Thursday, December 23, 2010
Biblical Outreach by John MacArthur
Biblical outreaching is more than dropping gospel leaflets over a city or inviting someone to a church concert. These four elements deserve a closer examination.
1. Evangelism is proactive. English translations of the original Greek text of Matt. 28:19 begin with “Go,” which is the translation of an aorist participle conveying the sense “having gone.” The main verb of the verse is “make disciples,” or literally “disciple” all the nations. Hence, what the command assumes is that Christians will go out for the express purpose of making the nations disciples of Christ.
Biblical evangelism is outreaching, that is, going out to the lost souls of this world. Many pastors have fallen into the error of thinking that if sinners among the nations want to be saved, they need to come to the church. The greatest single reason why the church is declining is that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in church—within the walls of the church building. The church today expects unbelievers to come to it, when in fact the church should go out to them. Effective outreach will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is to move out from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures into the lives of the lost around them. From the pulpit to the pew—from the pastor to the parishioner—the perspective of evangelism must be that of a proactive, aggressive endeavor.
2. Evangelism is gospel preaching. The command to make disciples entails calling men and women to faith, obedience, and submission to Jesus Christ. Some equate evangelism with preaching social change, human rights, political liberation, economic equality, and many more causes. These issues, though they are righteous endeavors, are not biblical evangelism.
Evangelism is the preaching of the cross of Christ, that He died for the sins of the world, that He arose from the dead, that He is Lord of the universe and of His church, and that people must believe the truth of the message before it can have any effect on their souls (Rom. 3:1–31; 10:9–10; 1 Cor. 15:1–4; Gal. 2;16–21). It must include the deity of Christ, His incarnation, His sinless nature, His vicarious substitutionary death for sinful humanity, His bodily resurrection, repentance and faith on the part of sinners, and the coming judgment of the world.
In recent times, it has been a tendency of pastors and churches to water down the gospel of Christ. In an effort to make more converts, preachers have resorted to a diluted gospel void of the saving features. They have resorted to “another gospel,” and inferior results are evident. An effective presentation of the true gospel will take careful preparation, time, thought, prayer, and patience. Evangelistic preaching is a call for souls to become disciples of Christ. Anything short of that is not biblical evangelism. Pleadings for professions of faith, decisions, or other outward manifestations just to elicit a response, if they do not result in making true disciples of the Lord Jesus, are not effective evangelism.
3. Evangelism is transformed lives. Christ commanded that the disciples baptize the nations into the triune name of God as a symbol of their turning from their sins to the Savior. The gospel call is always “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40) and “turn from these vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15). The gospel is to let the nations know that God “is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). It always involves “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Paul summed up his proclamation when he told King Agrippa that Christ called him to open the eyes of the Gentiles, “that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the domain of darkness to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). Hence effective biblical evangelism always results in changed lives, souls yielded to Christ, believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ.
4. Evangelism is an ongoing discipleship. The Lord included in the Great Commission the additional task of perfecting and maturing disciples by “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Effective evangelism has as its goal the incorporation of the disciple into the context of a local church or assembly of believers, where under the ministry and influence of gifted believers, the new disciple can grow into the fullness of the image of Christ (Eph. 4:11–16). New Testament evangelism issued from the local church and resulted in converts added to the local church. The measure of results was not the number of professions but the numbers added to the church, and later the number of churches formed through the churches’ evangelistic outreach.
The lethargy, lukewarmness, and compromising attitude within the church is responsible for the anemic and stagnant condition of the modern church. The church needs to renew its commitment to obey the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ: Go! Rice speaks to this generation with a heart-stirring exhortation: