Recently, in an article from the Baptist Press News, a Southern Baptist publication, the cry went out across the convention that numbers are down and baptisms are down, so the focus must be on evangelism. In fact, along with the missions arm of the SBC, the goal was set to carry the gospel to everyone in North America by 2020. It is what they are calling “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS). An ambitious goal that I suspect not even Jesus would sign up for.
Now I am not opposed to evangelism. I have lead many dozens to Christ in my life. What I cringe at is evangelism as a means of building an association, a denomination, a heirarchy of religiousity that appears to be wrong-sighted in its vision.
Evangelism is not acheived through initiatives. Evangelsim is acheived through discipleship. As people grow in their knowledge and understanding of God and thier relationship to Him through Jesus Christ, personal sharing is almost an inevitable outcome. It may not produce the kind of numbers that shake the convention, but it most always produces lives that last.
If you examine the branches of the military, they each have their own special forces units. For the Navy it’s the Seals, for the Army its the Rangers and Special Forces unit (formerly Green Beret) and for the Marines it is the RECON units. For the church, the disciples of Christ are the special forces of evangelism. It’s true everyone can hand out tracts, invite their neighbors to attendance events, or even make an attempt to share with at least one person what Christ has done for them. However, it is the growing disciple of Christ that most often produces lasting fruit .
If the parable of the Sower and “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back…” teach us anything it is that coming to Christ is not a matter of how many people can we get to say the prayer, but how many people are willing to make a fruitful commitment to this man Jesus.
Do I hope the GPS plan works? Of course, why not. Do I think it will prevent a numbers decline ten years later in 2030, not likely. Then again, I’ll probably not be around to know. However, until our churches start making a serious attempt at discipleship, and those disciples reproduce themselves in other people, we can have as many initiatives as we like. I suspect it will not influence the Kingdom in a way that brings honor and glory to God.
As I grow in my understanding of Christ and what it means to follow him, there are certain trigger points that push me to the next level and compel me to share. For example, I understand that for a good man one might venture to die. But then, realizing that I am a sinful man and one has chosento die for me to demonstrate God’s love – I cannot help but act (Romans 5:7-8). That news is life-altering. If it’s not, either I have been scorched by the heat or choked out by the thornes and thistles (Mark 4).
Father, help me to understand my mandate. To touch another’s life for the cause of Christ.