Missions is a big subject, it revolves around a big God with a big plan and a big world to reach. For those of us who are Christians, outside of knowing God ourselves, making him known should be the most important thing on our minds. Jesus made it clear in His Great Commission that we are to “…go into all the world…” with the Gospel. This brings to mind four crucial questions with regards to evangelizing the whole world.
(1) Who goes into all the world? - The Missions Messenger.
(2) What does the Missions Messenger take into all the world? - The Missions Message
(3) Why do we go? - The Missions Motives
(4) How do we do it? - The Missions Methods
The Missions Messenger
Statistics tell us that most people come to Christ as a result of a personal contact that they have with a concerned Christian friend relative or neighbor. The American Institute of Church Growth estimates 86% of all people come to Christ this way. In my conversations with hundreds of people over the last couple of decades I have found that the character of the person presenting the message is just as important as the content of the message that is preached. Someone has said, “I would rather see a sermon any day than hear one”. Frances of Assisi once told his followers “Go into all the World and preach the Gospel – use words if necessary!” In other words the quality of our lives will either reinforce or deny the message that we are proclaiming.
Just recently I was visiting a 22 year old Filipino cancer patient in a hospital. He had just received Jesus two weeks before I met him. He had been involved in a lifestyle of crime and gang warfare, had a wife in prison and a five year old by with nowhere to go while he went to the hospital for a cancer operation in which he only had a 50/50 chance of survival. A Christian lady named Danita had been volunteering her time to drive cancer patients to their radiation treatments. As she picked up Bobby for his appointment he poured out his heart to her. She not only took him to the hospital, but led him to Jesus Christ, made sure he was baptized and then has taken his little boy into her own home while he recovers from his cancer operation. His testimony to me was “How could I not give my life to Jesus?” Danita is like an “angel on wheels”. She had lived out the character of Jesus in her actions as well as in her words and as Bobby said, “How could I not give my life to Jesus”.
The Missions Message
With approximately one hour of life left in her, the HMS Titanic sent out an S.O.S. over the airwaves to try to elicit some help for her passengers. The U.S. Steamship California was a scant ten miles away and could actually see the Titanic’s side lights in the distance. The problem was the California had her radio turned off. They didn’t receive the message and the rest is tragic history. In much the same way, getting the right message to people who have their radios “turned on” is essential with regards to evangelism. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul the apostle laid out the essential elements of the Gospel message revolving around the fact of sin and the rescue that Jesus has made available by His death on the cross and resurrection. This is the Message that Paul later on described as “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Having the right message is crucial with regards to what we tell people on how to be saved. Jesus warned of many counterfeit gospels and Christ’s (Matthew 24:5, 11, 24 and 2 Corinthians 11:4) and so it’s essential that in our message we “get it right”.
I do a lot of flying, especially little short hops between the Hawaiian Islands. Once while attempting to board a flight to Maui, I mistakenly got on a flight heading for Kauai! About 30 seconds into our lift off from the Honolulu airport the announcement came over the P.A. system “Welcome aboard our Aloha Airlines flight to Kauai…” My first thought was to get off the plane and onto the right one but unfortunately I had no options but to sit back and “enjoy the flight”! I had sincerely believed I had boarded the right flight but the fact is I was wrong. Sincerely believing in any other religion or any other name for salvation no matter how sincere we are cannot get us to heaven. We have to believe the Gospel as Jesus commanded us (Mark 1:15) and it’s that message alone based on the person of Jesus himself that can save us.
In our “postmodern” society many folks will tell us the truth is relative and everyone has to follow their own heart to the truth. The problem with this thinking is it just not true! We follow principles of absolute truth in every area of our lives. We don’t jump out of airplanes without a parachute. We stop at red lights, go at green lights, don’t drink things that are known to be poisonous and when we give a check to a teller at a bank we make sure she reads it correctly so that we get the true amount of money back when we’re cashing our check. We follow principles of absolute truth in every area of our lives and some folks say except when it comes to religion everything is relative. Jesus said He was the way the truth and the life and that no man can come to the Father but by Him. He is not one of the ways an aspect of the truth and a fragment of the life. As hard core and narrow as that may sound to a postmodern mind it is true. Jesus said it was this truth that would set people free (John 8:32).
The Missions Motives
To complete this big task of evangelizing the world we have to be committed for the long hall and spend the rest of our lives in completing the task. What will keep us going for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more years working hard to evangelize the world? I suggest we have to have a proper motivation of heart. The first of which is the love of God. Love is really the bottom line in everything we do as a Christian and especially evangelism. If we don’t love people, we won’t evangelize them and if we don’t love God we won’t love people.
Probably the greatest single obstacle to having a lifestyle of evangelism in missions is fear. Proverbs tells us that “the fear of man is a trap” (Proverbs 29:25). Whether it’s the fear of rejection, humiliation, not knowing all of the answers, or something more serious like physical harm or martyrdom fear will always trap us when it comes to sharing our faith. The Bible tells us however that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) and it’s God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for the none Christian that will create a motivation of love in our hearts to keep on going until we have reached every person with the Gospel.
I was working out at a gym one day and talked to a young man who had been diagnosed with cancer. He had first decided to experiment with various home spun remedies to try to heal himself. Hearing of this, his doctor looked him in the eye and told him “If you do not let me operate on you, you will die!” The compassion in his voice, his year of experience in the medical profession, and the obvious love he had for my friend got through to him. He had the operation and today he is cured. It would not have been love if the doctor had not told him the truth about his situation. Other motives such as obedience to Jesus command, the shortness of the time we have left, and the reality of heaven and hell are also strong motivating factors but the bottom line is love. ( “…the greatest of these is love”)
The Missions Methods
The problem with talking about methods of evangelism is that there is no such thing as the right method. I like to say if there are five and one half billion non-Christians in the world there are approximately five and one half billion evangelistic methods. This is because every single person God has created is unique and different and special in His eyes and therefore we need to seek for the right method for the particular person.
Jesus said let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). I was recently on an airplane flight and surrendered my window seat to a young university student who needed to get some sleep. As I came back from standing in the back of the plane for one and a half hours she was so grateful that I had done this “good deed” that she was very open to talking to me about Jesus. I eventually got down to the need in her heart to receive Jesus, which she did. That was the right method for her. I once led a Jehovah’s Witness after arguing with the person for four and a half hours. That was the right method for her. Once I gave three tracts to three guys coming out of a bar and one of them ended up getting saved three weeks later. That was the right method for them.
In his book, How to be a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels lists six evangelistic styles that may relate to your particular taste in how you like to share your faith. The first is The Confrontational Style – the kind of “in your face” evangelism. The second is The Intellectual Style – that is reasoning with someone about their faith, giving evidences for the Bible being the Word of God, etc. The third is The Testimonial form of evangelism – like the blind man in the Bible who simply gave his testimony. The fourth is The Interpersonal kind of evangelism that Jesus exercised when he ate meals with folks like Zachaeus and Matthew. The Invitational Style was like the Samaritan woman who invited her friends to come and meet Jesus. And then there is The Service Style by which we serve people to open their hearts to the Gospel.
Different personalities and different spiritual giftings lend themselves to different types of evangelism. The important thing is to be led by the Holy Spirit and give people the message in the clearest possible way. Our job essentially is not to win people to Jesus but to make the Gospel clear and let God do His work in their hearts.