In my journey of following Jesus, God has reminded me about his priorities. They are the same regardless of context. I want to describe three very different contexts with one very consistent priority.
Three Different Contexts
The first context is in South Louisiana. It is on the Mississippi River tucked away between bayous and sugar cane fields. Imagine a small, rural town with one red light and no McDonalds. Picture a tiny church at the point where the edge of town and endless sugar cane fields collide. Now imagine pastoring that small church. It is a few steps short of closing its doors for good.
The second context is twelve time zones away. It is literally halfway across the world in a global city in Southeast Asia. This context is modern, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious. Imagine leaving your high-rise apartment to ride the train to your next meeting. People hurry you into a train where half of those around you are immigrants and refugees. The other half are pre-occupied locals and expats on their commute to work. At each train station, you recall a local church nearby that appears to be doing okay. However, you also recognize the reality before you. The reality is the overwhelming majority of those you interact with still do not have a Christian friend. A Christian has never witnessed to them either.
Picture the third context in a neighboring global city in Southeast Asia. It is much larger than the city in the second context. Imagine participating in a Christian conference with over 1000 delegates from over 140 countries. All united for the purpose of connecting influencers and ideas for global mission. You sit in main sessions. You listen to people like David Platt, Ravi Zacharias, and Os Guinness. Then you break into small groups and discuss topics ranging from creation care to contextualization. You meet as often as possible with respected leaders and mentors from around the world. They possess a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding living for Christ and making him known. However, you still see a need in a conference of such high acclaim that equals the needs present in the other two contexts.
The Same Priority
In all three contexts, I have been reminded a great deal about what I should emphasize and prioritize. Regardless of how Christian or non-Christian a town, city, or event might be, these three contexts have taught me that believers must hold high the banner of prioritizing evangelism. Especially prioritizing it to our Christian brothers and sisters, no matter where we encounter them. Let me revisit for a moment these three contexts to explain to you what I mean.
In Rural Louisiana
In the small rural church in South Louisiana, there were church members who love Jesus and were concerned for the church. I served as pastor there for almost five years. They believed the church was close to shutting down. And they wanted me to help them do something about it. My answer was simple. God is calling us to glorify Him by making disciples of all nations.
To put that in simple terms, I did all I could through preaching and practice to model the Great Commission. I shared Christ with everyone. I invited them to experience our church fellowship, discipleship and preaching. From a rural Christian context, the priority of evangelism was the simple answer to growing a healthy church. We needed to prioritize sharing the love of Christ with those around us. There were no more than two thousand people in the surrounding area. But many of them were still without Christ. They were in need of God’s salvation. This church needed to be reminded about the reality of a sinful world in need.
In Southeast Asia
If you were to live in Southeast Asia with me, you would immediately notice the collision of lost and saved populations. On any given day, I meet as many Christians as I do Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus. The overwhelming majority of Christians here opt for a defensive posture. They choose to prioritize the protection of their Christian way of life. There is a serious need here in this city for believers who are utterly committed to Christ’s final command to all followers before he ascended into heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). We need people who prioritize evangelism.
While the church here in Southeast Asia is demonstrating her beauty in many ways as the beloved bride of Christ, her tendency to be inward-focused is a weakness. We must address it for the sake of God’s glory among all peoples. Nothing is more pressing and more important than encouraging the local church to live in obedience to Christ by making disciples of all the nations present in our global city.
In a Global Mission Conference
For the third context previously mentioned, I was truly dumbfounded that evangelism would need to be prioritized. Surely a consortium of mission-minded delegates from over 140 countries would already believe that. However, my experience revealed how the most important thing believers at a global missions conference could do was to prioritize evangelism in the full scope of Christian mission.
God is doing spectacular wonders throughout the world in a variety of ways. People are experiencing renewal, redemption, and reconciliation in ways that only God could do through His church. However, in the myriad of opportunities for us to witness, Christians must never neglect the primacy of evangelism. We should look at evangelism as a priority. If the sinfulness of man is universal, if the necessity of faith in Christ alone is non-negotiable, if the reality of an eternal hell is irrevocable for those who do not repent and believe, and if the glory of God is supreme for those who have repented and believed, then we must emphasize the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ at all times, to all peoples, in all places, until the Lord returns.