub. To keep this priority, first, I need to recognize that my priorities flow directly from what motivates me. God has made us human beings capable of accomplishing heroic works on monumental scales when we are powerfully motivated. And in the scriptures we find there are powerful forces waiting to motivate us.
WARNING: The words used in scripture in association with our motivation for evangelism are strong to severe and if misunderstood will only bring feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Watch out for these kinds of dangerous words and ideas: Compulsion, control, woe, opportunism, fear, suffering, weakness, begging, slavery, endurance of imprisonment, etc…
For example notice in this passage how Paul expresses his motivation for evangelism.
Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me… Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1Co. 9:16, 17 &19 NIV)
Several observations can be made from this statement. Paul is not self motivated, he is compelled, thrown forward by forces not of his own making. Paul doesn’t say in this passage what it is that compels him, but there are other places where he spells out for us the two truths that drive him. There is also a clear sense of duty, of a stewardship to fulfill. There is an unabashed goal of conversions – “to win as many as possible.” So let’s look at these four motivators, two emotions, a trust and a goal.
1. THE FEAR OF GOD
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (2 Co. 5:10 & 11 NIV)
Our final developmental review comes from the all knowing Sovereign of the Universe. He will bring us forward and test our work with fire. When the smoke clears will there be splendor or cinders? What will I have, after the refining, to offer Him? A crown and jewels or a golden BB?
2. THE LOVE OF GOD
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2Co. 5:14 & 15 NIV)
We love because he first loved us. If we love him, we will obey his commandments. In the same chapter of the same letter where Paul mentions the fear of the Lord, he now expresses how Christ’s unconditional love claims us for his service. How can we squander our lives on lesser goals or embrace unworthy lovers when Jesus the Christ loved us to his death? My heart is no longer my own, God’s love flows through it to others.
3. A TRUST – an Ambassador of Christ
All this is from God, who reconciled US to himself through Christ and gave US the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to US the message of reconciliation. WE are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through US. WE implore (beg) you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2Cor. 5:18 – 20 NIV)
You will notice that I have capitalized the plural pronouns to draw your attention. This is a job description for ALL believers, not just for “evangelists.” There is a “one to one” correspondence. If you are reconciled, you have this ministry – an impassioned plea to avoid judgment. It is a trust only given to US. Can you imagine, really that God has entrusted us with this task? I am tempted to ask, “Lord, What is plan – B?” “Who are the back-up ambassadors?”
4. A GOAL – winning lost people
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1Co. 9:22 &23 NIV)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. (2Ti. 2:8 -10 NIV)
Do you see here that merely discharging a duty is not what Paul has in mind? There is a goal here of seeing results. There is a sense of urgency. There is a drive growing from the tragic reality of the fate of those who are lost. There is earnest longing for others to know God’s blessing and eternal glory. In fact we are probably very uncomfortable with Paul’s statements: “by all possible means I might save some” or “I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” Isn’t Paul taking this work a little too personally?
MAKING THE MOST…
I can’t do everything. There simply is not enough time. But, let me confess, that I have in God the resources of energy and motivation of will to do all the things I know I should do. Let me hunger for and never tire of Godly fear, love, duty and goals. We all need priorities.
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at he same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (Col. 4:2-6 NASB)