The Church and Evangelism
Recall the Past. Measure the Present. Take Action for the
Adapted sermon from Singapore
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to
every creature’” (Mk 16:15).
Evangelism is the command of the
Lord Jesus Christ—we have heard, read and said this countless times. We
know all the evangelism-related passages by heart, perhaps even in English,
Chinese, Greek and more. But more importantly, what have we done about it?
This article considers evangelism
from three aspects:
Where did we come from?
Where are we now?
Where should we go?
Spirit of Evangelism PAst
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them
to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.
This mandate of Christ to the
church is commonly known as the 'great commission'. It starts with a powerful
command—“Go!” Fellowship in the Lord is a blessing. After all, the warm,
fraternal and godly atmosphere of the apostolic church summarized in Acts 2:42
is often held up as an ideal that the true church today should strive for, and
invest effort to sustain. But Jesus' intention is also for us to take concrete
action, "Go and make disciples of all nations". This is the explicit
command for evangelism. In fact, to make disciples is the very reason the
There are some who say that we are
“only a pastoral church”. There are at least two erroneous concepts in this
sentence. Firstly, this statement implies that pastoral work – loving and
tending the sheep and lambs – is all that the church needs to do. For
such people, evangelism is nothing more than maintaining a presence or a
prominent profile in their current community. But Jesus 'statement here is more
unequivocally active—He want us to "Go".
Secondly, there aren’t any
'pastoral only' churches. What is the ultimate goal of pastoral work? It is to
make disciples, teaching them all (emphasis added) that Jesus has commanded. So
every person who calls himself or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ must keep
all of the commandments, which includes the commandment to "Go and make
disciples". In short, pastoral work and evangelism must go hand in hand.
The church that “only pastors” is
a moribund organization which will eventually die. Consider a family without a
breadwinner and living off a bequest. The parents may be very frugal but the
inherited money is still being used up; so if nothing else is done to bring in
‘new income’, this family cannot survive.
In the context of the church, new
babies born and baptized may not be sufficient to replace old members who die.
So without evangelism, there may be no-one left to pastor in the end.
The Apostolic Spirit[i]
The apostolic church started with
only 120 people in Jerusalem. Many were women, some were uneducated people and
most had never traveled outside Palestine. Yet, within a few decades, the
gospel was preached throughout the Roman Empire. What underpinned this
extraordinary growth? In a nutshell, it was passion in responding to the Lord
More specifically, there were
several salient growth factors.
The apostles preached, the deacons
preached and the believers preached wherever they went. They preached to the
masses; to their family members; to their friends; in fact, they preached to
just about anyone who was willing to listen. They preached in good times, they
preached when they were persecuted, they preached when they were in prison.
Evangelism was the very essence of the apostolic spirit; almost as if they
lived to preach!
It was no different for the early
True Jesus Church.
Spirit worked mightily
After the first downpour of the Holy
Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the church grew from 120 to 3000 members; and
then from 3000 to more than 5000. Miracles abounded—the shadow of Peter
could heal the sick; a mere handkerchief from Paul could cast out demons!
Today, wonders and miracles
continue to occur but, compared to the early church, they are far fewer. This
is correlated to the reduced frequency of our preaching.
Miracles are a sign for
unbelievers so if we do not preach, why would God perform a miracle? The
apostolic church understood this; so BEFORE they asked God to perform miracles,
they first prayed for boldness to speak the Word (Acts 4:29–30). The
direction of causality is clear. We do not wait for God to first perform
miracles before going out to preach. The apostolic church preached, and then
God performed miracles. Similarly, the early True Jesus Church workers
preached, and then God performed miracles. In short, God works miracles only
when we preach.
Consistency between believers’
lives and their faith
There are many aspects we can
learn from the apostolic church but one stands out as "uniquely TJC".
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread
from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart”
Such a depiction of the first
church mirrors the early church in Taiwan. The people received the gospel with
gladness, led very simple lives and attended services every single day. In fact
such a life is itself a powerful witness to the gospel because it shows that we
actually practice what we believe.
However, many of us today are
worried over many things—we are caught up with our studies, our jobs and
the world. Service attendance is relegated to a leisure
activity—something to do as and when we are free. How then do we expect
others to be convinced when we declare to them that life on earth is transient,
and there is an eternal, more precious life to come?
These same three factors were
indispensable to the evangelical efforts of the apostolic church. Paul confirms
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and
in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were
among you for your sake” (1 Thess 1:5).
First is the ‘Word’. We must open
our mouths to preach. Second is the ‘power of the Holy Spirit’ because it is
not our eloquence that moves the hearts of men toward God. Third, the ‘kind of
man we were amongst you for your sake’. The preacher's conduct must match his
faith. All three factors were present in the apostolic church as well as the
early True Jesus Church.
Spirit of Evangelism Present
important question is "Where are we now?" Every church has an
'evangelistic temperature', which is the sum of our individual evangelistic
temperatures. Are we hot, cold, or somewhere in between? Check your temperature
against Chart 1[ii]. Being hot means that our thoughts
are always about our Father’s business of saving lives. On the other hand,
being cold means that we are too busy with our own personal business. We do not
feel any urgency to preach. Many of us invest considerable time in a variety of
divine work, but check ourselves:
Do we spend an hour each week
preaching to our friends?
Do we spend just half an hour each
week, thinking about whom to preach to, when to preach and how to preach to?
If we do not do the above, do we
Obstacles to Evangelism
Why do we lag behind the apostolic
church and early TJC in evangelistic fervor? Let us focus on two key reasons.
ON us: resurrection of Christ and the Holy Spirit
The apostolic church’s
evangelistic zeal was fuelled by two factors—one external, and the other,
internal. The external factor is the tremendous
miracle of Christ’s resurrection. Today,
we have heard this fact repeated so often—Christ is resurrected from the
dead—that we have been inured to its great significance. But in the
apostolic church, Jesus’ resurrection was a very powerful push factor. This
fact showed that He was God in the flesh.
The deaths of globally renowned
names such as Steve Jobs or Michael Jackson make the news for days if not
weeks. People who first heard it could not wait to put the information on
Twitter, Facebook etc. Many who did not even know them personally left
condolence messages—“R.I.P., Steve or Michael”. Such behavior gives us a
glimpse of how impactful the resurrection was to the apostolic believers, and
an understanding of what motivated them to run around to their family and
friends, crying, “He lives! He lives!” The disciples never expected Him to rise
so when He did and reappeared to them, it was so life-changing that they just
had to tell everyone the message.
The second powerful and internal push factor is the Holy Spirit.
When they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were compelled to preach.
Peter told the Sanhedrin, “We cannot but speak of the things we have seen and
heard.” Rightly, we have no choice but to speak. But unfortunately, today many
of us long-time believers choose not to speak.
New converts, on the other hand,
are often very zealous about preaching the gospel. Asked why, their answer is
simple—because the gospel saves. This is yet another message that has
become trite to us. But to someone who has just been convicted of the gospel,
it is everything in the world. They are like the man who had just discovered a
pearl in the field. Overjoyed, he sold everything to buy that field.
It is therefore critical for us to
realign our priorities in our lives. If we have lost that love of preaching, we
must return to our first love—to that very moment when we first came into
contact with the gospel; or the time when we first received the Holy Spirit; or
even the time when we first came into contact with God. Without these two push
factors, evangelistic fervor cannot be sustained.
Undeniably, the rate of successful
conversion is extremely low. The amount of time invested and the response
obtained frequently do not commensurate. Our ideal scenario is that people
quickly accept whatever we proclaim and believe the message we preach. We want
to be like Peter at Pentecost—one single sermon pierces the people’s
hearts so that they crowd around, eager to know, "What is this that is
happening?" Occasionally, this happens but it is rare.
Oftentimes, in order to convert
anyone, we have to work very hard to convince them to change their worldview.
Doing this takes a very long time but we need to learn from Paul at the school
of Tyrannus. He reasoned daily with the people who were there.
Besides the first two, these are
three other groups of people we shall meet when we preach.
will talk, reason and engage with you as if they are very interested in the
gospel, but they are actually more interested in the debate itself.
They are indifferent to whatever you say; they cannot be bothered(Luke 7:32).
Hardcore Jews: They
take time and effort to tear down your arguments; and to put every obstacle in
the way of your preaching.
Different countries will have
varying proportions of these five types of people. But for many of us living in
developed urban societies, an additional drawback is that the pace of life is
too fast and everyone is busy. Not only are we too busy to preach to our
friends, many of our friends are too busy to listen to us. But this fact is no
reason to stop preaching; we just need to work harder than others. Paul felt
that he had to work harder than the rest of the other apostles because he had
to make up for all the time in the past that he had wasted on persecuting
Some people blame everything and
everyone else for the lack they suffer. But there are others—like
Paul—who just work harder to overcome their disadvantage. How will we
respond to the difficulty of evangelism? Do we excuse ourselves with, "That
is why I don't preach, they do not believe."? Or do we resolve "I
must work harder to preach, to try to make them believe."?
Do not worry; there will always be
people for us to convert. Jesus clearly told us to "make disciples".
By inference, there must be disciples for us to make. So let us hold on to the
implicit promise in the Lord’s command and persist in preaching.
Spirit of Evangelism FUTURE
What are the key areas to work on
for the future?
From the Bible we see that the
scope of God's plan moves like a ripple outwards, i.e. always from near to far.
This means that we should first preach to our family members, then to friends,
then to strangers. For this reason Jesus told a formerly demon-possessed man,
"Go home to your friends, and tell
them what great things the Lord has done for you" (Mk 5:19).
These close and loved ones should
have priority in our evangelistic efforts. Otherwise, why would God have placed
them in our midst? Preaching to the nearest and dearest is both easy and
difficult. It is easy because we already have a connection with them, unlike a
stranger whom we are meeting for the first time. The latter does not need to
listen to us.
evangelism can also be very difficult because those who are close to us have
seen us at our worst. This is a timely reminder that our behavior among friends
and relatives is crucial to personal evangelism.
Personal evangelism is our
priority, and door-to-door is a bonus. It allows us to expand the scope of our
networks. Having our more mature-aged members participate in door-to-door
preaching can be an advantage: people generally respond more politely to them
and are more prepared to listen. We need not know reams of Scripture. Just be
prepared with one or two personal testimonies that we can share with the
Many of us enjoy catching up with
brethren after service. Happily chatting away in our own groups before or after
services, we fail to notice that truth-seekers are left alone to find their way
around church, or to just sit quietly in a pew waiting for service to start.
Little wonder then that some stop coming because they lack a sense of warmth
We need more people to join this
group to look out for truth-seekers who are alone, befriend them, talk to them
after service, and make them feel at home. Befrienders should also keep a
lookout for truth-seekers who have stopped coming. Give them a call just to see
how they are. All these contribute to that sense of familial warmth so
prevalent in the apostolic and early church.
Sometimes, truth-seekers may fall
seriously ill or face huge problems. At such times, not only do we need to just
tell them to pray, we should actually go as a group to their homes to pray for
and with them. Such prayer groups can also bring back long-lost sheep to God’s
fold because we help to build bridges between them and God through prayer.
LET GOD’S LOVE INSPIRE YOU
Evangelism is a command of Christ
and so we have no choice but to preach. Yet even more importantly, evangelism
reflects the very nature of God—love. We preach because we reflect the
very nature of God, best captured in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
This is the precious central
message of the gospel. But have we grown dull to it? Are we just happy that we
are saved, unconcerned that millions of people have not yet heard of the deep
love of Christ? Believers of the apostolic church and the early True Jesus
Church may not have had all our advantages of education and access to knowledge. But this they knew—God so loved the world
that He gave His only begotten Son. God so loved them. So they urgently sought
to tell their friends and relatives of this wonderful love. What about the True
Jesus Church today?