THE MISSION OF EVANGELISM 2
The Rt.Rev.B.A.Kwashi, Bishop of Jos
I – INTRODUCTION
Evangelism is the will of God. When Jesus was about to go back to the Father in heaven he left this command:
“`Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'” (Matthew 28:19-20)
This is more than a hint, a guide or a suggestion; it is a command, and the apostles took it very seriously because it is the will of the living God. All the things that follow in the wake of evangelism, the social consequences, the spiritual implications, and the theological interpretations, are important but they are not a substitute for the will of God. The apostles, in the face of threats from the authorities, declared:
“`Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God.'” (Acts 4:19)
Our Lord had made it perfectly clear to the disciples that obedience was expected from them. The proof of their love for him would be that they would keep his commandments. He had chosen them and appointed them so that they would “go” and “bear fruit” (John 15:12-17). We are not at liberty not to preach the gospel of salvation to the whole world. We have been saved and called to live for God and to obey God as a sign that we are children of God. We are commanded to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ. Failure to do this is disobedience not to any church authority but to Jesus Christ himself. For this reason, evangelism and mission must come at the top of our agenda at diocesan level, archdeaconry level, in the parish, the local church, and in our individual lives. Only then can we claim that we are obeying our Lord and Master, and only then can we ourselves hope to enter eternal life. Not to participate in evangelism is to be opposed to God, for God does not desire the death of a sinner; he does not wish the world to be condemned. Therefore he has saved us and called us and sent us to warn the world to turn to God through Jesus Christ. Whoever refuses to participate in evangelism is not only disobedient, but is actually guilty of wishing the world to be condemned. More than that, however, he is an enemy of the will of God.
“Mission is the meaning of the church. The church can exist only insofar as it is in mission, insofar as it participates in the act of Christ, which is mission. The church becomes the mission, the living outreach of God to the world. The church exists only insofar as it carries Christ to the world. The church is only part of the mission, the mission of God sending his Son to the world. Without this mission, there would be no church. The idea of church without mission is an absurdity.”
(V.J.Donovan: Christianity Rediscovered, page 102)
Such mission is a whole life-style. We are not concerned here with a single event, but with an ongoing activity of the church in obedience to Christ. God is the missioner: the mission is his. We are the carriers or vehicles of that mission. When God calls, we answer; what God says, we do; wherever he sends us we are to go. This is obedience and this is mission: the two are inextricably linked. Jesus himself was the supreme example of such obedience and of such mission. He came to announce the Kingdom of God; he taught about the Kingdom of God; he lived a life in which the Kingdom of God broke through into this world and could be seen by those who had eyes to see.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work, … the fields are already ripe for harvest.”
II – REACHING OUT
We tend all too easily to think that because Jesus was Son of God as well as Son of Man, everything was easy for him. We forget Gethsemane and the piercing insight which that gives us concerning the cost which Jesus had to pay – even before the crucifixion. The struggle was devastating, before he was at last able to cry “Your will, not mine, be done.”
If it was not easy for the master, it will not be easy for the disciples. The demand and the price are high. However, obedience is the key to mission, and we must obey, even though it will involve going to hazardous places, to difficult places and to oppressed situations. Indeed this is inevitable because those people, situations and places which are outside the gospel cannot know the fullness of peace, justice and compassion until they hear and receive the gospel. No wonder that some denominations, some dioceses, some churches and some individuals will do everything to remove evangelism from the agenda of the church. In such cases, if evangelism is on the agenda at all, it is there just to satisfy the Bishop or whoever is responsible for evangelism, but it will only be discussed as a subject and allowed to fizzle out, to be discussed again later; and so long as it is being discussed it remains purely a subject for discussion.
We must accept that in doing evangelism we will bear the cost. It needs a lot of time in prayer, in preparation, in careful planning and training of individuals and of the church. It also takes a lot of effort to mobilize the people: it demands the total mobilization of the church, not of just a few individuals, because the command is to the church. Leaders must be “fished out”, taught and trained. Christ did not issue a general appeal for disciples; he called them one by one “You … follow me”. He then spent time patiently teaching them, living with them, praying with them. Our theological training today must be of a high quality, and it must also be geared for mission. Pure intellectualism is of no use: there must be training for service. We are to teach those who will then go and teach others, who in turn will teach others, who will teach others …. In that way, the word is constantly handed on, each time involving an ever increasing number of people (see 2 Timothy 2:2). This takes time; it takes energy; it needs resources; it must be rooted in prayer; it calls for a total dedication and commitment of one’s life. Some people are tempted to despair and to say that the task is beyond our present capability: if we had hundreds more ordained clergy, then we could begin! Remember that when Jesus Christ began his ministry, and indeed even at Pentecost, his “diocese” was the whole world, and his “staff” 12 men, one of whom betrayed him.
To say that we have insufficient manpower – and worse still, to complain of having no bus or band or film projector – is merely to make excuses and to misunderstand the situation. Money can be helpful; some tools may be of great assistance, but what is needed above all else is that the life of each and every Christian be so transformed by God that we truly live out what we profess to believe. If we do that, we shall be like high powered yeast, changing the world from within. If the gospel is real in our lives, and if what we do is consistent with what we say, people will see the difference and our testimony will bear fruit.
There is always a temptation to look at what we have started and to be content. The joy that accompanies the starting of a project can be so overwhelming that the work stops completely because everyone is admiring the beginning of a laudable programme. Very subtly, other things then choke our minds and the vision is lost. The apostle Paul would give room for none of this (see Philippians ch.3). His detractors could not stop him. Enemies from within and from without could not stop him. His own personal qualifications he put aside. His health, his condition in prison, indeed his life was completely surrendered to the task of the gospel and the mission of the church of God. The goal was set before him. Never at any point would he have thought that having started, he had arrived. In fact, he recognises that it is God who has started and it is God who will finish the task. We are both indebted to God and dependent upon him. When the risen Christ commanded his disciples to go to all nations, to preach, to teach and to baptize, he also promised to be with them, always. If, however, we refuse to obey, we loose his presence with us. Christ goes ahead of us, calling us to follow, but if we sit still where we are, then we are left further and further behind, until his presence is only a dim memory. That is surely one reason why some of the older established churches are now dying. We must learn this lesson before it is too late.
Sometimes the command to “Go” has not been obeyed simply because people have not heard it. If a water pipe is blocked with dirt, the water cannot flow through it. If our lives are blocked, we ourselves cannot hear God and God cannot work through us to reach others. Four major hindrances which cause our lives to be “blocked” in this way are:
- Sin. This is the greatest enemy of progress in the life of the believer who desires to “go”. God does not send us out to advertise sin; God is a holy God who has redeemed sinners and sends them to announce the message of redemption to lost sinners. Every weight of sin must be dropped if we are to go forth and have a hearing (Hebrews 12:1).
- Worldliness. We get caught up with worldliness and settle to “making money”: building empires and concerning ourselves with what people say about us, and so on. These interests do not get us far because they last only for this life (Mark 8:36).
- Disobedience. Some Christians have hidden under laziness to become disobedient when God is calling us today to “Go forth”. Others are simply deliberately disobedient and become agents of confusion in the church.
- Distractions. Distractions and diversions will keep us busy but totally ineffective. This is clear right from the time of the early church when, for example, an administrative problem brought complaints and grumbling, and threatened to cause a major division in the fellowship (see Acts 6:1-7). If the apostles had not seen the danger and dealt with it, they would not have been able to preach and to go forth as their Master had commanded.
“Go forth” must imply “be open”: nothing can “go” through a closed door: God’s word cannot “go” through us if we are closed up, and if our lives are blocked in any way. It is a privilege that sinful people like us should be considered to speak on behalf of God. Let us therefore not be disobedient, but let us hear the command to “Go”.
When Jesus called the seventy (or seventy-two) he sent them out two by two; this means there were in all about 35-36 pairs. He called them and engaged them in his Father’s business; the task is therefore to be done according to his own specifications.
You too must answer his call, and that means that you yourself must know him (remember Peter’s confession in Luke 9:20); you must be prepared to carry your cross daily (Luke 9:23); and you must have a single purpose, the task of the Kingdom (Luke 9:62).
More hands are needed if the target is to be met. Jesus said:
“There is a large harvest, but few are the workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that he would send out workers to gather in the harvest.” (Luke 10:2).
In this verse we see three important things. We see a passion for souls who are ready for the gospel: they are hungry; they must be not only fed, but also brought home. Secondly, we see that the labourers (workers) are in contrast to the Scribes and Pharisees (big men, important religious people) who talk and talk, but do nothing for the salvation of a lost generation. Thirdly, let us notice that only a sincere prayer that will get you involved can change the situation. If you are not prepared to be involved please do not pray, because you are part of the answer to your own prayer! You can be the problem if you pray but are not willing to be part of the answer to prayer for evangelism.
Our Lord warned the disciples:
“Go… I am sending you like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3)
As we have seen, this is an instruction: “Go… I am sending you”. The disciples are to be like lambs: they are to be harmless, gentle and completely dependent on the protection of their owner. These lambs, however, are sent among wolves who are swift, carnivorous and dangerous. That is our task!
It is also interesting to note that the other “sheep” to whom the disciples are sent are said to be in a sick condition and in need of healing; possessed, and in need of deliverance; depraved and in need of salvation (v.9). Does not this describe some of our churches, and indeed our nation!
III – THE UNREACHED
Whenever “the unreached” are mentioned, people think of remote areas. We must realize, however, that while the unreached may be in remote areas there are also unreached people in our own neighbourhood, as well as amongst our immediate family and friends. Just before the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, he told the disciples that they would bear witness (go forth) first of all in Jerusalem, the place where they already were. “Go forth” does not necessarily mean “leave your home”; rather it means “be outgoing”, that is, be outgoing in your attitude: be open to all people, near as well as far away. In fact, it is often more difficult to behave in this way with those who know us very well, for example our family and close friends, than with distant strangers.
Nonetheless, in reaching the unreached, people generally prefer to evangelize their own tribes. Therefore one church tends to be of one tribe or race. However, if you evangelize only the members of your own tribe, the result is that when Satan’s demons come they will leave your church and your members alone, but they will enter your unevangelized neighbours’ homes and lives. This means that you will never know peace – precisely because you have not evangelized your neighbour! Your children will marry their children and therefore you will have an ungodly or demonic in-law. Your children and grandchildren will attend the same school as the children of the ungodly. Today we hear stories of cults and satanic activities in secondary schools such as we have never heard before. Is not this because we have not obeyed God by doing evangelism?
When your neighbour does not hear the gospel you will not know peace, and so at prayer meetings you will pray like this: “Protect me from my neighbour”. You have not visited your neighbour; you have not prayed with your neighbour or made friends or shared or shown love. So what do you expect! As a matter of fact, if this state of affairs is allowed to continue it will not be long before the children of the ungodly begin to rule and oppress the church.
By contrast, however, the Bible says “God so loved the world …” (John 3:16) – not one race or one tribe. We are to share the gospel with the whole world. If we do not, we shall not know peace anywhere in the world.
The unreached, therefore, are all and any people who have never heard the gospel in such a way as to respond positively or negatively. They may have heard with their ears but not understood. They may be people who have a vague idea about what the Christian gospel is, but they have not been privileged to have the gospel explained to them because of their nationality or because of state restrictions such as exist in muslim countries and communist enclaves. There are also the unreached who have not heard the gospel largely because of the church’s inactivity in reaching out to their particular areas. These types of places exist in Nigeria. There is another group of unreached people who are in the cities and are not evangelized because of the church’s gross assumptions that the unreached are in far away rural places and not in the cities. Here are big mistakes and the church needs to be corrected.
In order to respond positively, the unreached person or people must be sure of your love and good intentions. From experience we know that Satan will try to distort our mission to those we visit. This is even more likely with intercultural and inter-racial evangelism. Such a situation can, however, be countered by “soaking” prayer. As soon as you have identified where God is leading you on mission you must spend a lot of time in prayer for specific matters, such as asking God to remove those hinderances which will lead to misunderstanding and misinformation.
In some parts of Nigeria today we are seeing a rapid growth in the number of churches opening, and in the number of people giving their lives to Christ. We thank God for this, and give him all the glory – but truly, we have scarcely begun! There are still thousands of people in this nation who have not heard the gospel; there are thousands of people who are uncommitted; there are thousands upon thousands of children running around our streets who do not receive any Christian teaching. The people in the towns, the traders, the homeless children, the prostitutes, the poor, the sick, the rich, the rural people, the young people, the old: everybody must be told the good news by word and deed. They must also be discipled and taught to live lives worthy of their call.
A radical change and transformation is required. This means that we must talk to the hearts of people in ways they will understand; we must set before them living examples which they can see and imitate. There must be an uncompromising presentation of the truth of God’s word as it is, in love and full of the Holy Spirit. This calls for dedicated pulpit ministry, a powerful presentation of expository preaching of God’s word in such a way that the listeners will respond to the living God. We must preach not ourselves, but Christ crucified. We must not be conformed to this world, but we must be transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit by the power of the word of God. In this regard we have only just started and, like St.Paul, we must press on.
At the start of his ministry, Jesus set his own agenda in the words of Isaiah:
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me; he has sent me to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; to let the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Whether the unreached are in our own yard or on the other side of the world; whether they speak our own language or have a completely different culture, tongue and tradition; these are the “lost” for whose sakes our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world (Luke 19:10). These are the ones whom Christ came to “seek”. These are the ones to whom we are to go now.
IV – THE MESSAGE
“My one desire is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.”
This was Paul’s focus. All his preaching, all his working, his travelling, his writing, even his suffering had this one aim in view. Therefore whenever he presents the gospel he seeks not to draw attention to himself, but to point people to Christ. This was the pattern of preaching in the early church right from the time of Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost. This must also be our pattern and our focus. There is no room for a competing goal of making money, or success, or prosperity, or of speculative and corrupt theologies. Indeed, any business, or learning, or contribution which does not further this one task of making Christ known and leading people to heaven has no value other than that which is temporal and ephemeral. The apostle Paul had only one task, one goal, and nothing could come between him and this one task. He presses on; his focus is right and he strains towards the prize. We must all sharpen our focus.
The world would want us to believe that it is wealth, power, status and entertainment which have the pre-eminence. Unfortunately, some preachers and churches have been captured by the world’s vision and message. Such religious leaders collect for themselves power and become wolves instead of shepherds. They cause much distress and hardship in an already difficult and strenuous situation, thereby making the people suffer and feel the effect of the bad situation twice over. For Paul, and indeed for every believer, it should be known and be made known that power belongs to God, and that therefore for those who believe in Jesus Christ, to live is Christ and to die is gain. This is a crucial fact and a comfort for the realization of our joy in the gospel. The commercialization of the Christian gospel has increased in our generation. Many have taken the world’s system of entertainment into the church and have made a mockery of the cross of Christ. For them, Christ must be an entertainer, and Christianity must present itself in a way which will make them feel good, in order for them to be satisfied. The first side effect of this is, of course, that they are unable to stand in the face of hardship. They know only a momentary happiness instead of true joy. Worse than that, their faith, if it is faith at all, is temporal and emotional. The joy that Christ gives is more than entertainment; it is not temporal; it is not controlled by circumstances and situations: it is real.
Therefore the starting point for all our preaching is not the sinfulness of man but the love of God. It is Christ we proclaim: Christ who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again for our salvation; Christ who is now glorified in heaven and who will come again as Lord and judge. This Christ has reconciled us to God by his death on the cross; through him our sins are forgiven and we are saved from the fear of Satan and from the powers of death and hell. If we are united with Christ we become a new creation, continually being so transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit that we grow more and more like him who is our Lord, our Saviour, our Master and our All. (See worksheet)
Paul thanked God for the Christians at Colossae because:
“we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you bear towards all God’s people; both spring from that hope stored up for you in heaven of which you learned when the message of the true gospel first came to you.” (Col.1:4-6a)
These three qualities, faith, hope and love, are the hallmarks of the work of God in the heart of a person and a basic but sufficient description of the life of a genuine Christian. Faith in Christ is paramount, but this is evidenced by love for the fellowship of the brethren. The joy of sharing this love is of particular importance in the testimony of faith. Both faith and love spring from that hope which is stored up in heaven but which is in some measure accessible even now to those whose faith is in Christ alone.
In the days of the early church, however, just as today, false teachers and false doctrines threatened to destroy the faith of the young Christians. To prevent such a disaster Paul and his colleagues prayed, worked, wrote and preached with all their might, seeking to bring people to repentance, to true faith and to new life in Christ.
“He [Christ] it is whom we proclaim. We teach everyone and instruct everyone in all the ways of wisdom, so as to present each one of you as a mature member of Christ’s body. To this end I am toiling strenuously with all the energy and power of Christ at work in me.” (Col.1:28)
The message which Paul preached and taught in words was the message which he lived out in his daily life. A church which regards the gospel simply as a perfectly packaged parcel of belief to be handed on from generation to generation will not survive. Christ completed his work on the cross, but the effect of that has to be worked out in the lives of individuals and communitites for as long as this world endures. The gospel is not an object which we can pick up, put down or hand on at will. For faith to be real, it must be lived. The gospel must so totally enter into the heart, mind and life of the believer, that he or she is completely taken over by it.
The root meaning of the word `baptize’ is to be totally immersed or soaked. Those who are baptized are to be totally `soaked’ in the gospel, with no area of life, no matter how small, omitted. When this happens, the life of the believer is transformed, and this has a contagious effect. Other people see the difference, and begin to ask questions. The gospel is not static; the gospel is a catalyst, and those who proclaim the gospel through their own life-style are catalysts for change in the lives of other individuals, of communities and of the world.
This means that when we approach others with the gospel our attitude should be that of Christ. There can be no room for superiority, for condemnation, or for self-righteousness. God’s word must be presented uncompromisingly in love and in the power of the Holy Spirit, through our words, our desires, our actions and our character.
This is an urgent task which cannot wait until tomorrow. In his teaching Jesus constantly emphasized that we must always be ready: we do not know when Christ will return; we do not know when we shall be called to account; our lives are not in our hands. Therefore, today and every day we must live lives which reflect Christ’s love; we must be about our Master’s business. If not, we shall be like the foolish virgins, the lazy steward and the goats (Mt.25). They delayed; they did not live the gospel. To them was given the dreadful verdict: “Depart from me” (Mt.25:41). Let us so proclaim and live the message today that at the end we hear the words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father” (Mt.25:34).
V – THE METHOD
We have a clear instruction of what we are to go and do: “Preach the Gospel”. We are to “Go”, to be outgoing and open, not in order to advertise ourselves or our own self-importance, but to preach, to proclaim the gospel. We are to point away from ourselves to Christ.
How do we preach? We do this by all that we do and say and are. People remember the sort of person you are rather than all the words you may have said. St.Francis was a famous preacher. One day a young man arranged to follow him to learn how to preach. They set out. On the way they stopped many times to help people: a child had fallen over; a woman needed help to lift her loads; some youngsters were quarrelling and fighting. Even when they reached the town they met someone whose mother was in hospital, so they went to visit her. By now it was getting late, and the young man was wondering when St. Francis would start preaching. At last St. Francis said, “Now we can go home.” The young man asked him, “But when are you going to start preaching?” “What do you think I’ve been doing all day?” replied St. Francis.
What we are is vital. We are to be like the glass in a window: people do not want to look at the glass: they want to look through the glass to see what is outside. People want to see God through us! Similarly, we are to be like yeast or salt: in itself it is something almost unseen, but the effect of yeast and salt “goes forth” throughout the food and completely changes its character. We too can be used by God to help to change people and situations. There is so much need for change in the world. We talk of being “open to change”, but change implies risk: we do not know exactly what will happen or how it will be. So we have to trust God; we must go forth with prayer, trust and faith. But go forth we must, because we must obey the command to “Go!”
We have examples of different methods of evangelism throughout the New Testament, but the key principle has always been:
“what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
(2 Timothy 2:2)
A careful study will show that Jesus’ method was exactly this. There were at least 70 who were his disciples, and out of the 70 he selected 12 whom he called apostles. For evangelism to be effective there must be a careful selection of a workable method within each context. The principle, however, as set out above remains constant.
One other suggestion which may be unpopular but which I believe with my whole heart is this. Because Jesus trained his team by himself and led them out on evangelism, I am of the opinion that church leaders should do the same if the world is truly to hear the gospel and believe. This method has always yielded results because where the leader leads in the mission, the followers follow spontaneously and the outcome is usually positive.
The first stage of evangelism is to create the awareness of the message and to establish the purpose of the message. The second stage is to call the people and fully translate the message into the lives of the hearers. The third stage is to get those who have heard ready to dare to go out to reproduce the first two stages in the lives of other people and thus to enable yet more people to agree to become agents of this repetitive production. This must be accompanied by the full implications of the message in social, economic, environmental and political terms. In other words, the message must become a living reality!
On the whole, the nitty gritty of particular, specific methods of evangelism is then a matter of selection. Each area therefore should select the most suitable equipment, materials and particular method that will produce the best results in that environment. There may be film projectors and tracts which are very good but may not be the best in one place, while the same materials will bear fruit elsewhere.
One danger I must point out about methods is that methods can very soon become more important than people. There is a need to be on the watch not to allow methods and materials to become idols. The materials and methods are purely tools in the hands of people to be used for the task of evangelism. The best method remains the biblical pattern of one to one evangelism, based on visitation, friendship and love in action. In this way a little discussion about the gospel will always leave an indelible impression in the hearts of people.
What we have done in Jos Diocese may not work anywhere else except in Jos. The aim of sharing our methods and what has happened with us is mainly to testify to what God can do through simple obedience.
In December 1993 we had a mission in Pankshin. We went to Pankshin as a team with all the clergy and some of the lay people who were interested. We spent one week learning how to witness person to person, learning how to pray as a team and in small groups, as well as in pairs, and learning how to develop confidence not in ourselves, but in God. Most of our sessions of learning and teaching were in the morning, while we went out for practicals in the evening. We also introduced another session in the last three days: we showed the Jesus film in two different locations on each one of the three days, and we also intensified this with a follow-up programme every day. As for our experiences during that week in Pankshin, a fresh book could be written! One thing, however, which must be noted was the joy that we experienced in seeing people receive Christ for the first time and coming for the follow-up class. Pankshin itself has not been the same since then. The churches in Pankshin have multiplied and the membership in the local church has increased, while evangelism is no longer a distant theoretical statement, but something to be lived out.
In December 1994 we selected 13 people (women as well as clergy) and trained them to be trainers for mission. They received tuition from the Great Commision Movement of Nigeria, and they are also experienced in our local methods of evangelism. These people are now responsible for training in evangelism throughout the diocese.
In January 1995 we declared a “Mission Week” throughout the diocese. Each parish organized a mission awareness week explaining to the members what evangelism means, what it takes to be involved in mission, who should be involved, and why there should be mission and evangelism at all. During this week there were various series of seminars, drama and music explosions. Men, women, youth and children participated in one form or another and a general awareness was created. Probably not much happened, but who is to say! Ours is to create an awareness and to mobilize the people for God to use. Later that year we had mission placements for all the clergy whereby they spent two weeks in villages and remote areas of the diocese. A sample of the instructions given to them goes like this:
1. Consult the list of Missionary stations and fill in the dates. You are to spend a minimum of 2 weeks doing mission in your area of assignment. This should be completed before the end of June. Therefore make sure that you fill in your dates for a period between January and June.
2. You are expected to evangelize; to make disciples; to start a church (if there is not one where you are going); and teach the church to be able to stand when you leave. The same church should not only feel the impact of your missionary visit, but should carry on the mission after you.
3. Do not go with your car, motor cycle or bicycle. Do not take more than your transport money (to and fro) from your local church. You are on a venture of faith and God will meet your needs according to his riches and glory.
The experience was aimed at opening the eyes of the clergy to the vastness of the unevangelized field and to the need for labourers, for prayer and for a sense of urgency in the task. This was achieved: ever since then the clergy have not been the same. New churches were founded during these two weeks. The villagers received great encouragement from the visits and God did great things. Much of this will be recorded separately in a book of testimonies.
Later in 1995 each church and parish was asked to organize its own mission, peculiar to each context and carried out in its own way.
In January 1996 most of the diocesan clergy together with some of the laity went to Yerwa. We spent the first day and night in prayer. We all saturated Yerwa town with a door to door tract campaign using the Four Spiritual Laws booklet and the Four Steps to Spiritual Growth (see Appendix). In the evening we invited people to come and watch the Jesus film. The following day we divided into four groups, each group travelling to one of four cardinal locations in order to cover the whole archdeaconry. Each of the four groups then further split into two, thus enabling us to visit 8 villages each day. This means that a total of 24 villages heard the gospel during our three days’ campaign. In each of these villages the gospel was shared daily and the Jesus film was shown as well.
In November 1996 the same pattern was repeated in Nasarawa Eggon area and in January 1997 we were in Langtang, better equipped, better organised and with better results.
With each campaign there has been a great enthusiasm and interest. We are improving and the church is also being mobilized. We have seen people come to Christ in ways that only God can do. We have not spent time arguing or proving our points; we have simply shared Christ, sometimes using our little pamphlets or tracts, sometimes without them, and we have seen people come to know Jesus. The evidence of this is that such people are visibly following Christ. They are in our churches. Some are Christians who had lapsed; some were Christians only by name; some did not even know what Christianity is all about, while a good number may have Christian names, but were pagans and had never had the gospel explained to them in the way we put it. Some have wandered into our Jesus film shows and have stuck with Jesus. Some have come to listen to our music and have ended up with Jesus. God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
The other method of evangelism which is not too strong on my agenda, but which we have adopted from time to time, is the church planting method. In Jos, for example, in 1992 there were four churches: St.Luke’s Cathedral, St.Paul’s Church, St.Piran’s Church and New Covenant Anglican Church. Since then we have adopted areas, spent a whole year in prayer and sought the face of God in order to reach people by the church planting method. Today in 1997 we have 18 churches in Jos town. One would have thought that the congregations in the older four original churches would have dwindled, but on the contray, as with a blood donation, they are on the increase. At the same time the new churches are also growing. For example, St.Bartholomew’s began with 12 people in 1993 and today has an average attendance of 250; St.Michael’s, Katako, began in 1993 with 30 and today has over 800; St.Andrew’s began with 6 and today has over 80; the Church of the Ascension began with 4 and today has close to 30.
This is the Lord’s work and we have to do it in obedience to his command. We must go on doing it by faith, one day at a time, looking up to him who is the author and finisher of our faith. Our experience has shown that we have made several mistakes, but the Lord has done his work. We are taking note of our mistakes and trying to improve. It must be noted that in all evangelistic campaigns, the means must be available to consolidate the faith of the new converts. We also are learning in this venture to hold very tenaciously to the word of God. We are learning again that prayer is participating with God, listening to God, and being available to be sent by God. Prayer is therefore the very source of the life of the believer for EVERYTHING! We are learning to be pilgrims, and we are learning the gift and the joy of evangelism by participating in the birth of new life in the lives of people and communities.
The concentrated campaigns are like catalysts. Evangelism is much more than these activities: it is the very life of Christ in the life of those who believe as evidence and testimony that conversion has taken place. It is a life lived and continued in Christ, consistent with the conversion that has taken place, so that others will also be converted to Christ. This will take us through the paths of suffering, persecution, settling of quarrels, breaking down of the barriers of division, race, sex, culture, growing pains and so on. But that is the life of a pilgrim – and it is pilgrims that we are called to be!
“Dear friends, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul.”
(1 Peter 2:11)
VI – CONCLUSION
When Jesus died on the cross, he took the power of sin and dropped it in the grave, and left it there. He also left there in the grave the powers of death, hell, principalities and powers, and Satan. He came out victorious from the grave. He triumphed over evil forces and over all the forces that keep man in bondage to sin. That means that when we sin we are going back to the grave and digging out our sins and insisting that we keep them and go around with them.
The only cure is to repent, turn round and begin to follow Jesus Christ away from the grave and death, and keep on following Jesus very closely and living the life God offers to all who believe. Do not lose sight of him; do not be carried away by worldly affairs, and play around until Jesus is too far away from you. Do all you can to listen to him; keep your focus sharp upon him and follow him. Otherwise, when you fall into temptation and sin, you will discover that you have turned away from Jesus and you are heading for the grave where death and Satan are. Always remember the wages of sin. In spite of inflation and all austerity measures, the wages of sin remain death.
To avoid turning back to the grave you must accept Jesus Christ and surrender your heart totally and completely to him. We must all grow in grace and increase in faith and in the knowledge of following Jesus Christ so that we do not keep going round in circles or marking time in one place with our message having no effect in the community. Failure to follow Jesus closely puts us in a situation of for ever confessing but not truly repenting of our sins, and of always repeating the same sins only to confess again. The pattern repeats itself without a definite change in purpose or life. The cycle goes on and on, bearing no good fruit and bringing about a defeated Christian leading to despair. All this means is that we have not gone forward. When God wants us to go out, we cannot. What God wants us to do, we cannot. What God wants us to achieve, we cannot. We are consumed by jealousy and hatred and we become self-satisfied, lukewarm, and we begin to shrink. We are not anticipating heaven any more. We want to get our own share right here on earth. Therefore we are unable to reach the unreached: we ourselves need to be reached.
The unreached may be on our doorstep, in our village, or at our place of work; they may also be many miles away. In either case the principle remains the same:
First we must receive Jesus Christ into our lives and learn to deal with ourselves, in our individual lives and in our churches. We must give mission and evangelism top priority, and we must live lives of obedience to the will of God.
Secondly, we must motivate other people, but notice that this will only be possible if our own lives are transformed. Prayer, preparation, planning and training are involved here.
Thirdly, we must go out in faith, trusting not in ourselves, but in Christ, who has set the agenda, whose command we obey, who is always with us, and whose Holy Spirit empowers us.
The sending of missionaries and labourers into the world to proclaim the gospel began at Pentecost, and God is still sending us and all people to the whole world with his gospel. We are to evangelize people specifically to become disciples of Jesus Christ. We have a first-class message, a heart warming and life changing message: the gospel of Our Lord; a gospel that opens the door for the sinner to come into the presence of God, to dialogue with the living God, the Almighty Creator God. Without exaggeration, we have an invitation that surpasses any invitation we will ever receive in a life-time. This invitation is from God delivered by Jesus Christ to all. Whoever comes and accepts Jesus Christ is promised a change in eternal destiny. This is good news.
The cost of carrying this message may sometimes be high. It may involve struggle against principalities and powers, political struggle, fighting ill-health, poverty, deprivation, dehumanization and any other condition that militates against the spread of the good news. “There are many ways into the market” is a local proverb meaning that what is important is simply to get into the market. So it is with evangelism. The important thing is to get into the mission to evangelize. The situations will dictate the methods.
The journey may be long; we may not know the route very well; we certainly shall not be able to see the end of the road; but Christ – and no other – is the way, and we must set out, and set out NOW! The mission of evangelism is to reach the unreached!
“Four Steps to Spiritual Growth”
This is published in English and Hausa by the Anglican Diocese of Jos (Pastoral Publications Commission). The form is that of a folded leaflet with a tear-off return slip on which the recipient fills in details of his/her name, address, age, date, church and prayer requests. This enables the church to keep a record and to pray for those who have just accepted Christ. The text of the leaflet is as follows:
1. BIBLE READING
You must rise up early in the morning to read your Bible. Last thing before you go to bed you must read it again.
You must obey what the Bible says by living according to what you study. Matthew 7:21
You must learn to talk with God in prayer. Matthew 6:5
You must trust God to answer you when you pray in faith. Matthew 7:7
You must pray and intercede for others. Ephesians 6:18
You must thank God for all answered prayers.
You must seek fellowship with other growing children of God. Psalm 1:1-6
You must meet with believers to encourage, assist and support each other in faith. Hebrews 10:24-25
You must actively contribute to the growth and development of others and of your local church.
2 Corinthians 8:3-5
You must pay your tithe to your local church.
You must allow the Holy Spirit to guide your life.
You must share your faith and encourage others to do the same. Acts 1:8
* * * * *
These FOUR STEPS have been written to help your commitment to JESUS CHRIST. You must get a devotional guide book, a pencil or biro, a small booklet and of course your Bible.
- Make sure you keep a regular time for your devotions.
- Do not rush the study.
- Write down the lessons you learn and walk by them during the day.
- Confess your sins. 1 John 1:8-9
- Write down each prayer point.
READ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24From your Friend and Pastor
Anglican Bishop of Jos
To a Wonderful Companion, “Ebony Black”, “Mary Sumner”, Gloria Ladi, with whom we have sojourned in all our missionary endeavours, and to our children, Hannatu Nenbunmwa, Rinji John Kwashi jnr., Arbet Benjamin jnr..
To GOD be the Glory for all our experiences in Zaria, Gedege-Ikara, Zonkwa, Kaduna, Wusasa and Jos Diocese.
To all who are in the field.
What is contained in this book is the result of our years’ of experience in the field, in both rural and urban situations. Various approaches and methods have been tried and tested: some have succeeded, some have failed; some have worked in one situation, but not in another. However, our gratitude to all those with whom we have worked, prayed and struggled, is endless.
We are particularly grateful to Susan Essam for her contributions and work in helping to put together this small volume.
Above all, we thank Almighty God for his guidance, inspiration, strength and protection. Much of what is contained here has not been learned only from books, but from life and through prayer and Bible study. We have relied on God, and he has never failed – and he will never fail. This is our faith, and it is in this conviction that we humbly offer this small work to you, as a guide and an encouragement as you go out on your own missionary journey.
Bishop of Jos
One can say that the modern translation of the Great Commission is “Reaching the Unreached”. This is probably a contemporary interpretation of the entire mission of evangelism. In the Great Commission we have a single purpose. This purpose is to reach every creature throughout the world with the good news; to make disciples and to teach the disciples to observe everything that the Lord Christ has commanded. It is impossible to discuss the unreached and the method of reaching the unreached without a very serious conviction concerning the Great Commission as contained in Matthew 28:19-20.
What follows in this little book is a contribution to assist individuals, church groups and Christians throughout the world to be faithful and obedient to this great command. The dangers of disobedience to this command are obvious and although we do not want to frighten you by such dangers, we should all know that it is for our own good that we obey God’s command. This book has been written with a study guide and worksheet on each topic. It is hoped that the discussions thereby raised will lead to action!
c Anglican Diocese of Jos Pastoral Publications Commission 1997
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher in writing.
National Library of Nigeria Cataloguing in Publication Data
KWASHI, Banjamin A. 1955
The Mission of Evangelism
1. Christian Life 2.Title
Pastoral Publications of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.
Bishopscourt, P.O.Box 6283, Jos, Plateau State
Printed in Nigeria by:
EHINDERO (NIGERIA) LIMITED
Plot 2T Kabong, Rukuba Road,
Jos, Nigeria. Tel: (073)54690; 52924
Trade orders to: St.Luke’s Cathedral Bookshop, P.O.Box 12, Jos, Plateau State. Nigeria
The Mission of Evangelism with Bible Study Guide and Worksheets
Bishop of Jos
The Rt.Rev.Benjamin A.Kwashi is Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Jos. He is also a member of MISSIO, the Mission Commission of the world-wide Anglican Communion, and a founding member of the Church of Nigeria Missionary Society. Although he is a Bishop, he still considers his first calling to be that of an evangelist, and he is known all over Nigeria and also in England and America as a preacher, evangelist and a speaker on mission and evangelism.
This book gives an insight into his methods and beliefs. We see something of how he trains his clergy and furthers evangelism throughout Jos Diocese. Above all, we find ourselves constantly taken back to the Bible and to biblical standards of living. This is not a book of purely academic theory: it is a challenging handbook for daily living. Only read it if you are prepared to change, to grow and to go!
Other books produced by the Pastoral Publications Commission of the Anglican Diocese of Jos include: Prayer Book; Littafin Addu’a; Called to Serve; Passion for God’s Kingdom (E.S.Egbunu); Sermons and Meditations (B.A.Kwashi); Living for Jesus (Lent Study Guide); Cycle of Prayer (six-monthly).