I’m reading a new book from Group Publishing on outreach entitled "Irresistible Evangelism" by Sjogren, Ping, and Pollack. I’ve just started it, but am really excited about the content so far. The opening chapter asks the same question I wanted to start with in today’s post on evangelism. Why do it?
I think this is the most unasked question when it comes to outreach in our churches, both at the individual level and at the organizational level. (By the way, I’ll be dealing with both organizational and individual as we go through this series.) We assume that outreach is a good thing, therefore our motives for doing outreach must also be good. This is not always the case.
In "Irresistible Evangelism", the authors drawn a comparison between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. The kingdom of God is known for selfless service, unconditional love, and measuring success by true growth and not by numbers. The kingdom of man, on the other hand, values the exact opposite. That kingdom is known for selfishness in almost all situations (even service is often given to make ourselves feel better), for putting conditions on our love and who we include in our activities, and for paying attention to the tangible markers for measuring success.
The point is, many of our churches may not be successful in evangelism because we aren’t trying to advance the kingdom of God but are instead really trying to advance the kingdom of Man. How do we know? Ask yourself the "why" question and force yourself to answer it. If the answer to the question involves things like bigger numbers, better programs, image issues (how good our church will look or how good I will look), and even faulty motivational issues like guilt and "because we’re supposed to", we need to work on the inner person before we can try to reach out to others.
If you ask someone what their general impression is of someone who would die for them, the response is almost universally favorable. It isn’t a matter of whether people want to know Jesus or accept his gospel, it is that they want to find the Kingdom of God but have witnessed first hand being offered a slightly different take of the kingdom of man in the congregations they are contacted by.
We have to ask ourselves very seriously before we can move forward in evangelism if we are committed to making disciples for Jesus and are ready to do it in a loving and selfless way, with no strings attached. Once we can answer that question from the heart, then we can move on in our process of development.
Share your experiences of motivations for outreach, both organizational and individual. What have your experiences been with the "why" behind the efforts?