Ron Humphrey, in his book entitled, Hearts on Fire, noted a most sobering statistic: “The average member of the church of Christ has heard 4,000 sermons, sung 20,000 songs, participated in 8,000 public prayers and converted zero sinners.” One cannot help but ask: What are we thinking? What are we doing? Where are we headed? More importantly, what can be done to correct such a pattern?
Maintenance Mentality — With this in mind, consider, what Ron Humphrey calls the “maintenance mentality” (p.5). One doesn’t have to look too far to see it. Once in a men’s business meeting, in a context in the which church discipline was being discussed, after having lessons and a special speaker to answer questions on the subject, it was time to put the Lord’s will into action. One brother, who unfortunately wielded much influence, said, “I have been told if we do this there are some who will leave. It takes people to give the money and it takes money to pay the bills.” Another man, whose only input in the past was the status of the “gas bill,” also expressed his concern.
After some discussion, some in favor and some in opposition, I asked, “Are we going to allow the weak and/or disobedient brethren to determine which commands we are going to keep and which commands we are going to ignore?” “Oh, no, no, no….” was the response. In spite of such an emphatic denial, rest assured that was exactly what was happening!
What was the problem? It was the “maintenance mentality”! Numbers and bills were more important than souls and commands. It is a frightening thing to think that God’s people can become so numb that they actually seem to perceive the mission of the church as keeping the lights on, the carpet clean and the gas bill paid. It’s as if God is pleased so long as you keep the building structurally sound and have an occasional fellowship dinner.
Forgive me, but I don’t think God is all that impressed with clean carpet and continental breakfasts! What impresses him is seeing the church respecting the word and keeping all of the commands – one of which is evangelism. May God keep us from the maintenance mentality!
Friendship Evangelism — “Friendship Evangelism” is the practice of becoming friends with someone in order to introduce them to the truth. One may ask, “How can that possibly be perceived as an enemy of evangelism?” Who among us has not, in efforts to convert someone, befriended a sinner? This writer most certainly has and will continue to so do. What then is the problem? The trouble with “Friendship Evangelism” resides not in its basic concept, but rather in abuses in its implementation. There are, at least from this writer’s perspective, two major abuses of “Friendship Evangelism.”
First, “Friendship Evangelism” is not aggressive, let alone as aggressive as God demands we be! When Jesus commissioned the disciples, He did not say: “Go make friends”; he said: “Go make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). The primary responsibility of the Lord’s people is not to befriend sinners. The responsibility is to teach truth! May we never equate our having become friends with someone who needs the gospel to our having worked to evangelize their soul!
Second, “Friendship Evangelism” is used as an excuse for inactivity. When asked, “Have you talked to them about their soul yet,” it is common to hear as an answer: “Well, we’re not good enough friends yet.” Where does it say one must be “good enough friends” with someone to teach them the gospel? What unfortunately happens is the fear of “loosing them” causes the Lord’s command to preach the gospel to be either postponed or completely circumvented. A friendship, even with a potential convert, should never be placed above the determination one has to keep the Lord’s commands (Luke 14:26).
Lethargic Dual — A preacher was going to speak on the two greatest enemies of the Lord’s church. He ran the topic by a brother and asked: “Joe, I think the two greatest enemies are ignorance and apathy. What do you think?” To which Joe answered, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Joe, while oblivious to it, was a personification of the problem plaguing the church.
First, consider that of ignorance. Do people really understand that God means what He says? The God of the Bible will not lie. In fact, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18)! Such is contrary to His very nature. Consequently, God means what He says. That means that accountable people who do die without having obeyed the Gospel will be lost (Matt. 7:21). Contrary to what some teach, there are no exceptions, no ulterior plans and no second chances! One has rightly stated, “The only surprise about the Judgment is that there won’t be any surprises!” Paul said: “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (II Cor. 5:11). Surely there are not many, if any among us, who are unaware of the church’s responsibility to save the lost. It would seem that anyone who has a remote clue about God’s Good Book, would know that to claim ignorance of evangelistic responsibility in the Judgment would be futile. May God help us to be aware of our responsibility!
Second, consider the topic of apathy. Three words aptly capture the gist of “apathy”: indifference and no interest. The apathetic Christian is the one who can hear a lesson on evangelism and feel little or no compulsion to do something. He is virtually “numb” to God’s command to evangelize the lost. He might talk about it, or make announcements concerning it, yet he personally never does it. Evangelism to the apathetic is always “someone else’s business.” Whenever a Christian is numb to a command of God, he is “lukewarm” at best. Remember the church of Laodicea: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-16). Is there a more graphic description of the Lord’s disgust for his people?
May we be ever aware of our responsibility to save the lost and may we have the willingness to do something about it. Again, it was Jesus Christ who said: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-19).