Dwight Fletcher | The priority of evangelism
This week, we explore the topic of evangelism. As we explore this area, one good question to ask is, what is God's plan regarding evangelism? The Gospel of Luke provides a good perspective as it shows us that the expansion of the Kingdom of God was Jesus' priority. Because of that, He prepared the disciples for the role they would play in this expansion.
The Kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus' preaching, and His plan was that we would all experience the Kingdom life on Earth. Look at the Lord's Prayer - Our Father in heaven. ... your Kingdom come ... your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven ... Luke 11:2-4 (NIV).
Consider the revolutionary nature of this statement. We know God's will is done in Heaven, and the object of this prayer is that the same would happen here on Earth.
But how can we bring the Kingdom of God to individual lives, towns and regions? Entire regions can be transformed by the Kingdom of God, and Jesus gives some specific instructions as to how we can do this. However, there are some deceptions that we have internalised, the main one being that the Church is supposed to be confined to a building.
But evangelism takes a radical transformation of our thinking. The contrast we see in Jesus, is that He always presented the Kingdom of God to the society outside the walls of the church and taught His disciples to do the same.
In some ways, we have substituted the church building for the Kingdom of God. We sometimes think and behave as if God's reign happens only in the church buildings made by our hands. True evangelism, however, moves us beyond the walls of the church to the society, where God can allow the people outside of the Kingdom to experience the Kingdom life through us - though our words and through our ministry as He backs us up.
Is evangelism a priority ? Yes: it will help us to return to what the church should be - a dynamic, change agent in the societies of the world.
Jesus demonstrated several principles of how to carry the Kingdom of God to the world and establish it there.
According to Luke 10:1-20 (NIV), they are:
1. Availability to serve (verses 1-3)
a) Sent by Jesus. Verse 1, "After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Sending Messengers "two-by-two" was common, not only among early Christians, but among the Jews as well. It provided companionship, protection, accountability, and encouragement.
b) Sent to the world. Now Jesus commands them to - "Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves." I am sending you out into a world that might be hostile towards you, but don't worry,"...take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV). There is going to be difficulty, but the 'hotter the battle, the sweeter the victory.'
2. Advancing the Kingdom (verses 4-9)
a) Dependence on Christ. "Ask the Lord ..." Prayer is the most underutilised resource in the world! It is all about Jesus and the expansion of His Kingdom, He will do it by His spirit, the most important thing is our availability.
b) Acting like Christ. "And whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you." (ESV).
c) The love of Christ. What was the purpose of the evangelitic trip that the 72 were on? It was to preach a message of love. What was the Kingdom message? That Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who cared for them so much that He had come from Heaven on their behalf, and therefore, the Kingdom was available to them.
3. Achievement (verses 17-21)
"Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." They went out in obedience, God showed up in power, they returned in joy. They were attacking the rulers of darkness in the name of Jesus, and the Kingdom of God was expanding. It doesn't always have to be as dramatic as this, but that is the battle nonetheless. What was Jesus' response? "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven". Luke 10:18-19 (NIV). The balance of power in the area was changed. The Kingdom of God was breaking through.
4. Luke 10:21 states:
"At that time, Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Jesus got a glimpse of the fact that the disciples were understanding. That through them the Kingdom of God would continue to advance because they understood that principle. They were to be the enforcers of the Kingdom; they were to be kingdom builders.
It doesn't take worldly wisdom, it doesn't take education, it takes us coming to God in the honesty, vulnerability, and with the faith of a child; and God will use you to accomplish more than you could ask or imagine. He will use you to bring the Kingdom of God to the places where you are.