Most churches in America today are offering, for a limited time only, a free pass on sharing your faith with non-believers. If you act now, the first 100,000,000 customers will also get a lifetime exemption from the Great Commission. There are no obligations and no strings attached. All you have to do to take advantage of this exciting offer is…
1) “Do nice things…”
Sales Pitch: “Just live an exemplary life and people around you will wonder why you’re so different. They’ll see your faith in action and stop you in the hallway to ask you questions. Remember the adage, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.’ Proclaiming the Gospel through your kindness, your attitude and your response to difficult situations will say more about your faith than words ever could.”
Harsh Reality: It’s true that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. However, recent studies find that most people today see little or no difference between their Christian and non-Christian neighbors (Barna Research). Some of the nicest people in our communities and workplaces aren’t believers, while many of the most judgmental are Christ-followers. We should emulate Jesus, who healed and fed to show His love (Demonstration), but afterward He almost always revealed His identity as the embodiment of the Gospel (Proclamation). In other words, the “social gospel” is not an “either/or” – it’s a “both/and” – prayer, care, and then share. However, it’s much easier to say nothing and let our actions do the “talking”. You and I may be the closest encounter a non-believer has to “church” in 2020 – but we’ll likely miss that golden opportunity if we wait for them to speak up.
Biblical Truth: Simply being a “good” person and hoping people ask religious questions falls far short of our God-given commission as Christians. After His resurrection, Jesus told all 11 disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” That request wasn’t reserved for those gifted in evangelism or well-versed in apologetics. It was directed even to those still coming to grips with the fact that Christ had just risen from the dead.
2) “Tell your story…”
Sales Pitch: “People can push back on the veracity of the Bible, the lordship of Jesus or the origin of the universe, but no one can argue with your personal testimony. It’s your experience – and what you feel can’t be refuted. You don’t need a seminary degree to talk about what Christ has done in your life. Just tell people what you were like before you met Jesus, share how you came to faith, and describe your life now”.
Harsh Reality: Asking churchgoers to present the Gospel and answer common objections requires a greater level of biblical understanding than most Christians are willing to acquire. Few members are prepared to defend their faith against tough questions. Most don’t feel qualified to do much more than tell their story. Challenging everyone to move down an intentional discipleship path would go a long way toward fulfilling the Great Commission. Even new believers can be quickly sent into the mission field – they’re excited, have many unsaved friends from their “prior life”, and understand the Gospel well enough to bet their eternity on it. Yet most next steps churches give to recent converts are intended to indoctrinate them in CAWKI (“church as we know it”), plugging them into loyalty-building activities but not preparing them for their mission in life.
Biblical Truth: 1 Peter 3:15 urges, “Always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Unlike sharing a personal testimony, preparing a defense requires a great deal of time invested in research and anticipating questions.
3) “Invite people to church…”
Sales Pitch: “We know you want to see all of your family, friends and colleagues come to know Jesus. They need the hope that you’ve found in Christ, but it’s become so difficult to share the truth of the Gospel in a culture demanding that truth be sacrificed at the altar of tolerance. We want to make it is as easy as possible for ‘each one to reach one’. That’s why we’re providing invitation cards for you to hand out, asking skeptics or ‘seekers’ to join you here next Sunday. You can find invitation cards as well as ‘We love our church!’ bumper stickers in the foyer after the service.”
Harsh Reality: Modern American church growth models consider invitations to church an ample replacement for evangelism. If the invitee rejects repeated offers, then the dutiful believer feels they’ve done all they can to win that person to Christ. Only 52% of born-again Christians said they witnessed to someone at least once in the past year – how many of those were essentially an invitation to church? In our culture today, 47% of Millennials somewhat agree that it’s wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith (Barna Research). So pastors default to “tell your story” and “invite people to church” knowing that sermons and small groups haven’t equipped members adequately to answer difficult questions in an increasingly hostile environment. Invitations to hear from a trained “professional” serve the dual purpose of building the institution while avoiding (scaring off congregants by) having to build disciples. However, that formula is based on simple addition rather than the Lord’s math of multiplication. Unleashing the “power in the pews” would reach many who wouldn’t dare darken the door of a church, while also increasing the depth and authenticity of worship services by designing them around those who actually worship Jesus.
Biblical Truth: Invitations to a place to hear from a pastor is not a suitable substitute for evangelism. Pastors do play a special role in church, but they are not the “church”. According to 1 Peter 2:9 we are all “…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” bearing personal responsibility to “…proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
It’s Your Turn…
Who has the nerve to tell their pastor, “We should expect less of you and you should expect far more of us”? A study conducted by LifeWay Research in 2012 found of eight biblical attributes most evident in the lives of mature believers, “Sharing Christ” had the lowest average score among Protestant churchgoers. No matter what church leaders are telling you, the truth is God expects more evangelistic initiative than “Doing nice things”, “Telling your story” and “Inviting people to church”. We don’t get a free pass on evangelism – or disciple-making!