The Need for Reviving the Lost Cause
If we are going to accomplish the mission of Jesus, we must revive evangelism. We must plant new churches that have cultures that prioritize evangelism by creating a safe place for people to belong before they believe. A church with a culture of evangelism will hold the Biblical values of evangelism, share the compelling narratives of evangelism, and live out the white-hot faith behaviors of an evangelistic church.
God’s Commitment to the Lost Cause
Romans 5:8 tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” While we were still in the process of rejecting him, God was persistently pursuing us in the person of Jesus. He was on mission to restore a broken relationship with us each of us. Lost people matter to God and it is his desire that all of us come to know him (“God is patient…not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.” -II Peter 3:9). We are all prodigals that God wants to find their way back to him and our eternal home.
Our Commitment to God’s Lost Cause
We are all lost people! When we let that truth motivate us, we can’t help but be passionate about reaching people far from God. In his book, Movements, Steve Addison reminds us that the movements that change the world are missionary movements of Christ follower with a white-hot faith. The same love that stirred God to sacrifice his son for us should stir inside each of us for a lost world. We should each adopt Jesus’ mission as our own personal mission: “to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) It was because of that mission Jesus goes out of his way to get to know Zacchaeus and ultimately brings salvation to his house. And here is what happens when we have that kind of passion for the Lost Cause: “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) As leaders who are passionate about the Lost Cause the only thing that will matter is making sure that the lost are found. As a result of that passion, we will commit to starting new churches with evangelistic cultures, knowing this is the best way to reach a lost world.
The Value of Eternity
Our values are the values of our Heavenly Father. In the last part of John 3:16 it reminds us of the motivation for God’s sacrifice in Jesus, “…that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We believe that both Heaven and Hell are real, and we want share eternity in Heaven with our lost friends and neighbors. We value eternity because God is eternal (“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God…” – Isaiah 40:28), God has set eternity in our hearts (“..eternity in the human heart” – Ecclesiastes 3:11) and God has offered us eternal life. It is God’s heart that he is “…not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.” – II Peter 3:9) We do not value eternity out of fear, but out of the same love that motivated God.
The Value of Sacrifice
Our values are the values of our Heavenly Father. In the first part of John 3:16 it reminds us of the profound truth that “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Because God gave for us to be found, we willingly give whatever it takes to reach our lost friends and neighbors. We do this not out of obligation or because we “have to” but we do this willingly, because we “want to” knowing this is how we can make the greatest difference with our lives. We live out Paul’s challenge in response to God’s mercy, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
The Language of the Lost Cause
Words matter. Whoever owns the language will ultimately create the culture. If we are to create a culture of evangelism than we must be intentional about creating and consistently using language that will mobilize Christians to reach lost people. The author of More Ready Than You Realize highlights the language of evangelism that is fading from influence in our postmodern context: Evangelism as sales pitch, conquest, warfare, ultimatum, threat, proof, argument, entertainment, show, monologue, or as something you have-to-do. In its place the language around evangelism must change to hospitality, disciple-making, friendship, influence, invitation, as companionship, challenge, opportunity, and conversation, as dance, and something you get-to-do. The writer of Hebrews challenges us, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…” (Hebrews 13:2) When Paul explains to believers how to put love into action he says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) Peter also chimes in, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9) Alan Hirsch & Lance Ford in their book, Right Here, Right Now cast a vision for the power of hospitality, “Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!”
The Stories of the Lost Cause
Storytelling is a powerful way to encapsulate the values and reinforce the desired behaviors in culture creation. In creating a culture of evangelism sharing accounts of people who love and lead others to follow Jesus show how it can be done and make us believe we can do it. In Luke 15 Jesus tells three of the best short stories every told: the story of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son. In each of the stories Jesus reinforces the value of what is lost over what is found, the priority of searching and the celebration of when the lost is found. If we are to lead in creating a culture of evangelism we must tell our own stories, tell the stories of our community and share stories of others to inspire us to live out Jesus’ mission to “seek and save the lost.”
Loving Our Lost Neighbors
According to New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, the Jesus Creed can be summarized in “Love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37 &38). Eight times in the New Testament it says we are to “Love your neighbor.” According to the Barna Research Group the three qualities our neighbors value most in a person with whom they would talk about spiritual matters are the following: 1) “Someone who will listen without judgement.” Before Jesus offers healing to the blindman he listens by asking, “What would you like me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36) 2) “Someone who will allow me to draw my own conclusions.” Jesus does this with the rich young ruler by giving him a choice and “…he went away sad.” (Matthew 19:22) 3) “Someone who has confidence in sharing their own perspective.” Jesus boldly said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Jesus earned the nickname “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34) because he loved his neighbors the way they wanted to be loved. For us to create a culture of evangelism we will risk being called, “friends of sinners” and become people who love our neighbors.
BLESSing Our Lost Neighbors
The strategy that God used in the beginning to reach and redeem the world was a blessing strategy. God promised, “I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”(Genesis 12:2,3) For a doctoral dissertation, the author did a research project he titled, “Blessers versus Converters.” The study was based on two teams of missionaries who went to Thailand. While both teams went with similar goals, they carried two distinctly different strategies. The “Converters” group went with the sole intention of converting people and evangelizing. Their goal was to “save souls.” The “Blessers” group explained their intention as, “We are here to bless whoever God sends our way.” The study followed both the “Converters” and the “Blessers” for two years. At the end of that time, the researchers discovered two key findings: 1) First, the presence of the “Blessers” in the community resulted in tremendous amounts of “social good.” It appeared, according to the study, that this group contributed to the betterment of society, community life, and the creation of social capital. The presence of the “Converters,” however, seemed to make no difference.2) The second discovery—and this was very surprising—was that the “Blessers” saw forty-eight conversions while the “Converters” saw only one! The “Blessers” group saw almost fifty times as many conversions through being a blessing than those who were only trying to convert the people around them. The bottom line: the best way to accomplish Jesus’s mission of reaching people far from God is for his people to become “Blessers!” At a practical level this can accomplished through the B.L.E.S.S. practices:
If you will do one of those practices each day and begin your small group each week by asking, “Who did you B.L.E.S.S. this week?” you can create a culture of evangelism in your church.
Reviving a Lost Cause
Jesus left the church his vision of a movement when he challenged us to reproduce from our own Jerusalem into “Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) For us to see a movement we need every Christ follower to adopt Jesus personal mission to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) This will be accomplished by communities of believers with white-hot evangelistic cultures that are known for loving and B.L.E.S.S.ing their neighbors.
Commissioned for a Lost Cause
Some of Jesus last instructions to his followers were, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20) In this closing session we will challenge every attender to come forward and be commissioned to do their part by commissioned for the Lost Cause. The most effective evangelistic tool available to us is the planting of reproducing churches with white-hot evangelistic cultures. Specifically, we will challenge every person to be engaged in the reproduction and multiplication of new churches by being commissioned as a part of the Lost Cause!
It is with a strong sense that God is calling us back to the primary purpose of the church that the Exponential Big Idea for 2024 will be One Eighty: The Return to Disciple Making. In order for churches to return to Biblical disciple making we will need to pivot and make the following one-eighties…
FROM REACHING TO MAKING
FROM INFORMING TO EQUIPPING
FROM PROGRAMMING TO RELATIONSHIP
FROM ACTIVITY TO INTENTIONALITY
FROM ACCUMULATING TO DEPLOYING
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