Local church and the Gospel (Part 1)

The church is for Christians and evangelism is for missionaries. Do you agree? Should we leave the spread of the gospel to individual witness among neighbours and colleagues? When we come together as a church should we have outreach events? To what extent should our local church be focused on reaching others with the gospel?

Ben White 226176 Unsplash

Spreading the gospel goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. Christianity is essentially personal, but it is not private. In both the Old and New Testament this has always been true of a relationship with God. In all ages, God’s people have had a responsibility to bear witness to the Lord as a light shining in a dark place. The Apostle Paul understood this responsibility when he wrote, ‘Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

"Since the Lord’s commission to His followers has never been revoked, we ought to be as obedient as the apostles and early Christians."

There are at least three reasons for a Christian to spread the gospel.

A Desire to Be Obedient to God’s Commands

The risen Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, and that is exactly what they set out to do. In the years following the Lord’s return to heaven the early Christians spread the gospel wherever they went. The following scriptures make the point:

And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15)

Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4)

So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans (Acts 8:25)

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear   (1 Peter 3:15).

Since the Lord’s commission to His followers has never been revoked, we ought to be as obedient as the apostles and early Christians.

"Meditate with deep solemnity upon the fate of the lost sinner, and, like Abraham, when you get up early to go to the place where you commune with God, cast an eye toward Sodom and see the smoke thereof going up like the smoke of a furnace.  Shun all views of future punishment which would make it appear less terrible, and so take off the edge of your anxiety to save immortals from the quenchless flame."
Charles Spurgeon

A Love for the Lost

Selfishness is a common trait. In our materialistic, humanistic society, people are encouraged to look out for number one. The underlying message is ‘take care of yourself, make time for yourself, don’t neglect your own ambitions and hopes, be the best you can, make the most of your life,’ and so on. Whatever you do, ‘love yourself, build your self-esteem, see yourself as important’.

Although self-sacrificing love for others is still recognised as a noble trait, it is very much to be admired in others rather than cultivated in ourselves. We present awards, donate to charities and give medals to those who love and serve others; but admiration is not the same as imitation.

The Lord Jesus lived a different type of life with radically different values. He came to this earth to serve rather than be served, living to glorify His Father rather than Himself. He came to love those who were lost and perishing, and so should we. The Apostle Paul expressed this deep burden for his own people:

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3).

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved (Romans 10:1).

A Love for God

At the centre of our lives ought to be a deepening love for God. This is why we worship. It is not only a recognition of the Lord’s authority as our sovereign; we worship because we love Him. One expression of that love is to spread His good news and exalt His name among people who are perishing. As Paul wrote:

that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God (Romans 15:16-17).

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Before we consider the place of the gospel in our church activities, let’s test our personal desire to obey the Lord’s commands, reach the lost and love our God. A healthy review of our heart in these matters will help calibrate our thoughts about the gospel’s place in our local church.