The Lost Priority

I was recently invited to give a presentation on an evangelistic topic at my local Youth for Christ office, and I was sure of what I wanted to teach. I had been preparing a series of classes I would soon be teaching on the subject of dialoguing with Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I decided to share my discussion points with this group albeit their focus is on reaching the youth. When I arrived at the office, I began the discussion with a thought-provoking question.

“How many of you have had this topic covered in your local church?” Almost no one raised their hand or responded with any affirmation. I was not surprised by this, since the priority of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) has been tragically lost from many of our most respected congregations.

If you were to ask the average Christian what is the primary responsibility of the pastor, chances are they would say caring for the sheep, teaching the Bible, or meeting the needs of the congregation. Yet, when we look at Ephesians 4:11-12, we find a different answer. According to the apostle Paul, God has given pastors to the Church to equip them to further the cause of Christ. How does one further the cause of Christ? Evangelism. The ‘cause’ of Christ consists of what the Lord Jesus told His followers to do prior to His ascension to heaven. The Lord was essentially telling His disciples, “I am leaving you with the task of taking the gospel message to the ends of the earth. Don’t get sidetracked; give yourselves unreservedly to this great work until I return.” (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 2:4)

Jesus told His Church to take the gospel to the world, and Paul states that pastors are here to help train Christians to do it. The question is, “How seriously does the typical American pastor take this huge responsibility?” To answer this question, let’s revisit the question I asked at the Youth for Christ office. Has your church ever offered a class, seminar, conference, or series of sermons addressing how to effectively evangelize Jehovah’s Witnesses through the sharing of biblical truth? What about Muslims, atheists, Mormons, or Hindus? These people are everywhere, and if the Church is to reach them with the gospel, we must be prepared in advance. This is where your church comes in.

I am convinced that many well-meaning pastors have neglected their responsibility to equip their parishioners to share the gospel with the people they encounter. The groups listed above comprise a large segment of the American public, but if we are not able to dialogue with them in a biblical and gracious manner, it is most likely because the pastor has lost the priority to prepare the people of God to do the work of God. This is very unfortunate.

Even if your church has offered a one-time lesson on reaching different people groups, is one time enough? Judging from the context of Paul’s statements in Ephesians chapter 4, it seems as though our churches should be characterized by evangelism training as opposed to it being merely one among many of the pastor’s goals for the church.

This article was not intended to needlessly criticize our leaders. I respect any man who assumes the role of leading a flock of God, for this is one of the highest callings in the Church. Nevertheless, the need for the saints of God to be equipped is great, and according to the apostle Paul, pastors play a crucial role in preparing God’s people to do God’s work.

If you are a pastor, I encourage you to take this seriously if you have lost the priority of equipping your people for evangelistic service. If you are a church member, I pray that you will pursue greater evangelism training not just for yourself, but especially for those within your circle of influence who need the gospel of Christ.

Blessings to you as we serve our Lord together.

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