We Tried That Already
Updated: Jan 16
Those who follow the pattern for Christianity in the New Testament often discuss the mission to save the lost by spreading the gospel. Specifically, they discuss how to be most effective in that mission. Every few years another “best” way is put forward while ways of the past are pushed away, being labeled as ineffective. One might ask, “What makes one way better than another?” The question is worth answering, and the way you answer it will shape your approach to carrying out the great commission given by Jesus, the mission that extends to every believer’s life.
Following His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples to give them a set of final instructions. The record given in Mark 16:15-16 reads this way:
"And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.'"
The mission Jesus gave was to preach the gospel to all creation; every person needed to hear the good news that Jesus died to take away sin and has been raised from the dead, providing hope for all. Their responsibility was to spread the message with clarity and simplicity so that it would be understood by those who would listen. Even as He gave this mission, Jesus was clear that not all would become disciples. Some would believe and be baptized; others would not believe at all. The success of this mission, however, did not depend on the responses the disciples received. They were told to preach the gospel to all creation.
The focus of the evangelistic efforts of the early church was not to become innumerable, although that outcome would be welcome. The focus was on spreading the gospel with clarity. Those who responded in belief were baptized into Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, while those who rejected it were allowed their choice since more souls needed to hear the gospel of hope in Jesus. The success of their mission did not depend on the number of Christians who existed at any one time, but on whether the gospel was spoken into the ears of the people near them.
The success and effectiveness of modern evangelistic efforts ought to be judged on whether the gospel is given clearly into the ears those who are near. The decision to obey or reject the gospel rests solely on the shoulders of the listener. Christians are not failures when the gospel is rejected. Christians are successful when they have given the gospel message with clarity to the person near them.
The question that ought to be answered when considering how to effectively accomplish our mission, is: “How can we clearly communicate the truth of the gospel to the most people while allowing ease of obedience for those who would believe and be baptized?” Let that question shape your assessment of success instead of a tally of people who got into the water, and you will find yourself approaching evangelism more in line with the mission Jesus has given.