Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Church Doesn't Do It All

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14

That Glen was an avid and tireless Bible teacher, no one doubted. But once in awhile someone would question his devotion to soul winning, as they called it.

On this particular afternoon, Glen was in the Oak Street Bible
Shop early. He was working on a lesson for Revelation and said he would be leaving soon.

Joy looked his way from her high stool and started in on him.

"Glen, how do you answer people who say we should all be soul winners? I mean, in my church they really get on us if we don't go door to door and hand out tracts and witness to people. They make you feel guilty if you're not evangelizing actively all the time."

Glen turned from his place in the corner and was about to answer when Sue commented. "In my church it's all about foreign missions. We have missionaries that we support come to visit and speak from the pulpit. Missionaries are considered the top of the line in our congregation."

Once again, Glen was about to speak when Gary joined in. "Our church has a motto, ‘Every member a soul winner’."

Finally Glen spoke. "Joy, you asked how I answer people who question my enthusiasm about ‘soul winning’. Well, I don't have to answer them at all. They know my stand on soul winning by now. And once they've heard how I stand, they generally avoid me altogether. So I don't have to answer them."

Joy kind of shifted on her stool. She was obviously not satisfied with Glen's answer.

As you probably know by now, Glen could get to people in at least two ways. One was to immediately agree with them so they lowered their guards. Another way was to seem to be evasive, so they closed in on him and pressed him for an answer. This is what he was doing with Joy.

"That's not an answer," she persisted. "What is it you said to them that caused them to avoid you?"

"Oh," said Glen, pretending he had not understood her question. "Let me speak to all your comments. I think you deserve answers.

"I'll start with you, Joy. First of all, I don't let churches make me feel guilty. They each have some issue they push, at least ones I have known about. They keep repeating it until people believe it must be true. Same way advertisers break you down, only I'm not buying."

Again, Joy looked impatient at his answer. "I'm asking what you say, Glen."

"I ask them what is the Biblical basis for their claim. That is what I say. If they insist every church member should be an evangelist, I insist they show me where it says that in the Bible. Otherwise, I tell them, it just sounds like a membership drive."

"And how do they answer you?" said Gary. "After all, Jesus did give the great commission to the disciples. He sent them out into all the world to preach the good news."

"No doubt about it," said Glen, "that's what Jesus commanded the disciples to do, no doubt about it."

Joy, Sue, and Gary just looked at him. Was he agreeing with Joy's church?

"But," said Glen, "I ask them what that has to do with the church? I ask them, did Paul tell the churches he founded that each one of their members was an evangelist? To the contrary. If you will read Ephesians chapter four and verse eleven you will see how the Holy Spirit gives various gifts. This is a wonderful passage. It frees us from church planners and preachers and tells us we are assigned by God Himself to do different jobs, and we know what they are by the gifts He gives us."

Gary had found Ephesians 4:11 and began to read:

"And he gave some, apostles: and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers. Ephesians 4:11."

Glen was very emphatic. "Does the Bible ever say, that every member of the church is equipped and called to be an evangelist? I mean who are we following? A preacher or the Word of God?

"Just imagine if a group of men joined the Army and when they arrived at their training camp their company commander said, ‘Men, you are going to be trained in the most important function a soldier can serve. You are all going to become recruiters! I know some of you must be wondering, what about weapons training and what about the various military occupational specialties? Well, I suppose training has its place, but the most important thing is, how big can we make the Army, not how well trained. When you have completed your recruiter training, then you too, will train other men to be recruiters, and so on.' I'm sure you get the picture."

Joy did not like the tack that Glen was taking, but she could not answer his point as yet.

Glen continued. "Gary, as far as every member being a soul winner, what bothers me is which souls do they win? Do they know if some of their own members are not born again?"

"There is what is called a false profession,” said Gary. "Someone gets caught up in the emotion of an evangelist's plea and goes forward, but without conviction. We even heard of a man who professed wanting to be saved more than once. He later admitted he was looking for attention, and that is when people gathered around him and prayed for him. Other than that, he felt neglected."

"Very sad," said Glen, "and very regrettable. Now Sue, these missionaries your church thinks so highly of. How long do they serve in one location?"

"It depends," she answered. "We had one man who stayed in a church in South America for twenty five years."

"And in all that time," said Glen, "couldn't he find at least one younger man, native to that area, who could carry on the work?"

Sue just shook her head.

"Sorry", said Glen, "but someone is not equipping people for the ministry. Since we know from the Bible that God raises people up to serve in His churches, all I can think of is these missionaries get in the way by keeping people dependent on them."

Joy was ready with her final salvo. "Our preacher says that when we evangelize, we are helping to bring about the return of Jesus. He has proved it from the Bible, and it sure convicts me. He says that as soon as the gospel is preached to the whole world, Jesus will return. The longer it takes for us to evangelize, the longer it will be until Jesus returns. 'You wouldn't want to slow the return of Jesus, would you?' That's what he says to us, and it's very convincing."

Gary and Sue were looking at Glen to see how he would answer this. They had heard the same idea put forward in their churches.

"How many times will Jesus return, Joy?" asked Glen. "I think you and I are agreed on this."

Joy answered carefully. "He will return for His church, the dead and the living--in the rapture, we all know that. That is our meeting in the air. Then, after we are in heaven with him, he will come to the earth to set up His kingdom and reign for a thousand years."

"I knew we all agreed on this, Joy,", said Glen. "What is the scripture you mentioned that your preacher cites to prove the church must evangelize the whole earth?"

Joy was not certain where this was leading. "You know the one, Matthew 24," said Joy.

Gary had already turned there.

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14."

Glen was very gentle with his question. "The end will come. The end of what, Joy?"

She carefully considered her answer. "The end of this world" she said, "and the beginning of the next one."

"Very good, Joy. I knew we agreed--all of us--on that. If the church was to fulfill Matthew 24:14," said Glen. "Would that bring about the end of this present world?"

"No," she replied. "It would be the beginning of the tribulation period. But not the end of the world."

"So," said Glen, "Matthew 24 is talking about another coming of Jesus isn't it? And since by that time we, the church, will be in heaven, we will not be the ones to preach the gospel of the kingdom to all nations."

"But who will, then?" asked Sue.

"Let's look at who will,” said Glen. "Let's look at Revelation 14:6."

Gary began to read:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell upon the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6."

"There's your gospel of the kingdom being preached,” said Glen. "There was no church when the angels announced the birth of Israel's king. Here an angel tells the whole world that Jesus will soon return, and again the church is not there."

"It takes the church completely out of it, doesn't it?" said Joy rather sadly.

"Jesus takes the church completely out of it,” said Glen. "By this time our work will be completed and we will be in heaven with Our Lord."

"It'll be honeymoon time with our bridegroom!" said Sue.

"Sometimes we think the church is everything and does everything," said Glen. "Matthew is about the Kingdom of David, not the church. The church is not born until the Acts of the Apostles. And at the time Jesus is speaking of it in Matthew, the ministry of worldwide preaching is an angelic ministry."

Sue walked into the back room and poured a cup of coffee. She brought it to Glen. “I'll bet you could use this,” she said.

"Thanks, Sue," he said. "You're an angel!"

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