The thinking is that people will not always do what they say, but will always do what they believe. And most people will agree that how we spend our time and money ... or on what we spend our time and money ... are the best indicators of our true beliefs.
So it is an interesting phenomenon to realize how today's churches spend their time and money. For the most part, the corporate resources (of the church) seem to be spent on facilities, charismatic speaker personalities on the stage, multimedia & music, marketing events, etc.
It would seem then that these are the things the church leaders believe to be the most important of all. And as such, they would therefore represent the true purpose or mission of the church ... regardless of what the mission statement says, or what the little logo on the stationary says.
The Bible tells us to go and spread the good news, and go and make disciples. We are to heal the sick and feed the poor. Do you notice how those things are lacking from the priorities of the corporate church resources mentioned above? I certainly do. It seems clear to me that Jesus would rather have a church that spend's the lion's share of its money on spreading the good news, making disciples, healing the sick and feeding the poor.
For a long time now, I've confessed my struggle with televangelists. Some of them are quite flamboyant, which distracts from their message. And some of their messages are incredibly incomplete. Most disappointing is when they tell people that all they have to do is "say the simple prayer" to become a Christian and secure their place in heaven.
Most have a mission not to spread the good news, make disciples, heal the sick or feed the poor. Rather their mission is to collect bodies and money. Seriously, they walk around touting how many bodies they brought to Christ in that last meeting. So the professions of Christ and the dollars are how they measure success. Getting people saved and having a robust budget seem to be what it's all about.
Actually the evangelism dilemma isn't just on television or stadium rallies. It hits much closer to home than most of us would realize. There is quite a bit of emphasis in modern Christianity on evangelism. Witnessing, sharing the Gospel, spreading the Good News and other activities are mentioned so often. We're told that they should be part of our DNA. At least that's what the local churches seem to speak so often to their members.
But I think Satan has perveted this notion of spreading the good news as much as he has any of the other Biblical virtues. Much of our modern thinking about evangelism just isn't Biblical. Let me explain.
For starters, there's no specific commandment anywhere in the Bible for personal or corporate evangelism. The reason? Evangelism is God's job! Jesus explained that absolutely no one comes to the Faither (i.e., becomes a Christian) unless God draws them to Himself. (John 6:44)
So our job is to build relationships. In fact, the only ministry that we've ever been given is the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18). We're to be reconciled to God and we're to be reconciled to each other.
We don't have to convince people to come to Christ. What we must do though is seek Him first (i.e., be reconciled to Him) and love others as we would like to be loved (i.e., be reconciled in all our relationships). In this way, we will become more Christ-like --- and be very attractive to other people. They'll want what they see that we have.
For another thing, we don't witness to everyone we meet. When God wants us to speak to someone new, He will tell us to do so. And He will give us the words. After all, He is responsible for the results. Acting on our own (human) instincts or church mandate (to evangelize) would be disobedience. Seriously, it would!
Scripture references like, "You shall be witnesses ..." (Acts 1:8) refer to people who have firsthand experience with something. These are not references to people who are acting on a mandate. In this context, the word "witness" is simply a noun, and not a verb. Are you following this?
If we know Christ, then we are qualified witnesses. As we deepen our relationship with Him and other people, the things we've seen and experienced will be a natural part of our relationships with them. Our testimony will naturally flow out of us for the world to see.
God has already orchestrated a chain of people, circumstances and experiences to get that person to the place where they are ready to embrace Him. (He did the same for you and me!) We are likely to encounter those peple as we go about the business of (1) seeking Him first; and (2) loving others the way we would like to be loved ourselves.
So if I were running the church, for example, instead of having evangelism classes and handing out cheat sheets on "how to share your faith," I'd have a different set of classes. I'd teach my people to seek God first. And I'd teach them to love each other and love others in quite extravagant ways.
We talk about church growth. And a lot of churches put the emphasis on evangelism in that context. But the Bible says, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) Modern churches would do well to realize that the "all things" that "will be added unto you" includes the new members they're always looking for!