Is the Church for Evangelism?

this is the question posed by the Ramblin’ Pastor Man and by Tony Payne.

It is a more difficult question than it appears on the surface. Tony makes some good points and here is one of them:

However, even if we acknowledge that there will be ‘gospel’ things happening all over the place in church, it is also important to say that evangelism is not the purpose of Christian assemblies. It is certainly not their focus. In the New Testament, churches are characteristically the fruit of evangelism, not its agent. Evangelism usually takes place outside the assembly—in the marketplace, the synagogue, the prison, and in daily gospel conversation.

More to the point, theologically, the Christian assembly is a fellowship of the redeemed. It is a manifestation, as well as an anticipation or foretaste, of the great assembly that Christ is building—the assembly of the firstborn in heaven that will be revealed on the last Day (Heb 12:22-24). The purpose of our earthly assemblies, therefore, is to fellowship together in what we already share—our union with Christ—as we listen to and respond to him together, and build his assembly by the words we speak.

In addition, Ramblin’ Pastor Man makes the following excellent observation:

I have tended to look to I Corinthians 14 for the answer. I Corinthians 14 seems suggest that… yes… evangelism should be taking place in the church (specifically I Cor 14:22-25), but it is not the primary thrust of the assembly of Christians.

I agree with Tony and Dan that the church gatherings themselves are not primarily evangelistic. Acts 2:42 says that the new church devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, prayer and the breaking of bread together. None of these things are primarily evangelistic.

Nonetheless, there is a likelihood that non-believers will be present at the meetings. Some of these will know they are outside the faith and some of these might have a head knowledge of Christ, but not be a true believer yet (Hebrews 6:4 seems to have a group like this in mind).

Christian preaching should always be centered around the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s grace toward us. No matter what the particular subject is that is being covered in song or preaching, the foundation for the meeting is God’s grace toward us that has made us alive in Him.

In addition, the group of believers is itself an evangelistic witness to the world when we are obedient to Christ. Jesus told His disciples that He was giving them a new commandment to love one another. And then He added some very important words. He said by this the whole world will know that you are my disciples, “if you have love for one another.”

The love Jesus is talking about is agape love. Selfless devotion to the interests of others over our own self interest. He uses His own love as the example. If we are willing to die for our fellow believers, then the world will notice that. That kind of devotion to brothers and sisters in Christ is our most important worldly calling card. It is the unique thing that the church possesses and it is only possible because of the presence and power of God in our lives.

The local church can also be a community on mission. In other words we can pool our individual talents and resources, filling each other’s gaps as we share the Gospel with our friends and neighbors. I might not know the right way to talk to an atheist computer scientist friend of mine, but I know that a fellow at my church was just like that two years ago. I can make sure that my friend and my church brother get together and spend some time.

Evangelism does have to happen primarily outside of the box. By that I mean that evangelism is not primarily associated with the weekly meeting of the church in the Big Box with a steeple. Some evangelism does occur, but weekly gatherings are not primarily evangelistic.

However, what happens in that box on a Sunday morning or Saturday night or Sunday evening when the church gathers together is a worship event. Worship of the great Gracious God who loves us and sent His only Son to die for us and raised that Son from the dead so that we all could be reconciled to God with a secure hope of eternal life together with Him.

When worship like this occurs, then the people realize the great need of their neighbors and friends to be reconciled to God. When worship like that is occurring, then the church filled with lovers of God and lovers of their neighbors will leave the building on mission as ambassadors for Christ. These lovers of God and lovers of their neighbors will use their spiritual gifts, time, and money to reach their friends, coworkers and neighbors for Christ and will lean on the spiritual gifts, time and money of their fellow God lovers in complementary fashion to accomplish the goal.

Sola Deo Gloria!

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3 Responses

  1. […] September 7, 2008 by Dan Lowe bkingr has weighed in on this issue over at the Interstitial blog page.  He does an excellent job of addressing this issue from the New Testament.  You can find his post here https://bkingr.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/is-the-church-for-evangelism/ […]

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