19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
The words our Lord gave to His disciples, and indirectly to us, before he ascended to the right hand of the Father in the Great Commission indicate His desire for us to go and make disciples. Now making disciples encompasses much more than just evangelism or sharing the good news of the gospel, but evangelism is a big part of making disciples. The language of this command communicates that we are to be very intentional about making disciples as we are going. But one might ask, “as we are going about what?” The concept of “as we are going” is reflective of the truth that evangelism is something that should be at the forefront of our minds at all times. We should be thinking about how we can have evangelistic conversations with people in our neighborhood, work place, recreation facility, or hair salon. A simple perusal through the New Testament reveals that Jesus had unplanned evangelistic encounters with a religious leader who came to visit him at night (John 3), a sinful woman who drew water from the same well at which He sat (John 4), a blind man who he healed so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9), and a wee little man who climbed a sycamore tree just to see Jesus. Deacon Philip was ready to share the gospel with an Ethiopian who was just riding by (Acts 8), Peter was willing to share the gospel with a soldier and his family (Acts 10), and Paul, well there are just too many stories to verify this already established point with Paul, just read the entire last half of Acts. I think it is sufficient to say that Paul also shared the gospel as he was going.
Have you ever wondered how the Roman world went from persecuting and ostracizing Christians to being Christianized itself? Listen to what historian Justo Gonzalez writes about the conquest of Christianity upon the Roman empire.
Although it is impossible to give exact statistics, the enormous numerical growth of the church in its first centuries is undeniable. This leads us to the question of what methods it used to achieve such growth. The answer may surprise some modern Christians, for the ancient church knew nothing of “evangelistic services” or “revivals.” On the contrary, in the early church worship centered on communion, and only baptized Christians were admitted to its celebration. Therefore, evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather, as Celsus said, in kitchens, shops, and markets. A few famous teachers, such as Justin and Origen, held debates in their schools, and thus won some converts among the intelligentsia. But the fact remains that most converts were made by anonymous Christians whose witness led others to their faith. The most dramatic form taken by such witness was obviously that of suffering unto death, and it is for this reason that the word “martyr,” which originally meant “witness,” took on the meaning that it has for us today. Finally, some Christians were reputed for their miracles, which also won converts. [(Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 1(pp. 115-116)]
These individuals were predominantly those of the lower classes and possessed little if any formal theological education. They were those who studied the Word of God, met with other Christians regularly, and took Jesus’ command seriously that we should be telling others about the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection and calling them to faith and repentance. My friends, we possess the same empowerment of the Holy Spirit that those in the early church possessed, and so in the words of William Carey let us “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”