Robin J Johnson
I am writing this as a personal challenge to myself as much as I seek to challenge you who are reading this edition. In these days of global turmoil there is one thing that has not changed. The Good News is still good news and the responsibility to distribute this Good News is still the number one priority of the Church.
Some of you reading this are already involved in great soul winning endeavours daily. So to you I say, “please keep going, you’re doing an awesome job, don’t give up.” I pray that you will reap an even more magnificent harvest! You are my inspiration!
For the rest of us the challenge is huge! Nevertheless, it is one that we must be prepared to tackle if we are going to hasten the return of Jesus Christ. It is time for a change. I pray that this article might spark a desire to facilitate that change.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NIV
A clear difference
There is a significant difference between the Old and New Testaments regarding how people can encounter the living God. There are many Old Testament scriptures where truth is found for today, revealed, interpreted, and applied in the New. However, there is one, which clearly stands out and is a complete opposite.
Simply, in the old it was about ‘come’. If you wanted to encounter God you had to go to the place where He dwelt, where His presence was manifest; the Temple.
All were welcome, but they needed to go to His House. When Isaiah spoke of the temple being called “a house of prayer for all nations”, he was saying that people from all nations were welcome in God’s House. The context was not in regard to a prayer meeting for missionary activity, but an invitation to come. Regardless of race, colour, or language all could come, seek and encounter Him, as Israel did, in His House, by the means that were available under that covenant; blood sacrifices and offerings.
And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7
There is one thing that has not changed; all are welcome!
On the other hand the new is all about ‘go’. The presence and glory of God is no longer restricted to a particular geographical place or dwelling. The “once for all” sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been made. There is no longer a temple made of stone. His dwelling place, His presence, is in the living stones. Born from above believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, carrying the presence and glory of God.
Under the old dispensation the people went to the temple. In this new day the living stones must ‘go’ to the people.
Church or Temple?
However, it seems that many local churches have become pseudo temples. Though the activities are certainly different from the old order, almost all the activities, the expressions of Christian faith and service, take place within what is often referred to as the “House of God”. Everything, including outreach, takes place within the church building.
The Sunday service has become the weekly focal point where we go to pick up enough of God to get us through the next week. I am not particularly trying to be offensive, though some will no doubt be offend by this.
I am not alone in my view. I’m merely voicing what I know numerous others feel. They may not be in a position to voice their feelings and/or do not know what to do about it.
A couple of days ago, as I began to write this article, I had lunch with a young pastor who opened up and began to share with me his frustrations and disappointment of not seeing the growth he was expecting, even though he was working hard to see it happen. “We’re just not seeing new people come, people are not getting saved.” He told me.
Churches have people being busy. Many of the “ministries” are nothing more than housekeeping tasks. Many of these tasks are necessary and often referred to as the “ministries of help”. However, New Testament ministry is about reaching out to people to see lives impacted with the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Beautifying people not buildings!
Please don’t take this personally if you are involved in these housekeeping tasks. Thank you for faithfully serving, you are to be commended, but I believe you have potential for a more effective and fruitful expression of faith.
Into the world
Let me ask this. For many local churches, where does the bulk of the evangelism take place, if in fact it happens at all? Answer; within their buildings. That is a “come” mindset.
Am I anti-local church? Of course not! I have not only dedicated my life to serve Christ, but also His Church, and that for over 40 years. I believe in the local church, in whatever shape and form it may be. In buildings, houses, movie theatres, cafes or under a tree. I believe in the local church.
Jesus said, “I will build my church….”
Yes, His church should be a house of prayer, a platform from which people are sent. I believe one of the signs of the end time is the growing and dynamic prayer movement across the world. How ever you want to pray and what ever you want to call it, I don’t mind, as long as you pray and that your first priority is the souls of men and women.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20
Three important points:
- Jesus said, “Go” Go is a verb (a doing word, as I learnt in primary school). Go is not the sole domain of missionaries and evangelists, it is for everyone.
- Jesus said, “….make disciples” This is a twofold command. If we are going to be effective disciple makers we must first go and see people converted.
- Jesus said, “….I am with you” His presence is not in the temple (building), His presence is with us as we go.
In one of my home churches, in SE Asia, when I’m there on a Sunday morning it is thrilling to see the new people welcomed by name. These people are not merely first time visitors, but people who during the past week have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ. Someone out where they live or work had introduced them to Jesus.
Why is it that we seem to miss what is the most important and crucial aspect of our Christian life a part from knowing Christ? To be a witness of Jesus!
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:8
You may have heard the quote credited to Francis of Assisi.
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
This sounds nice and in the right context no doubt it has merit, but we must not use this as an excuse not speak at all.
We must go and speak. Faith for salvation comes from the hearing about Jesus Christ. Only then can people believe and confess their faith in the Saviour. (Romans 10:)
The account of the birth of a church in the city of Antioch (Acts11:) is an exciting testimony of people who had lost everything, were driven from their homes, refugees and yet never lost their faith. Through their testimony of Jesus a great church was established. From this local church the greatest missionary endeavor of those days originated.
My wife and I are privileged to be a part of a growing and dynamic local church in Melbourne. Every Sunday across the different services an invitation is given for people to commit their lives to Christ. And people do week after week.
Nevertheless, this is still not enough or we too have neglected the command to go. Thank God for those who bring family and friends each Sunday to be impacted by the presence and glory of God But we are compelled to do much more.
These days we regularly hear from the news media reports of “prison breaks”. Well it’s time we had some church “breakouts”. Our lead pastor last Sunday told the congregation, “We must go!” I just don’t know if anyone heard him?
The harvest is ready
The Holy Spirit has come to empower us to go. His glorious life and presence is within us. That is why Jesus said ‘go’. Even on the day of Pentecost it was about go. Some like to talk about “an upper room experience”, but let’s not be confused about this. There is solid evidence that on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit outpouring took place in the Temple, most likely Solomon’s Portico. It was a public display of God’s promise, glory and the birth of His Church, which was about to go into the entire world.
Jesus told us to pray for workers for the great harvest, that they might be “sent”.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matthew 9:36-38
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21
Go, go, go! The significant difference between the old and the new is, go!
Are you a witness?
When was the last time you shared your faith with an unbeliever and/or prayed with them?
Has the Good News become so much old news to you that you have forgot how powerful, dynamic and transforming this Good News really is? I hope not.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Why aren’t believers taking this Good News into their world? Is this glorious Good News being modeled in the churches? At the time I turned my life over to Christ, churches everywhere were preaching the Gospel every Sunday night. This should not be the only time the Good News is preached, but at least the people heard it regularly and knew what to deliver to their friends.
Time for a change
If we are serious about the great commission and seeing people saved then there must be a radical rethink and change to the way we do church and especially our evangelism. The church, especially in the west, has for far too long equated comfortable with spirituality. We are not much more than a club of likeminded, good living people, waiting and holding on until we can escape this terrible world.
We will not reach the world for Christ while we have that mindset. Something has to change!
Our churches need to become, once again, places of prayer and discipleship. And that church has to be more than believers simply attending a Sunday service. More than heartfelt worship, hearing an inspiring message and having good fellowship. That is what we have now and it is not working!
As I said to the young pastor I mentioned earlier, “We cannot keep doing the same thing week after week expecting a different result. We have to stop, take stock of what we are doing, re-evaluate and ask what we really want and start to do things differently.”
Let’s build churches where believers are equipped to live victorious, Christ centered lives and trained to witness; to see by their personal testimony their neighbors, friends, colleagues etc, impacted with the love and power of God leading them to salvation.
We are happy enough to be students of the Book of Acts and acknowledge the glory days past, but it is time we graduated and become actual practitioners of the Acts and be the witnesses of Him who died for us.
A fresh fire
We need the fresh fire of the Holy Spirit to invade our lives to break us out of our comfort zones and thrust us back into contact and in communication with a world on their way to hell. God give us a new passion for souls, a revelation that without Christ all are lost.
Whether it is to walk across the room, office or out into the street, we have been instructed to ‘go’.
Will you join me….
- In making a new and fresh commitment to personal evangelism
- By engaging with someone and sharing Good News today, tomorrow and every day that you can
- Telling a friend that God is good; He loves them, sent His Son to die for them so they can live
- Showing someone that they are an enormously valuable human being, whom God wants to spend eternity with
The Acts of the Holy Spirit have not finished. Join me and let’s write another glorious chapter.
Your response is welcome! But more importantly, I’d love to hear the testimony of your “GO” adventures.
The thoughts and ideas presented here, along with more practical help can be read in the inspiring and challenging book, ‘God Uses Ordinary People’.
Scripture references are taken from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.