October 2018 Blog Theme: Overcoming Evangelism Challenges
The church is God’s people on mission.
Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010, began like every other day. Thirty-three miners packed their lunches, kissed their families goodbye and entered the deep recesses of the 121-year-old San José Mine in northern Chile. Then, in the blink of an eye, the mine collapsed, trapping them 2,300 feet below the surface of the earth.
Initially, the crew was thought to have been lost, but later, they were confirmed to be alive. Hopelessly trapped with no way to escape and no way to survive, the buried men prayed as the whole world watched the Chilean government marshal a crew of expert engineers, contractors and rescue personnel to pull off the most amazing rescue in modern times. The entombed miners survived for sixty-nine days on little air and small rations of food and water. Another shaft was dug through virgin rock alongside the mine, and a small torpedo-like rescue capsule called the Phoenix slowly transported each miner from the depths to safety. As each man was raised, the crowd cheered with joyous celebrations of confetti, balloons and champagne.
The crowd of rescuers called their makeshift dwelling “Camp Hope” as they toiled nonstop on the incredible operation. President Sebastián Piñera greeted each miner as he rose to the surface. He embraced Victor Segovia, the fifteenth miner to be saved, with the words “Welcome to life!”
The whole world watched in wonder at the courage and determination of these rescuers who would not stop until every man was returned safely home. Just as these rescue workers pulled together to complete an impossible mission to save lives hanging in the balance, the church of Jesus Christ is on a search and rescue mission.
Jesus descended to earth for one reason; To pay the penalty of sin and to raise dead men and women to eternal life. Like the Phoenix, Jesus rose from the depths and made a way for us to be reunited with the Father and restored to life. Jesus told His followers, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” (John 20.21 NIV). Our calling, our mission, is to enter the world of those who are far from God and bring them the hope of the Gospel. Every church is “Camp Hope.”
As you identify the field in which God has placed you and intentionally begin to pray, serve and cultivate relationships and share what Christ has done for you. It is important to know that you are not in this alone! No one worker could have pulled off the Chilean rescue. It took an army of like-minded men and women with one central focus to pull that off.
In the same way, the church is an army of men and women, filled with multiple gifts, talents and abilities, but set on one mission – to reach the world! It was to the church that Jesus gave the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28.19-20). It is the church’s responsibility to marshal the resources and efforts necessary to take the Gospel to the fields of people looking for hope.
So, how can you partner with your local church to reach your field? Here are some practical ways:
First, invite your friends to church.
Every week our church gathers to worship Jesus, be encouraged by God’s Word and pray. Also, every week the Gospel is presented in a clear, understandable way so people can respond. Inviting friends to worship with you is a great way to expose them to the Gospel and to the new community of faith.
I remember inviting a friend who was on my “Top Five” list to church. During the service, the worship team presented a dramatic portrayal of what it meant for Jesus to make us clean. A song was sung about Jesus forgiving us and making us clean, and at the same time, a woman came on stage carrying what looked to be a clay vase. Slowly, she began to wash this vase that was caked with mud to reveal that it was actually a beautiful crystal vase. It was a powerful visual of what God does for us on the inside. My friend told me later, “As I watched that woman cleaning that vase, I realized how dirty I felt on the inside and how much I need to be cleaned and forgiven.”
This is an excerpt from the book Reach Your World by Craig Etheredge, which you can purchase here.
Inviting your friend to church can be a great way to reinforce the Gospel and expose him or her to other people who have been changed by Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that when you invite someone far from God to church and he hears the Gospel and sees the changed lives worshiping Jesus, he will “worship God and declare that God is really among you,” (1 Corinthians 14.25 ESV). Oftentimes the church will have special days specifically designed for spiritual seekers. Special speakers and holidays like Easter and Christmas Eve are usually crafted with the spiritual seeker in mind. Any of these opportunities allow you to partner with your church to reach your field.
Second, partner with your church to help answer spiritual questions.
Often, the people you are reaching out to have spiritual questions that are beyond your ability to answer. None of us has all the answers, which is why we need to work as a team. As you partner with your local church, you can help find answers to your friends’ spiritual questions and keep them moving toward Jesus. One way to do this is to take advantage of the training your church may provide.
Many churches offer evangelism training on how to answer tough questions. If not, certainly you can visit with the pastors of your church to see what resources they would recommend. You can also take advantage of “Explore God” (www.exploregod.com), an outreach tool to help you answer the questions of spiritual seekers. Over seven weeks, believers and seekers gather over a meal and explore some of the most common questions seekers ask. It is a safe place to dig for truthful answers. As your friends come into contact with other people who struggled to find answers and in the process encountered Jesus, they will be inspired to keep searching as well.
Third, be part of a mission-minded group.
Most churches provide groups that either meet on campus or off campus for the purpose of studying the Bible and mutual encouragement. Sometimes these groups can become ingrown with little concern for those who are far from God, but there are some groups that are passionately burdened for the lost people in the fields. Joining a mission-minded group will give you an opportunity to find the encouragement and support you need to keep working in your field.
The people in this group can pray for you, problem solve with you and even roll up their sleeves to join you as you work to reach people. I’ve seen groups like this provide small outreach events that are great invite opportunities for your seeking friends. Groups like this go on prayer walks in neighborhoods together, work through outreach training together, feed the poor together, and even go on mission trips together. There is nothing more energizing than a group of people working together for a common purpose.
Fourth, you can participate in local and global missions.
As you expand your scope from just reaching your field to reaching the broader fields of your community or your world, again the church offers you many ways to get involved. Most churches provide opportunities to care for the needy right in your community. Serving apartment complexes, hosting day camps for children, helping care for the homeless, visiting nursing homes, providing food and clothing to the poor, counseling teenage pregnant mothers — all of these are great opportunities to share the Gospel and provide hope to the dark places around you.
Many churches also offer ways for you to travel overseas and make disciples of all nations. You can be involved in sharing the Gospel in the slums of Peru or the college campuses of Portugal. You can tell children about Jesus in Zambia or help plant churches in Romania. As you are faithful in your own field, God may call you to work in His larger fields around the world. No one person can reach everyone. It takes all of us pulling together and depending on the Spirit to reach the world around us.
Written by Craig Etheredge
This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Reach Your World, which you can purchase here.
Image credit: Gobierno de Chile