“No one can say: ‘Since I’m not called to be a missionary, I do not have to evangelize my friends and neighbors.’ There is no difference, in spiritual terms, between a missionary witnessing in his home town and a missionary witnessing in Katmandu, Nepal. We are all called to go—even if it is only to the next room, or the next block.” – Thomas Hale (On Being A Missionary).
- Though Jesus’ Great Commission was given specifically to the church’s leaders (Mat 28:16 – “the eleven disciples”), since they are the only ones possessing the authority to grant salvation (Mat 28:18-19 – “all authority…make disciples…baptizing them” – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 16:18-19); it is clear that the congregation understood they too had an important role. They were to be the church’s evangelists (e.g. Act 11:19-21; 1Th 1:8; Rom 1:8; Phm 1:6).
- In this respect then, every Christian is a missionary – i.e. those sent out of the church for the purpose of sharing the gospel (or evangel) so others might receive salvation through Jesus’ blood in His church (Act 20:28).
- This role of missionary is the primary gift given by Christ to His people (Eph 4:7-11- “evangelists” = missionaries. It is worth noting the order Paul places each role. Most likely, it is evolutionary. B/C the apostles’ duties included those of “shepherd-teachers” – i.e. pastors, the church needed “evangelists” -i.e. missionaries, before it did them). Evangelism is not only important to the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth (Eph 4:11 w/12), it is imperative to our salvation (Mat 6:9-10 w/12; also Mat 10:5-6, 14-16 – the setting for what Jesus says next in vv21-38 – taking up our cross incl. sharing the gospel w/others and being persecuted/hated b/c of it. If we do not endure it, Christ will reject us as His disciples).
- That one must share the gospel in order to effectively and faithfully evangelize others should be a given (Rom 10:14-15 – “good news” = the gospel – see v16). However, what is not so easily discerned, is that oftentimes (most of the time?) there are other things also necessary to being effective and faithful missionaries for Jesus – especially concerning America today. Fortunately for us, they are the same things that were frequently required in the first century as well. As such, the examples and instruction in the Bible (most esp. the NT) remains relevant to our evangelistic efforts in modern times. The only possible difference, would be in emphasis (to be discussed). That being said, the following represents what (I believe) to not only be what those in the NT held in common, but what else was necessary/required to be an effective and faithful missionary.
As missionaries (sharing the gospel):
4.1. We must also be DELIBERATE.
We must view our relationships w/unbelievers as those God has placed in our lives for the purpose of sharing the gospel. In this respect then, our agenda w/them is deliberate unto this end – to evangelize them. This becomes our top priority w/ such individuals (1Co 9:23; Eph 5:11-18; Col 4:5; Phi 1:27-30). What this means also, is that we are taking the time to create relationships w/unbelievers. As Christians, it is very easy (and most of the time more pleasant) to spend our time w/our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. But God has called us also to this: to loving the world – just as He has loved the world. Though Jesus spent time w/His disciples, He equally made time to build relationships w/unbelievers in the hopes of converting them (e.g. Luk 5:27-32: notice, Jesus makes it clear that His priorities included not simply hanging w/the righteous – but sinners, for the purpose of evangelism).
4.2. We must also be ADAPTIVE.
When we share the gospel, it should be adapted (i.e. customized) to the person or situation we are dealing with. We see this in the various different ways the gospel is presented throughout the NT. Based on the audience or circumstances the message changes. Not in its essential content, but in the way in which it is presented (e.g. Act 13:16-41 compared to Act 17:22-31; notice that though both are very different, they each contain the essential truth that it is submission to God’s appointed/anointed man – Jesus Christ, that is the key to salvation; also Joh 4:24-26; e.g. person calls the church looking for help to pay their rent = “I have good news, God will help you now and forever if you will submit your life to His son and become a part of His family”). Adapting our message therefore requires we listen/learn where they are coming from; we ask questions regarding their religious past – as well as how they are perceiving what we are telling them. It involves using outside resources to better understand their current view (e.g. you find out that your friend is Roman Catholic. You sb listening to and learning from our study on Roman Catholicism – see the series on Christian Cults), and correcting their current view where wrong (Act 17:18 w/22-31; Joh 4:22; Act 14:8-18; 2Co 10:3-5). All this is necessary to adapting our message to their current grid/foil in such a way that it is understood and (hopefully) received.
Such adaption is what Paul is getting at in (Col 4:6 – “seasoned w/salt” = aware of their views and adapting what you say so that it directly addresses where they are currently at).
“Loving requires knowing the person well. We nurture love for God by studying a biblical worldview to become more deeply acquainted with his truth, his character, his purpose in history and in our lives. And we demonstrate love for others when we study their worldview to get inside their thinking and find ways to connect God’s truth with their innermost concerns and questions.” – Nancy Pearcey (Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning)
4.3. We must also be CONVICTING.
Though the end goal in our communication is always the gospel, we must never leave out the other subject important to their conversion: repentance. (IOW): it is NOT just the gospel (or good news) we are to share w/them. We must also discuss/deal w/their sin and the need to repent (i.e. confess and forsake their sins/sinful behavior – Pro 28:13). The reason discussing this subject is so important is b/c this is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict them – i.e. to prepare their hearts for genuinely receiving the good news of the gospel (Joh 16:8). Hence why the evangelistic efforts recorded in the Bible include the subjects of sin (Joh 4:13-19) and/or a call to repentance (e.g. Mar 1:14-15; Mat 4:17; Luk 3:8, 18; Act 17:30). On a related note, where the audience was ignorant/forgetful to what the Bible teaches regarding the outcome for those who refuse to repent, mention is also made about the coming judgment/condemnation of God (e.g. Act 17:31). This too then is necessary today since people are ignorant of Hell. Additionally, this also is a part of what the Holy Spirit uses to convict and convert (again Joh 16:8 – “sin, righteousness and judgment”). We have therefore failed in our attempts at evangelism if we are not talking about these subjects (repentance, sin and judgment/Hell).
4.4. We must also be CULTURAL.
To be cultural means that we are relating to their given culture, rather than running from it. And the only way this happens, is by making sure that we (and our children) are in its environment, epicenters and economy; that we and our families are daily interacting and are a part of those places where the majority of secular society lives in a given region. To be more specific, that we are a part of its cities – living there, working there, building relationships there. For example, our children should be in the public schools. Why is this so important? Because as missiologist George Peters states, “If man is to be reached, he must be reached within his own culture.” (IOW): No one is going to listen to the person whose vernacular, dress-style, hairstyle, hobbies, habits, interests and general behavior are completely out of touch w/the current culture. The old term for such people was “idiot” (from idiosyncrasy = behavior that is considered odd or different from the culture in which you live). Connection w/people requires connection w/their culture. This doesn’t mean stooping to their sin – or the sinful things in a given culture. It does however mean, learning from and conforming to those amoral aspects the particular culture we are a part of finds appealing or interesting – as well as acceptable. Not b/c they are necessarily things we like or are interested in, but b/c we are on mission, and it is no longer about us. It instead about advancing God’s kingdom through winning people to Christ. And to do that requires integration and infiltration of the culture where we are doing our evangelistic work (1Co 9:19-23 w/11:1). Imagine finding out that a missionary family sent to a foreign city, did not settle near the city – or place their children into its schools, but rather chose instead to build a commune in the country and homeschool their children. What would we think of such people? Could we honestly say they were attempting to integrate and infiltrate that particular culture for Christ? Imagine now also children who are not placed in the public schools -or are removed from the public schools every-time they get beat up or have a hard time “fitting in”. From the perspective of a parent who – b/c they love their child, want them to have the easiest chance of succeeding in this world, isn’t this the worst thing you could do? Schools are some of the absolute best training grounds for learning culture and what the particular society those children will one day be a part of (unless they are going to live in your basement forever), expects if they are to be accepted and connect. Isn’t this why also parents we sometimes have a hard time connecting w/kids? -b/c we don’t know their culture! How much worse it will be for them, if when they are forced to learn it, is in their adult years since by then, they will be ostracized and the barriers to entry (to fitting in) will be much higher. You (parents) will have made things much-much worse. And that not just on a sociological level, spiritual also. Their ability to (again) integrate and infiltrate their culture for Christ; to be successful in their given mission field will be greatly hampered. Consider also the message you (parent) are sending to them thru such chosen isolation (“what matters is you – not others”). This was clearly not the philosophy of Jesus – nor what He expected from His disciples (Mar 10:45 w/Mat 16:21-27). Might such actions also make us guilty of (Mat 18:6)? God did not give you children so that you could protect them, but like the Son of God, they (too) would be sent into the world to save it.
 As a formal confession, the gospel is “the good news of abundant life (God’s forgiveness, justification, present blessings, and the hope of eternal life) in Jesus Christ (God’s Son Whose sacrificial death has secured abundant life) if we submit to Him as Lord before Savior in the relationship of Covenant through His Church.” As we shall see however, what we share with others will oftentimes be different in its presentation.
 This understanding of what it means to be a missionary does not take away from those functioning abroad. In those cases, however what is also often required is ordination since in such cases, the planting of a church is also necessary.
 This proves true as it relates to our gospel confession as well. It is no accident that at its center (or “heart”) is the truth, “Lord before Savior” – i.e. Jesus must be submitted to as Lord if we are to possess salvation – or Him as Savior.
 Some have attempted to posit John the Baptist as an example of someone God used evangelistically – yet was “out of touch” w/his culture (due to his dress). It is however just the opposite. John’s appearance identified him as the prophesied Elijah to come. Through his dress, John was therefore making a powerful cultural connection.”
 In our current culture this term often becomes a synonym for the word, “moron” which refers to the someone whose actions demonstrate a lack of wisdom or discernment, logical inference, rational reasoning or critical thinking skills.