Four Questions for Reluctant Missionaries

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He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it (Mark 7:36).

Which half of that verse is true of you?

Some people fit the last half. They want to tell everyone about Jesus, and the more you ask them to stop, the more they’ll do it.

But many more Christians obey the first half and tell no one about their faith! We believe in the gospel and are thankful for eternal life, but we mainly restrict our spiritual conversations to other Christians.

How can you change that mindset?

David Shenk and Ervin Stutzman wrote a book exploring church planting in the book of Acts. They begin by asking four questions to set the tone for their study.

“1. Should everyone in your community have the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to Jesus?”

That’s easy to answer: yes, everyone should have that opportunity. Every Christian should agree to that. (I take saying ‘yes’ to Jesus means believing in Him.)

“2. Has everyone in your community been introduced to Jesus with sufficient clarity and attractiveness that he or she can say ‘yes’ to him?”

I appreciate the nuance here. The question recognizes that not all evangelism is created equal. Have people heard about Jesus “with sufficient clarity”? Has your neighborhood been presented with a clear saving message? Given all the mixed grace and works salvation messages out there, Free Grace believers are especially sensitive to that need. Part of the clarity is ensuring people understand that faith in Jesus is the only condition to be eternally saved. We should also make clear that God is loving, that salvation is by grace, not law, that we’re designed for community, and that there are eternal consequences to rejecting Jesus.  

Moreover, the question asks whether Jesus has been presented with sufficient “attractiveness.” I have witnessed street preachers yell, berate, and insult passersby. Even if they were clear on the saving message (which they usually are not), is that an attractive gospel presentation? No. And if that’s the only evangelism that people in your community have heard, then much work remains to be done.

“3. Is your congregation making sure that everyone in your community is having the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to Jesus?”

The questions are getting more poignant. If you recognize that the people in your community haven’t been evangelized with clarity and attractiveness, who is responsible for reaching them? Your local assembly. But are you doing it? Is that part of your congregational DNA? Is it an expectation of every member? What kind of outreach are you engaged in? What are you doing right now to tell people about Jesus? This question asks whether your church is putting its faith into practice.

“4. Is your congregation helping to share the gospel with at least some other communities, including some of the 16,000 groups of people around the world who have never heard the gospel?” (Shenk and Stutzman, Creating Communities of the Kingdom, p. 12).

This question invites you to take a larger view of your mission. Local evangelism is essential, but don’t forget people living in other cities and other lands. New Testament churches sent out workers to evangelize. While every member is a local missionary, not everyone can be a foreign missionary. But every congregation can support that work and should. How is your church doing that? A friend told me that a third of his church’s budget is devoted to missions. That’s a marvelous testimony! Does your church support a missionary family or agency? Does the congregation know about it? Do they understand why that is important?

As the West becomes more secular, how do you get believers to think of themselves as missionaries to their neighborhoods? As Shenk and Stuzman demonstrate, you can start by asking these questions. You can talk about missions openly and mention it often. Teach about why it’s necessary and show people how to do it. If you need guidance, sponsor a foreign missionary to come and live in your neighborhood to show your church how the work gets done overseas and to give you ideas of what to do in your city.

Before persuading people to become Christians, you might have to persuade your congregation to become missionaries.

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.


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