31 Days of Evangelism Day 5: 6 Ways for Understanding the Great Commission from the Whole Bible

You can’t isolate the Great Commission from all the rest of Scripture.  It fits perfectly into the larger redemptive work of God seen throughout the biblical revelation. My colleague Mark Liederbach and I wrote a book a few years ago called The Convergent Church (it’s currently out of print). In the book we  offer six ways to understand of the mission of God from all of Scripture:

  1. Everything begins in God and is to return to God. Understanding this undergirds any theological system, any system of ethics, any evangelistic strategy, or any evaluation of culture. God created, God sustains, God redeems, and God will consummate history as we know it.
  2. Human existence must be understood as theocentric, not anthropocentric. In Christian theology, particularly that of Augustine and Aquinas, this idea of exitus et reditus asserts that proper theology must begin with discussion on the existence of God, then the creation and fall of human beings, their salvation through Christ, and finally their return back to God in death and resurrection. It is foundational to understanding that the universe is theocentric, not anthropocentric.[ii] Our perspective on the world and the church begins with the assumption that the focal point is God, not us as individuals, our family, our church, or our denomination.
  3. Individual life stories must conform to God’s story. Because the whole of Scripture from Pentateuch to the Apocalypse holds God alone in the central place in the universe, all of our personal life stories must yield to the higher, grander, more wonderful story that God tells throughout the Scripture, and in which alone our life finds any meaning (the metanarrative). Christianity is not just one story as a part of many stories, from Genesis, through the wilderness wanderings, into the time of the Kings and the exile, until the time of Christ and the birth of the Church; it is The Story. Most of us live our lives, and approach the Bible, to find how to make God’s agenda can fit into ours. This idolatrous thinking must be reversed, and must affect the way we think about and do church. Our agendas and our stories will not enflame the hearts of men and women to follow hard and live greatly. Similarly, any compromise or capitulation on the uniqueness of the gospel story as the sole means of salvation serves only to dilute the passionate existence we were meant to live. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the grand story of the universe. It alone rightly captures the imagination and fires the soul for greater things. This is the story we must learn, live in, and seek to tell often and well.
  4. A higher affection must motivate a life lived for God’s glory. When we truly see God’s beauty and majesty from the creation through the Old Testament story and throughout the New Testament, when we grasp His greatness and our place in His plan, we can see the relative insignificance of other things that would vie for our attention and affection. It is through a Spirit-filled meditation on the Word of God here and now that we can find our affections transformed and purified. The more one tastes of this kind of beauty, the deeper our hearts will long for more.
  5. A life of worship should compel us to invite the lost to join us. As we see all of Scripture in its grand message of redemption and the invitation to be worshipers of God, evangelism becomes less a burden and more the joyful proclamation of the good news that others too can worship this great God! Evangelism becomes nothing more than inviting people to join us in being and doing what we have all been created for! Thus, worship from God’s intention in the beginning serves as the impetus for evangelism and the purpose of our mission.
  6. The corporate worship of the church ought to change the culture. When believers as individuals, families, and churches together live a life of worship, even as we were intended to do before the fall and are able to do now because of the cross, individuals and the culture are changed as a result.

We have the most amazing story to tell in history. But it is a story that begins in Genesis and continues throughout the books of the Bible. And it is still worth telling today.

Seven Core Convictions about Evangelism

In I Thessalonians 1:5 Paul says several things about how the gospel came to the Thessalonians: it came not only in word (it came in word, but more); in power, with the Holy Spirit, and with CONVICTION. Paul completed his thought by noting how these Thessalonians saw how they lived among them. But I want to focus on the word “conviction.” Paul had undeniable convictions. What are your convictions regarding evangelism? Here are seven of mine:

1.  Men and women are without hope until they receive salvation through Jesus. Therefore, we must evangelize urgently. People apart from Christ are lost (Luke 15), dead in sins (Eph. 2:1), under sin (Rom. 3:9), and under condemnation (John 3:18). Immanuel Kant once declared that David Hume, the skeptic, awoke him from his dogmatic slumber. Surely a skeptical world, living in fear, often without hope, should awaken us from our apathy!

2. Many people are ready to respond to the gospel. Therefore, we must evangelize regularly. Paul told Timothy to preach the word in season and out of season—or when we feel like it and when we don’t! In 1995, I had the privilege of joining the faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to that I taught at Houston Baptist University. Before leaving the university, I made an appointment with several students, including some whom I felt needed to hear the gospel. One was a young lady named Audra. I shared Christ with her. This was new to her, although she had gone to church services a few times. I gave her a gospel booklet, asking her to read it again.The first week after beginning my work at Southeastern, I got a letter from Audra. She wrote, “On August 9, I opened my heart to Christ. . . . A big thanks goes to you.” She even photo­copied the tract to give it to another person who needed Christ. This point is that Audra needed someone to tell her how to be saved. The reason many people aren’t Christians is that no one has told them how to be saved.

3. Believers are commanded by the Bible to evangelize. Therefore, we must evangelize obediently. Billy Graham has said the number one reason we should witness is because God says we should. There are certainly other motives for our witness, but we should not ignore this simple truth. Obedience matters to God. In this day of “consumer Christianity” which focuses on meeting our needs, obedience has become low on the priority list of many believers.

4. Most believers want to witness but do not. Therefore, we must evangelize purposefully. I have been in a couple thousand churches over the past decades. I am amazed at the number of believers who want to witness, who want to make a difference, who long for their lives to matter. They are afraid, or do not know how, or have been too busy doing good things to participate in the best thing—winning people to Christ.

5. The gospel is the greatest message we could ever tell. Therefore, we must evangelize confidently. As a university student, I was discipled by a man named Curtis. One day he asked me a simple question that changed my life.

“Alvin,” he said, “what is the best thing that ever happened to you?”

“The day I was saved,” I heartily replied, with my Sunday school smile.

“Then, Alvin,” he continued, “what is the best thing you can do for someone else?”

The answer was obvious. Yet I was immediately embarrassed at it because I knew my life did not reflect the joy of introducing others to the Jesus whom I knew so well.

6. We must rethink the way we understand and practice evangelism. Therefore we must evangelize missionally. We have to see America as the mission field it is and share Christ from the posture of a missionary in a land that does not know Christ. That’s a large reason I wrote the Sharing Jesus book.

7. We must understand the spirit of the times. Therefore, we must evangelize holistically. Evangelism is less a technique and more a lifestyle, less a method and more a movement. The Western Church has been in decline for longer than we would like to admit. The notion that we should simply do what we have been doing, only better or with more passion, must be rejected. The idea that the key to the future is a new method that meets the times misses the point. Separating evangelism from the life of the believer in a compartmentalizing manner must not happen. Einstein was right when he said insanity is doing the same thing over and over only to expect different results. We must take the timeless message and communicate it in a timely manner. Do you really believe the greatest thing you can tell another person is the good news about Jesus? Then tell someone!

Eight Weeks of Effective Witness Day 15: A Place to Land for Evangelism

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” Archimedes.

I want to offer you a landing place for your evangelism. Actually, my publisher B&H Academic created it, and I’m grateful. You can search the page yourself here, but I want to comment about it with some screen shots.

The page is a one-stop location full of resources related to evangelism flowing from my Sharing Jesus book. Here’s an overview of some of the features:

This is the main home page for the book at B&H Academic. You can also find it by simply searching www.sharingJesusbook.com. PLEASE NOTE: There is a place to share your story about how this resource has helped you in your witness. Or, you can just post a story about sharing Jesus. It will encourage others!

Here are some very kind comments from others about the book. My pal D.A. Horton is planting a church in LA. Rebecca Pippert is a hero to me–her book Out of the Saltshaker had a tremendous impact on me in seminary. And my friend Ed Stetzer heads the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton and is a guru of all things missional. I’m grateful for these kind words.

You can “try before you buy” the book here. Also, when you place an order, if you want to order in bulk you can get copies for only $5.00 each for orders of 20 or more! That. is. amazing. I know student pastors who are giving this to high school grads, pastors giving to their staff and key leaders, church planting leaders giving one to all their planters, and businessmen giving them to employees, and other examples.

I’m very excited about this page. My dear friend Brian Upshaw and the North Carolina Baptist State Convention along with help from the North American Mission Board recorded a series of eight videos where I teach through each chapter in about 20 minutes or so. These are FREE for you at the site. I already know pastors and others in different states who are using these to lead training through the book over an eight week study. I’m so grateful for this.

ALSO: there are two videos of role-playing. I role play leading a young man named Eli to Christ, and two of our young ladies also role play a conversation. Note: these are not polished, but are real-life convos, the kind I have regularly with young professionals and others. There’s also a video interview with my dear friend Jonathan Dodson of City Life Church in Austin.

I hope you will take advantage of these amazing resources available to you, and I hope you wil join the EIGHT WEEK CHALLENGE and tell us your stories.

I’m praying for an evangelism movement in our time. Perhaps this can help.