Personal Evangelism – A Matter Of Eternal Life… & Death!
A few years ago, brother Phil Sanders of In Search of the Lord’s Way (http://www.searchtv.org), wrote the following in their monthly newsletter: “The churches of Christ have declined in recent years. We are losing more than 8,000 members and about 50 churches every year… As you can see, we have much to do to take the gospel to the lost. The world has always been worldly and deceived by false religion. We must do all we can to preach the truth in love, so that by all means we might save some.” Such congregational graying, shrinkage, losses and spiritual fatalities certainly come as no surprise to most of us.
The Waldron Newsletter (Vol. 49; #8) for Aug. 2015 also confirmed: “According to the 2015 edition of Churches of Christ In The United States, there were 13,155 congregations in 2003, w/1,656,495 adherents.” It then went on to report how, over the next dozen years, the Lord’s church experienced a 6.5% overall loss in the number of congregations, and an 8.3% overall drop in the number of adherents (or 136,800 precious and priceless souls lost) over that same twelve year time period.
But perhaps the most stunning point of that entire article was the revelation that, “Thirty five years ago, we and the Mormons were about the same size…” But while we stood at approximately 1.5 million members (when that article was written in 2015), Waldron reported that “they are four times as large as we” – with a whopping, reported, 6.2 million members at that same time! How does that even happen?!? Especially when so many of their doctrines are so far askew from anything even vaguely resembling biblical truth as to be absolutely ridiculous in the first place?!? The answer (according to Waldron), was that they grew like that “…because of leg work, the riding of bicycles and the pounding of pavements.” In other words, because of each individual member, doing their own individual part, in personally spreading their message. So why don’t we, who speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11) and who claim to proclaim the ‘book, chapter, and verse’ gospel truth as our only message (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Jude 3), make an even more diligent, devoted, personal and individual effort to share that daily?
Perhaps It Is Because We Choose To Fool Ourselves When It Comes To The How And Who Of Personal Evangelism: Contrary to popular opinion, simply inviting someone to church (presumably so that the paid ‘professional’ preacher can then take over and do all the necessary teaching) is not really engaging in personal evangelism by any biblical stretch or definition. The fact is that you can search from one end of the New Testament to the other, and you will never once, ever find, where any Christian ever invited any lost soul to the worship assembly of the church so that they might possibly be converted – ever. Just like the so-called ‘Sinner’s Prayer for Salvation,’ it simply isn’t there anywhere in the Scriptures. (And so the question is, if we don’t believe in the ‘Sinner’s Prayer for Salvation’ simply because it is never found in the Scriptures anywhere, then how can we possibly insist on such a pattern for evangelism as inviting lost people to church to be converted when that isn’t ever even found once therein either?)
But the first-century church, despite no member ever being recorded as having invited any lost soul to the worship assembly of the church so that they could be taught and converted, and despite epic life and death persecution on a scale which we cannot even scarcely begin to imagine, still grew like wildfire! How on earth did they do it? What is the divinely-inspired blueprint and biblical pattern for achieving such? Well here it is:
1. When we read Acts 3:1-4:4, we see that Peter did not invite the intrigued masses to church the following Sunday to hear the word of God, but took full advantage of, and seized the moment to teach them the truth of the gospel right then and there on the spot… and church growth exploded!
2. When we read Acts 5:42-6:2, we see that lost sinners were not being invited to church to be converted, but were receiving life and soul saving instruction from the word of God right there on the spot, daily… and church growth exploded!
3. When we read Acts 7:58-8:12 and 11:19-26, we note that it was not the ‘professional’ preachers (the apostles) who were scattered by the persecution and yet still preached the word everywhere they went, but everyday Christians like you and I… and church growth exploded!
4. And whether we talk about Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40); Peter in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48); or the Apostle Paul with Lydia (Acts 16:10-15), the jailor (Acts 16:25-34), or Crispus the synagogue ruler (Acts 18:4-11), we see the same, exact, distinct pattern of evangelism and conversions: No one was ever invited to church the next Sunday to hear the word, but were taught by individual members, right then and there on the spot …and the number of conversions and church growth exploded!
The way in which we often choose to fool ourselves when it comes to who is actually responsible for evangelism, is that seeing as how we put money in the plate to support the evangelist, we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are thereby, somehow totally relieved of our personal responsibility to go and make disciples, as it now all falls to him and the rest of the congregational leadership. WRONG! All Christians – including the elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, newly-converted and pew-warmers alike – all legitimately share the same exact amount of responsibility when it comes to personal evangelism. And while it is true that those in leadership do have one added responsibility when it comes to evangelism, alleviating and taking over each of the other member’s individual responsibility for personally evangelizing is certainly not it! What it is instead, is to make sure they, as the God-given leadership in each congregation, equip each individual saint therein, so that they can then best and most efficiently do their part in contributing to the growth of the congregation (See & study: Ephesians 4:11-16)! Part of the purpose for congregational bible study and the worship assembly of the church is to continually help to equip, empower, energize and encourage the saints to go out and seek and save the lost – not to be the time and place where the lost are invited to come in order to be converted!
This is the eternally-settled, divinely-inspired, biblical pattern, for effective everyday evangelism. Individual, on the spot, personal evangelism is as much a part of the divine pattern for church growth, as individual, on the spot baptism is a vital part of the divine pattern for salvation. The bottom line is simply this: If we want the church to grow now, anywhere near like it grew back then, then we must do what they did then. We Must Stop Simply Inviting People To Church; And Instead, Start Instantly & Individually, Involving Them In An In-Depth Investigation Of The Scriptures With Us Personally, On The Spot, At Every Opportunity! This is how they managed to accomplish such magnificent, astounding, and outstanding evangelistic results in the first century. Each and every member of the church talking about Jesus and teaching the gospel to anyone and everyone they could get to listen to their message! And doing so with a divine sense of love and urgency – in the streets, in the marketplaces, in the prisons, in private homes, from house to house, and on the banks of the rivers, etc. – constantly, consistently, continually, and individually! And it wasn’t just the apostles or ‘professionals.’ It was every saved and grateful member with a mouth and a heart after God who wanted to go to heaven and take others with them! Let’s all join them each and every one and turn this thing around in our generation! Personal Evangelism Is Indeed: A Matter Of Eternal Life & Death!
If you or the individual Christians in the congregation you serve need to perhaps become better equipped to conduct effective everyday evangelism, please consider the book, Effective Everyday Evangelism. See reviews, page samples, and ordering information by clicking on: