We have, for the most part, forgotten how to make disciples.
In our fast paced, instant gratification society, we have become impatient. The element of speed is such an intrinsic part of our society that everything we do must be done in a hurry. We tend to put off anything that can’t be done immediately, like making disciples. Actually reaching out and changing someone’s life is a time consuming process.
We have fed ourselves the lie that we can more successfully evangelize the world using our own human machinery: church programs, formulaic phrases, campaigns, and pamphlets.
As we place more and more emphasis on our human ingenuity, we forget the most important principle of all: disciples make disciples. “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2, ESV). This process works – and it’s simple! Yet, who’s using it?
Let’s say your congregation has 100 adult members, and each decides to convert just one soul to Christ in the coming year. In 12 month’s time, is it impossible for 100 souls to be added to the Church?
I think this plan works. In fact, the plan isn’t the problem; we’re the problem. We won’t work the plan!
How do we teach the gospel to people who are under our influence? I suggest five (5) ways:
Think Souls. Stop seeing people as bank tellers, waitresses, cashiers, bosses, and coworkers, and start seeing them as souls. We’re all standing on the doorstep of eternity. As eternity-bound souls, everyone around you needs to hear the gospel. Jesus saw people as sheep in need of a Shepherd (Matt. 9:36). Stop using people for your own needs, and start pointing people to Jesus.
Concern. When Jesus saw the crowds, “He had compassion for them” (Matt. 9:36). Literally, the Greek says (splagchnizomai), “He was moved with compassion to His innermost being.” It moved Him from apathy to passion, from indifference to heartache. He was so filled with compassion that He died for their sins (John 3:16). Ultimately, His compassion is the power to save (cf. Rom. 1:16), limited only by our failure to preach it. Do you care about the people around you? Are you moved by their lost condition? If not, why not? Could it be anything less than a heart problem? No person can call himself a Christian without being moved by the number of lost souls around him.
A Willingness To Be Inconvenienced. For most of us, respecting our personal comfort zones is rule #1. We make excuses in order to avoid having to rearrange our plans. We go out of our way to ensure people don’t invade our personal space. We figure out how we can spend the least amount of money. We run away from messy relationships with sin-ruined lives. We’d rather have someone else do it. These things just tell us, and God, that our priorities are confused.
Boldness. It takes real courage to try to teach someone. It’s a risk. Most of the time you will fail, and knowing that makes it more difficult to make the effort to in the first place. Jesus failed. In fact, he failed more often then he succeeded. But people still came to Him, and they will come to you. If you just bring one person to Christ, is it not worth it? “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9, ESV). The devil loves taking away your confidence. Don’t let him.
Faith. Sadly, I think many of us lack confidence in the gospel. “The message of God’s Word isn’t convincing enough,” many essentially believe. Ask yourself this question: Is the gospel the power of God to salvation (1 Cor. 1:18), or is it not? If you trust in the gospel’s power to save your own soul (cf. Rom. 1:16), why don’t you trust God’s power in the lives of others? It’s not the sower’s job to ‘pick’ where to plant the seed (cf. Matt. 13:1-8). Let’s put more faith in God’s power, and less in our own wisdom and ability.
I think it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. While fad-like evangelism programs are sometimes beneficial, we need to invest ourselves in the real task of reaching out into the lives of people around us. When did you last talk to someone about his/her soul? Well, that was too long ago.