|Dr. Donal Mc Gavran|
- Emphasize the tremendous missionary passion of the New Testament church. The New Testament church spread amazingly. It multiplied congregations beyond belief. Not only did it run through the Jewish population, but it spread to the Samaritan people and to the officers of the occupying Roman army. When the official leaders, apostles, deacons and elders of the existing Jewish churches were occupied around Jerusalem, some very ordinary Christians, men of Cyprus and Cyrene on coming to Antioch “spoke to the Greeks also.” The gospel spread to Rome long before Paul got there. In short, the New Testament church was tremendously concerned that people outside the church, non-Christians, secularists, materialists, followers of other religions, hear about the only true religion, come to know the only Savior, and believe upon Him and be baptized in His name. In our preaching let us make sure that this aspect of the Christian faith is repeatedly held up before our congregations, Sunday School meetings, and other assemblies of the saints. To be a true church we must become a reproductive church.It is essential to realize that reaching the unreached, winning the lost, multiplying congregations among the unchurched, is not just one of many good things which Christians should do if the can. Quite on the contrary it is as important for Christians to tell other people about Christ as for them to be honest, loving and sexually pure. Effective evangelism is commanded by eternal God and by the Lord Jesus. The entire congregation in Corinth is told that every one of them must be “all things to all men in order to win some.” Theological seminaries in particular must teach their students that effective evangelism is the duty of every Christian and therefore in double measure of every minister.
- Form missionary societies of men and women whose sole concern is multiplying churches among the unreached. In addition to individual witnessing it would be well to recognize that in any congregation there will be some who are ardent believers and others whose faith is less glowing. Let those who are ardently Christian form missionary societies or evangelistic bands who will meet once a week or once a month to make sure that “our congregation does give birth to daughter congregations.” Every living congregation should have bands of men and women who meet regularly to plan and carry out systematic propagation of the gospel. They will make sure that not only do they believe Christ in regard to these matters, but they obey Him. They will see that the teaching of the Bible burns with evangelical passion. It is quite possible to teach great sections of the Bible without ever mentioning eternal God’s command to make the gospel known to all segments of society, without ever hinting that every Christian should be “all things to all men in order to win some.” These ardent missionary societies in every congregation will make sure that these biblical commands are obeyed. Unless such bands are formed, there is a danger that all the teaching and life of the church are concentrated upon the existing members of the church. Evangelistic bands and missionary societies will assure that this does not happen.
- Send out sons and daughters of the congregation as missionaries to the unreached ethne of the world. I have been greatly grieved at the large numbers of congregations in North America from which in the past thirty years no son or daughter of the church has been an ardent evangelist or missionary. A very large number of American congregations would fall in this class. But they do not need to. It is quite possible for those gathered in this room and indeed for similar gatherings all across the Christian world to help bring about a quite different condition. Suppose an essential element of being Christian was held to be the following. What a revolution would take place! Suppose that every hundred practicing Christians would send out one missionary either to the unchurched in their own nation or to the unchurched in some other nation. What an enormous revival in the church would immediately ensue! Is this impossibility? Is it financially unthinkable? By no means. A hundred Christians could without the least financial distress send out and fund one lifetime worker. Doing that would not in the least exhaust their tithe, and such a move would make sure that the Church of Jesus Christ would at long last take seriously the ripe fields stretching away on all sides to the horizons.
- Let us now speak of the unreached ethne of the United States and the rest of the world, the unreached ethne in great urbanizations and in enormous unreached rural populations. What is an ethnos? What does the Greek word ethne mean? Kittel defines as ethnos as a group of like individuals. A swarm of bees is spoken of as an ethnos. So is a herd of cattle. An ethnos of men is a segment of society. In India the Greek word ethnos has been correctly translated in the Hindi Bible by the word jatti or caste. Tribes, castes, classes, segments of society—these are the ethne of which the population of the world consists. Every congregation should focus its attention on some unreached ethnos at home or abroad. Some years ago several denominations in Canada began to see the French Canadians as an unreached ethnos and to plan to evangelize French Canadians, encouraging them to form French-speaking, Bible-believing congregations. These would be led by French-speaking pastors, elders and deacons. In such congregations members could advocate that French-speaking Canada form a separate nation. They could advocate this and still remain quite respectable, well loved members of the church. Were French Canadians to be enrolled in Anglo churches, they could not advocate any such political position without exciting severe antagonism on the part of their fellow Christians. The French Canadians are an ethnos which must be reached in ways which fit that ethnos. There are similar ethne in every city in the United States. In Philadelphia I am sure that there are many ethne in which a majority of the residents are not practicing Christians. Many among these can be won today, tomorrow and every day. However, they must be won into congregations which are linguistically and ethnically themselves. If individuals from such ethne are invited to become members of upper middleclass congregations of Anglos, very few of them will accept the invitation. Christians must therefore take the biblical command much more seriously than we have in the past. We must plan to matheteusate panta ta ethne. That is, we must plan to multiply congregations in all the unreached ethne which lie all around us. True, no congregation and no denomination can effectively evangelize all the unreached ethne in its nation or the world. Every denomination and every congregation must therefore choose the ethne which it will disciple. If this seminary were to take the Great Commission seriously, it would seek out two or three of the most receptive unreached ethne in the Philadelphia area and would seek to train men and women to multiply congregations in those particular ethne. As denominations, congregations, and missionary societies focus their attention on particular ethne, we shall find evangelization much more effective.
- Give substantially to that work and pray continuously for it. Any serious effort to reap ripe fields will require substantial financial undergirding. When we pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest, we are also praying that He will motivate existing Christians to give sacrificially to that end. I am speaking to Americans, the most financially secure of any citizenry in the world. I am also speaking chiefly to Presbyterians, who are among the more financially blessed denominations in this land. Biblical soundness and spiritual renewal will be tested by the degree to which we undergird effective evangelism at home and abroad. Let us make sure that at this point our plans are both biblically correct and financially responsible.
- Assemble accurate information about unreached segments of society at home and abroad and especially about the degree to which our labors in such populations are in fact multiplying biblically obedient and spiritually living congregations. Convey this information to the congregation and denomination. Use accurate statistics, graphs and This aspect of the Christian enterprise is one which is frequently overlooked. We must reap ripe harvest fields; but we must not work blindfolded. We must find out which are the ripest fields, which are the most readily reached, which are the paths to and from the barn that are most suited to those carrying heavy sheaves. We must not send the largest number of laborers into unripe fields. We must measure accurately what needs to be done. We must make sure that sickles are kept sharp. We must have a record as to the number of sheaves each worker brings in. The figures of speech just used must not, of course, hide from us the tasks that really must be done. The world is full of receptive and resistant populations. While all must hear the gospel (Mark 16:14), we must make sure that the ripe fields are the ones which are reaped to the last sheaf. It is at this point that the seminary community needs to be particularly alert. Among the hundreds of segments of the American people, which are the ones most responsive to the gospel? Among which can congregations be multiplied most certainly? What are the methods by which such congregations can be multiplied? What are the methods which, if followed, will guarantee that no multiplication of congregations will follow? Where is great reaping going on? And where are the fields from which we must turn? We recall that Paul records that he wanted to go into Bithynia, but the Lord would not permit it. What are the fields from which the Lord Himself turns us?
|Training Leaders For Effective Evangelism|