We all have goals. Companies set goals to increase sales. Football teams set goals to win championships. What about God? What primary goal does he set for his church?
When God established his church, he had one goal in mind – to make disciples. This is his consuming passion! This is his way to increase the elect until he returns. This is the John 3:16 love that God desires to display to the entire world through Christian believers.
A church displays the John 3:16 heart of God through visible acts of kindness, but more importantly in the proclamation of God’s love and his completed work through Christ.
God’s 3:16 love is so great that he:
- Does not want anyone to perish.
- Wants all people to come to repentance and faith.
- Wants all people to be saved.
- Wants all people to come to a heart knowledge of the truth.
God’s love is sacrificial and expresses itself by sending his one and only son to die in our place – so that whoever believes in his Son will not perish, but receive eternal life. That’s the John 3:6 love that he desires the church to boldly proclaim throughout the world.
Why is that important?
Proclaiming to the world what God has already done for us through Christ is the means for the Lord to achieve his primary goal of making disciples before he returns. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit – through the gospel – that the Lord can make disciples out of an unbeliever. God has his work and believers have their role to be a partner in carrying out his work.
A Christian’s responsibility – and the only thing a Christian can do to partner with God – is to sow the seed of his Word and proclaim his message of salvation to the entire world.
But there is a problem.
Churches today have a tendency to be distracted by solely focusing on preserving the saints rather than gathering them in.
Evangelism is difficult work. Most Christians feel ill-equipped or frightened at the prospect of personally delivering God’s message to the world – even with their neighbors. Because evangelism is difficult, churches get easily disheartened and discouraged over a perceived lack of results for their efforts.
I think it’s because that we have a tendency to forget God’s goal, distrust his work through the Holy Spirit, and set expectations on results that are outside of our control.
Here are three suggestions to re-calibrate our thinking:
Numbers are important, but they have a tendency to be given too much importance. They are a wonderful tool for evaluation, but not to be used for validation. Sometimes churches are blessed with increases in church membership and sometimes churches are not. What’s most important is to concentrate on activities a congregation can control – namely, planting the seeds of the gospel. Too often, churches get discouraged or disheartened by results of outreach activities that they have no control over. Conversion is God’s business – so let’s be more concerned about minding our own.
Churches should be resolved to continue to water and cultivate the gospel seeds that were already planted. Too often churches tend to exhaust themselves in organizing and launching a major outreach activity, then are too exhausted to carry out the most important activity associated with every outreach effort. I always recommend to congregations that evangelism committees ought to devote 50% of their time focusing on people God has already brought to them instead of going out to make first contact. Instead of coming up with new ideas to bring people to church, churches can have a core group of evangelists to be strategic on how to best connect and engage with visitors and people who have expressed interest in the church.
Believers should not be content nor satisfied with a quick, one-time sowing of the seed. We keep working with people by exercising patience, gentleness, love, and joy – until “using the means of grace the Lord has given us until such a time as the Holy Spirit accomplishes the miracle of making disciples out of them.” [David Valleskey]
Churches should understand that a number of gospel seeds will fall on the beaten path and not turn into the fruit of faith. A Christian’s role is to spread the seed and not to judge the soil. We have a tendency to give up too quickly from an initial response of disinterest. However, some people will refuse to listen. Some people will reject the message of the gospel. And when that happens, it’s good to remember that these people are not rejecting the messenger. We are not failures for those who stubbornly cling to unbelief. If Christians have experienced a poor response in the past, that should not affect how they participate in the future. It is true that Christians can evaluate their methodology or approach. They can ask if they were loving or respectful. But at the end of the day, a biblical response to rejection is to “shake the dust of your feet” both with judgment and a tear at the corner of your eye.
I pray that with a heart of thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us and with a sense of privilege that the Lord has set us apart (commissioned) to be valued participants in making disciples, we keep God’s goal of making disciples forefront in our prayers and actions.
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