Evangelism Challenge Today
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3. Evangelism Challenge Today

Shakespeare's Sleep

William ShakespeareTo all human beings and God, resurrection is a new beginning. One of the greatest writers in the English language, William Shakespeare (1564-1611) in "The Tempest," Act 4 Scene 1, writes, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on." He then adds, "and our little life is rounded with a sleep." One wakes from a sleep refreshed. How lovely! To Lazarus, death was a short sleep, and Lazarus' Savior and friend assured him, "No problem!" Death blossoms into resurrection when Jesus, the "Way, the Truth, and the Life," warms it! What is right for individuals touched by God's Son is also true for the church, His garden. God's good news is that his people can yet blossom. His way to a verdant, vigorous life is to take up the evangelism challenge today. The clear message is to speak out or shrivel up. It is to "Evangelize or Fossilize!"

Mass Evangelism?

Mission TentThe national statistics reveal that the church as a whole is withering through the lack of an evangelism challenge today. In another way, the statistics tend to be misleading. They deceive because people automatically feel that national figures require national solutions. The ordinary people in the pew think that it is somebody else's problem rather than their own. Some national executive somewhere will think up a solution, or so they imagine! "Those who produce the figures," they argue, "are the ones responsible for finding an answer! They are the best minds we have, after all! They are supposed to have these gifts. That's why we voted for them!"

Local Christian Congregations

Holman Hunt's ScapegoatBoth the National Church and local Christian congregations need to take up the evangelism challenge today to be successful. In all walks of life, people look for scapegoats. A workman swears at his tools, and a golfer blames the unevenness of the green, the rugby player wipes his hands on his jersey when he has missed a pass (by way of suggesting how slippery the ball was), the housewife blames her husband when the cooking has gone wrong. Scapegoats are common, but they are not helpful to the church. Scapegoats in the church include the secular society, a new church down the road, and people will come back when they get older. Hebrews 10.24-25 reads, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Church evangelism comprises many parts. If individual members of any organization are sick, then the whole body is impaired. If the separate fellowships are in good health, then so is the national organization. The key is with the local church, and the way to get it moving again to a vibrant, joyful community of Christian people is evangelism.

Employ More Clergy?

ClergymanChristian clergy ministry involves both leading and encouraging lay people in ministry. One answer to declining churches may be to employ more clergy. Another is evangelism. Evangelism at the national level of the Christian Church still has its place. But unfortunately, evangelism has become nothing more than a form of Christian public relations by many in the institutional church. The church presents the impression of an institution involved and successful. It makes its appeal for support and gets the opportunity to throw its chest out and brag about its achievements. It bends the ear of the famous and influential and induces pride in belonging, but underneath is not effective at all. Rallies work wonders for morale, filling a sports stadium with loyal members and friends, bringing out supporters "en mass." Filling a cathedral with clergy and processing so many dignitaries down the central aisle looks good to the people. But is the big meeting the best way to reach our neighbor? You have to get them there for one thing. Effective Christian ministry at home is better! We cannot rely on national efforts for growth. We have to see it at the local level. Some people argue that the way to draw in more church members is to employ more clergy and expand the Christian clergy ministry. Statistically, it was true that two full-time ministers in a community touch more people's lives and build a congregation quicker. However, it also points to an even more important truth that if the average man and woman in the pew took their ministry more seriously, outreach would be more effective. Documented experiences like Terry Fullam's (1932-2014) in St Paul's Darien, Connecticut, where a vibrant church's rapid growth has taken place, point to this. The church's blossoming was mainly due to a regenerated laity entering into a full ministry encouraged by local Christian clergy.✞

Local Church Evangelism

CongregationLocal church evangelism and more successful federal church support could concurrently be a powerful combination for success. Local Church evangelism could be longer-lasting and less expensive than federal evangelism. More successful in that it reaches people not otherwise involved. It gets them doing things with Christian people they know as neighbors and friends. It brings them under the sound of the Gospel and allows them to respond in any number of ways. Local church evangelism is more successful in that those who come to Christ are already in a lively church environment. They didn't have to go out and find one. Often, their friends are also involved in their decision to encourage them right from the beginning. This kind of support and cushioning would help many people thrive who might otherwise drop by the wayside.

Samekh love

Big fishThe fifteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, "Samekh," means "support" and begins verses 113 to 120 of Psalm 119. It reads, "I hate double-minded people, but I love your law. You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God! Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not dash my hopes. Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees. You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing." "Samekh" translated as "support," "to lean upon," or "to uphold." It is closely associated with "Semikhah," meaning "the laying hands upon" regarding a sacrificial animal. It is also closely affiliated with the Arabic word "Samak," which means "fish" and is associated with the fish's Christian symbolism. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Early Church adopted the fish mark for a supportive Christian or local Christian community. People realized that they would also find the local church's support and encouragement where they saw the fish sign. Christians should not rely on TV evangelists, great writers, or even preachers for their spiritual support. They should be bound up in the local church, and there receive their Christian nourishment from Bible reading, prayer, and worship.

"Evangelism Challenge Today"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2021

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