Jesus said: ‘All power is given to me…go into the whole world making disciples of all nations and baptising them…and teaching them to observe everything I taught you.’ (Mat.28:18-20)
Church history has altered the meaning of the “go” of Jesus. He doesn’t send us out merely to do random acts of “evangelism”; nor even to merely become one of the gallant few who pack up and go overseas as a “missionary”. The “go” of Jesus is to a lifestyle of replicating ourselves as attentive followers of Jesus, wherever we are. It starts at our own front door – not at Heathrow Airport.
The thinking above is a symptom of a shift in the “operating principle” of the local church. The Early Church broke bread in their homes and public places such as the Temple court. They were a missional community where 90% of what they did was interactive, relational and focussed on being “scattered” and “sent”.
Today the “operating principle” has shifted to become about “church gathered”. This is what has restricted us to the conduit of the church service – where 90% of what goes on is from platform to pew – a spectator sport.
The building has become a place to fish in rather than a boat to fish from.
The result of this shift is that the “go” of Jesus has become marginalised to random acts of “evangelism” in our locality or else the sending overseas, of enthusiasts to do the same elsewhere.
I say this because the “go” of Jesus in the original Greek is: ‘as you are going’. So as we are going about our lives, Jesus commands us – not to random acts of opportunistic evangelism per se but – to the lifestyle of “making disciples” i.e. replicating ourselves as followers of Jesus. This is a process that starts before people are consciously converted.
The word “evangelism” isn’t even found in the Bible. It’s a derivation of the Greek euangelion (or “gospel”) – i.e. we are “gospel” people. This has turned into the act of “propagating” rather than “disciple-making”.
So rather than “evangelising” Muslims (or anyone else), the “go” of Jesus is to a lifestyle of making disciples of all nations (note the cross-cultural component to the Great Commission). Jesus is commanding us to “go” and as we are going, not to merely “evangelise”, “promote” or “propagate” but engage in the transmission of spiritual life.
‘We need less promotion of the gospel and more free samples.’ – Oz Guinness
Evangelism, as we have come to understand it in the West, has struggled to make any headway with Muslims. The mission agencies which manage to survive the next 30 years will need to model this approach to the Great Commission, as the core “operating principle” of the church.
I used to live in Egypt where I often stayed in Coptic Orthodox monasteries. Their idea is to be church as “spiritual community” where wholistic gospel ministry took place. My own mission agency, Interserve is poised to purchase a property in Birmingham as a more authentic setting to achieve this by creating ‘safe space’, where Christians and Muslims (and others) can be in proximity so the transmission of spiritual life can take place, as people respond to the invitation to follow Christ, rather than “join organised Christianity”.
‘Bring it on Lord; please deliver us from “evangelism” and release us into discipling among people of all nations.’ – AMEN.