TimeTo Talk: Friends Tell Friends

District Fellowship News

March, April 2008

Recently, I attended a meeting of national leaders discussing the need for discipleship and evangelism in our churches. During one session the following statistics were presented. I know that depending on how you ask the questions, or how you interpret the results, you can extrapolate different conclusions, but in this case I think we need to take a real hard look at ourselves and see if we are part of this trend in evangelical Christianity.

79% of churchgoers would not invite anyone to church.
98% would not invite an unsaved or pre-Christian individual to go with them.
80% of evangelical Christians say the primary purpose of the church is to see to their comfort and needs.

In the best case scenario, the interpretation of these results could be as follows:
“We as individuals evangelize outside the church and then once someone has become a Christ follower we invite them to the church where they receive comfort and have their needs met. The church is for refueling not for evangelism.”

If this were the case (and there are examples where this is happening) I applaud individuals who are doing this. However, I do not believe this interpretation fits the majority of those who responded to this survey. Anecdotal evidence backs up an interpretation of these statistics that those who profess to be Christians are more concerned with their needs than with their mission. There is a disconnect between knowing the Great Commission and fulfilling it. Why? Let’s look at some of the reasons.

First, fear—Will I be rejected? Do I have the right to bother someone with this? Will I be called intolerant? The same issues that faced the early church, face us today. Paul had a constant fear of persecution to deal with. Many of the early Christians were rejected and called intolerant. The Lord knew we would be shunned because of Him. In a news article recently, Catholic bishops in Italy were being castigated because they had the audacity to suggest that actors shouldn’t participate in vulgar and destructive erotic scenes in movies. The cry—How dare you put your morals on us! What if the person you invite gets upset? What if they laugh at your beliefs? What if they make you the laughingstock of their circle or they call you intolerant for suggesting they may need to have a personal relationship with the creator of the universe? Are you afraid of the possible consequences that could affect you.

Second, selfishness-We become protective of what we see as ours: our reputation, our church, our circle of friends, our comfort, our needs. When we invite others into our community we must be prepared for our tight knit group to change, for the feel or style to evolve, for the comfort of the old shoe to become the breaking in of the new footwear. The church doesn’t exist to make life easier on this earth for the chosen few. It exists (and remember the church , the body of Christ are the people not the buildings) to fulfill the mission of sharing the truth of a crucified and resurrected Savior to everyone and then to teach and disciple those who choose to hear the message and follow Christ. There is no place for an attitude of self-centeredness. As Christ followers we look outward, and we go into the world to share the truth, not just huddle in the building content with our own salvation.

Finally, indifference-It’s not important to me. I don’t even think about it. Although this may in some cases be a form of self indulgence, indifference shows a real lack of understanding of God’s heart. God did not walk away after man was created and say that was good, now I really don’t care about what happens. He was so concerned with man that even after man gave into sin God made a way to make it right. He could have just ignored man’s plight and let all men receive spiritual death, but instead He cares about every person ever to live. If we are indifferent to the spiritual plight of those around us, we have not fully understood God’ mercy, God’s grace, and we certainly do not know God’s heart.

If you haven’t been fulfilling your commission, it’s time to walk through the fear, stop thinking about yourself, and realize the eternal price someone may pay if they never hear. If you don’t want to invite them to the church, then invite them to a home group where they can hear. This issue is more important than political campaigns, global warming, disease prevention, or any of the other causes you can speak out on. Don’t be quiet about eternal life. It’s time to talk.