One of the most forgotten, most crucial words of the Christian life is “together”. And it’s a word that’s frequently forgotten when it comes to evangelism. So often it’s seen as a sort of solo mission. But Christians are made to work together.
As an individual Christian, you may be a foot or a finger or a follicle, but you are part of a body, the Church, and it is as part of that body that you are most yourself, and most useful, as you contribute to and depend on the rest of your church.
That’s why the word “together” is so important. Paul says in Philippians 1:27:
“Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”
As part of Christ’s body, you share his Spirit and you share his gospel – so stand together. And yet the question that so often undoes an enthusiastic young Christian is not: “Do you love Christ Jesus?” (they do) or: “Do you love telling people about Christ?” (they do) but: “Do you love Christ’s church?”
We need our church, and our church needs us: “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:18)
We strive together for the faith of the gospel, and part of the way in which we strive for the gospel is in evangelism. We are to do evangelism together, as church; and yet so often the indispensability of the local church in evangelism is forgotten. John Stott brilliantly articulates the centrality of the church’s role in evangelism in Our Guilty Silence:
“The invisibility of God is a great problem. Today in our scientific culture young people are taught not to believe in anything which is not open to empirical investigation. How then has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? The first answer is of course “in Christ”. Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. John 1 v 18: “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son has made him known.” “That’s wonderful,” people say, “but it was 2,000 years ago. Is there no way by which the invisible God makes himself visible today?” There is. We return to 1 John 4 v 12: “No-one has ever seen God.” It is precisely the same introductory statement. But instead of continuing with reference to the Son of God, it continues: “if we love one another, God dwells in us.” In other words, the invisible God, who once made himself visible in Christ, now makes himself visible in Christians, if we love one another. It is a breathtaking claim. The local church cannot evangelise, proclaiming the gospel of love, if it is not itself a community of love.”
So it’s not only the individual Christian believer who is to let their light shine – a narrow beam of torchlight in the world. Each local church is to be a lighthouse: a great, wide beam of gospel light, illuminating the surrounding darkness.
If we are to stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, we must not see our local church as just our campaign headquarters – from which we hear the gospel and go. Neither is it just our field hospital, where we return to be patched up. It is those things, but it is so much more. It is a loving community of Christian brothers and sisters, and by being this, it gives credibility to the gospel. Indeed, it is God’s intended medium for his message. There is a sense in which witnessing to Christ can only happen if it is happening corporately – together.
So, in evangelism, use the character and gifts which God has deliberately given you. But don’t feel obliged to do it all by yourself. Use your character and gifts as part of the church in which God has deliberately placed you. Shine a gospel light in your office and in your local coffee shop; join it with the beams of others as you meet midweek in ways that include witnessing; and let it be part of the great lighthouse for your community that your church must be. As Jesus himself put it:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
This is an extract from Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice.