Evangelism: Mission Possible

Introduction

All believers know and accept that the Christian life is one of constant maturity, and mirrors a foot march through the annals of life.  With spiritual maturity comes a more relevant and ready vision for personal evangelism that focuses more intently on fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ.[1]  With this in mind, this mission should drive one’s evangelism efforts along a single path to accomplishment.

On a personal level, I have always struggled to find a perfect balance between my personal evangelism efforts and my chosen area of ministry as a military leader.  During the course of my life, God has re-shaped my personal evangelism vision along three lines of effort—my personal relationship with Christ, my family, and my community—that directly impact my role in effectively accomplishing the Great Commission of Christ.

Background

 To gain a better understanding of the material being discussed, the following background information will be useful.  Since my area of ministry is that of a military leader, I view many theological concepts through a military lens.  For example, I view the Great Commission as a mission, or order, issued by a Commander with certain requirements for obedience.  With this in mind, my personal evangelism vision follows suit, and is fully nested with this mission.

In addition, certain military terms must be defined in order to provide clarity to the discussion that follows.  My personal evangelism vision utilizes lines of effort as a means of organizing various tasks and missions.  According to the Department of the Army, “a line of effort links multiple tasks and missions using the logic of purpose—cause and effect—to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions.”[2]

When two or more lines of effort mutually support the same mission, unity of effort is achieved.  Unity of effort ensures that all lines of effort move along a common azimuth to accomplish the same mission.  In addition, unity of command mutually supports unity of effort, and ensures all lines of effort move under the direction of one commander.  The Department of the Army adds that “for every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort.”  Unity of command requires a single commander with requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.[3]

Since the Trinity serves as a unified command team and the Great Commission as the unified purpose, mutually supporting lines of effort that accomplish this purpose provides unity of effort.  With this in mind, the three lines of effort mentioned above—my personal relationship with Christ, my family, and my community—directly impact my role in accomplishing this purpose, as depicted in the figure below.

Capture

Discussion

The first line of effort that directly impacts my role in effectively accomplishing the Great Commission of Christ is my personal relationship with Christ through the critical elements of the reading and study of God’s Word, tactical prayer, experiential sanctification of self, and a deeper filling of the Holy Spirit.  These critical elements succinctly align with the principles discussed in Ephesians 6:10-20, and outline the areas of improvement needed in my personal evangelism efforts.

First, the continued reading and study of God’s Word equip me with the “sword of the Spirit” and provide a formidable stronghold during spiritual warfare.[4]  Regarding the use of the sword of the Spirit, David Reynolds advocates “praying the sword, not just praying according to the sword; praying the sword is using the sword; this is why Jesus, in the battle with the devil, only spoke what is written.”[5]

Second, tactical prayer provides a means of communication with God regarding issues inside my left and right range limits, and is also an essential element of spiritual warfare.  Under the three levels of war, the tactical level involves battles, engagements, and small-unit actions.[6]  In turn, John Hull defines tactical prayer as prayer that “focuses on helping others, but is still prayed from a temporal perspective,” and mostly addresses immediate circumstances.[7]

In conjunction with Ephesians 6:18, Will McRaney, Jr. affirms that “evangelism at its core is a spiritual battle; this battle requires that we enter into it with spiritual weapons; prayer is another way to become involved in the spiritual battle.”[8]  It seems logical that an open line of communication (prayer) between a Soldier (me) and his Commander (God) regarding tactical operations better fosters a victorious outcome in spiritual warfare.  When applied to evangelism, “the Holy Spirit will empower you to speak the Gospel with boldness as you connect with God through prayer.”[9]

Third, my experiential sanctification strengthens the breastplate of righteousness mentioned in Ephesians 6:14.  Paul Enns states that a believer’s “experiential sanctification may fluctuate because it relates to his daily life and experience.”[10]  Paul prays for this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, while Peter commands it in 1 Peter 1:16.  According to Preston T. Bailey, “righteousness begins with one Christian deciding to put on the breastplate of righteousness; we put [it on] at the time of salvation.”[11] While true, experiential sanctification significantly increases the strength and effectiveness of this breastplate.

Fourth, my denial of self produces both discipline and the prerequisites for being a sacrificial servant.  In accordance with Mark 8:34-35, denying oneself for the sake of Christ is an integral part of the Christian life.  In doing so, one must practice personal discipline and strive to be a sacrificial servant like Christ.  According to Leach and Wheeler, “denying self is the first requirement for becoming a sacrificial servant; self-sacrifice defined the heart of Christ, just as it defined the ministry of Abraham” in Genesis 22.[12]

Finally, a more complete submission to and deeper filling of the Holy Spirit produces increasing levels of boldness and wisdom to proclaim the Gospel, such as is described in Ephesians 6:19.  According to Earley and Wheeler, “[the Apostles] cried out to God for more boldness to speak God’s Word; God’s answer came in the form of the Holy Spirit.[13]  Shortly after Pentecost, the sermons of Peter and John showed a marked difference due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit according to Acts 4:13.  A more complete submission to the Spirit produced this difference, and I must strive to do likewise in my personal evangelism as I look to lead others within my sphere of influence.

The second line of effort that directly impacts my role in effectively accomplishing the Great Commission of Christ is the spiritual condition of my family.  As the leader and pastor of my family, I am charged with leading the actions that cultivate their maturity in Christ, such as the reading and study of God’s Word, the use of operational prayer, the sanctification of the family unit, and a unity in the Spirit.  In turn, these actions will increase the effectiveness of the family’s evangelism efforts.

First, the reading and study of God’s Word as a family provides a biblical foundation for its evangelism.  According to Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee, doing this as a family allows all to become more like Christ and enables the family unit to share the love of Jesus with others.[14]  In addition, it fosters unity of effort within the family by aligning all evangelism priorities under one standard—the Bible.

Another action that fosters unity of effort within a family is operational prayer, and focuses on issues that affect the family as an evangelism unit.  Under the three levels of war, “the operational level links employing tactical forces to achieving the strategic endstate; commanders conduct campaigns and major operations to establish conditions that define that endstate.”[15]  When applied to my personal evangelism efforts, my family’s operational prayer links its evangelism efforts with the strategic endstate of the Great Commission.  In turn, unity of effort is achieved in this area through the continued practice of operational prayer.  As Pipes and Lee affirm, “[my] family will be drawn together as one as [we] lift [our] hearts together to God in prayer.”[16]

The final action that fosters unity of effort within a family is unity in the Spirit, which ensures all family members are in one accord and fosters unity of command under the guidance of the Spirit.  The Bible assures believers that “by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body…and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”[17]  This affirmation signifies the high degree of unity required under the command authority of the Spirit.

As Earley and Wheeler confirm, “since the day of Pentecost in about AD 30, the Holy Spirit has been primary in God’s work on planet Earth.”[18]  With command authority from God, the Holy Spirit is charged with directing all evangelism efforts throughout the world.  As the appointed subordinate commander of my family, I must always strive to maintain unity of effort under His unified command.  In turn, this family unity of effort facilitates mutual support from other ‘units’ within my community.

The third line of effort that directly impacts my role in effectively accomplishing the Great Commission of Christ is my community of believers, to include my church.  While I play a particular role within my community, I must always be mindful of certain group actions that ensure mission success, such as the study and discussion of God’s Word, the application of strategic prayer, the sanctification of the community, and corporate unity in the Spirit.

First, in similar ways as discussed above, the study and discussion of God’s Word ensures that my community of believers is working in accordance with God’s absolute Truth.  In reference to the absolute truth of Scripture, as affirmed by Christ in Matthew 5:17, John F. MacArthur states that “it is impossible to take Jesus seriously and not take Scripture seriously; it is impossible to believe Jesus spoke absolute truth and not consider Scripture to be that absolute truth, because that is precisely what Jesus taught it to be.”[19]  In essence, the unquestionable veracity of Scripture must be foremost in the minds of the community in order to accurately share the Gospel with others.

Second, the application of strategic prayer fosters unity of effort on a broad scale, thus allowing the community to have a spiritual impact on the greater community, from neighborhoods to nations.  Under the strategic level of war, “a nation determines national or multidimensional strategic security objectives and guidance, and develops and uses national resources to achieve these objectives.”[20]  When applied to this discussion, the nation becomes the church, and its security objectives become its evangelism efforts in which church resources are pooled to support evangelism.

Regarding prayer, strategic prayer “focuses on God’s ultimate objectives for the world; it is prayed from an eternal perspective; it captures His heart and purpose, rather than mere human purposes.”[21]  A great example of strategic prayer in action can be found in Acts 12, where God sent an angel to deliver Paul from prison due to the earnest prayers of the church.  The key to achieving these types of results is remaining cognizant of our individual contributions to strategic prayer.

Third, the sanctification of the community establishes parameters of distinction from the surrounding world, thus producing beacons of light in a dark world.  As discussed previously, in its simplest definition, sanctification means to be set apart, and believers are set apart from the unbelieving world around them.  Jesus plainly states that Christians are “the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill,” and commands all believers to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”[22]

Fourth, corporate unity in the Spirit ensures that all are in one accord, and fosters the edification of the community through the utilization of the spiritual gifts.  Since 1 Corinthians 14:12 compels believers to seek those spiritual gifts that edify the church, believers must strive to be more disciplined in their use of certain gifts for the benefit of the community.

Regarding evangelism, Earley and Wheeler affirm that “contrary to what many people believe in the church, evangelism is not listed as a spiritual gift in Scripture.”[23]  However, through the edification of the community of Christ, spiritual gifts greatly aid in effective evangelism on a strategic level.  The disciplined use of spiritual gifts in this manner allow the community to achieve God’s ultimate objectives for the world.

______________________

[1] Matt. 28:16-20 (GNV).

[2] Department of the Army, FM 3-0: Operations (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army, 2008), 6-13.

[3] Ibid., A-3.

[4] Eph. 6:17 (GNV).

 [5] David Reynolds, Sword of the Spirit: Praying with Power through Scripture Connection (Mustang: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2010), 43.

[6] Norman M. Wade, The Army Operations and Doctrine Smartbook: Guide to FM 3-0 Operations and the Six Warfighting Functions (Lakeland: The Lightning Press, 2008), 1-76.

[7] John Hull, Pivotal Praying: Connecting with God in Times of Great Need (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002), 9-10.

[8] Will McRaney, Jr., The Art of Personal Evangelism (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 63.

[9] Ibid., 29.

[10] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 341.

[11] Preston T. Bailey, Jr., Spiritual Warfare: Defeating the Forces of Darkness (Maitland: Xulon Press, 2008), 323.

[12] Richard Leach and David A. Wheeler, Minister to Others (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2009), 81.

[13] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Academic Publishing Group, 2010), 144.

[14] Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee, Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy (Lawrenceville: Jerry F. Pipes, 1999), 36.

[15] Wade, 1-77.

[16] Pipes and Lee, 63.

[17] 1 Corinthians 12:13 (GNV).

[18] Earley and Wheeler, 140.

[19] John F. MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 1-7 (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1985), 251.

[20] Wade, 1-76.

[21] Hull, 10.

[22] Matthew 5:14-16 (GNV).

[23] Earley and Wheeler, vii.

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