The church of Jesus Christ grows when people are baptized into Christ and added to his body. In order for that to happen, they must be taught the gospel. The greatest opportunities for such teaching occur among our friends and family. Preachers, as wonderful and important as they are, will never be the greatest impulse of church growth. It must come from everyone.
So it was in the New Testament. When persecution fell upon the Jerusalem church, the Christians scattered. The apostles remained in the city, but most everyone else left it. The Scripture teaches,
“Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. … Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word” (Acts 8.1b, 4 NET).
How can this happen today? How can the whole church proclaim the gospel? How can every saint in the body of Christ evangelize the lost?
First, we must believe that it is God’s will that every Christian has been given the responsibility to teach others the gospel. This is the first and greatest hurdle. We really don’t believe this. We think the preacher or maybe the elders have that job. We love our excuses, our free time, our comfort zone, and have no intention of giving them up. Not until we quit depending on, and paying, others to do our job will we lift a finger to save the souls of our families, neighbors, and coworkers. Are you ready to accept this truth and believe it?
Second, we must repent. Many of us have been going to church for 40 or 50 years, but we still need to repent, decide to do differently, and change our ways. (Some preachers need to repent as well.) To say “I am not an evangelist,” is an excuse. Not everyone may be an evangelist, but all God’s people must evangelize. The Great Commission belongs to the whole church. Are you ready to change?
Third, once we have accepted that the mission is ours to complete, that the task belongs to all of us, we must pray, pray, pray. Pray for courage, for opportunity, for vision to take advantage of the moment. Pray every day to open our eyes to the harvest fields in our own backyard. Are you ready to put forth this tremendous effort to pray?
Fourth, we must prepare. We must first of all understand the gospel, its fullness of blessing and its demands. We must understand those around us so that we might best present to them the message. We must have a plan, a method, if you will, to know what to say when the time comes. Are you ready to prepare yourself?
Fifth, we must practice our faith, give the example, show the presence of God and the character of Christ in our lives. Who wants to hear truth from a hypocrite? Show in your life that you really believe what you teach. Are you ready to conduct yourself according to Christ?
The fruit that remains that Christ wants every Christian to produce (read John 15) must contain within it the seeds of conversion. Fruit reproduces the plant. But Jesus said it must fall into the ground and die itself in order for the plant to sprout. We must die to ourselves in order that the seed of the gospel might grow in others.
Don’t think that example without teaching is sufficient. Christian conduct without Christian content never converted anyone. No one was ever saved by example alone. They must all be taught about God. And God will teach them, by the mouth of his people. Every one.
F.F. Bruce once wrote that the New Testament knows of no unbaptized believer. In the same way, it knows of no silent saint.
Are you ready to speak?