By Michael C. Mack
When I became a follower of Jesus 35 years ago, I had several faulty assumptions about Christianity. I thought, for instance, that everyone who followed Christ shared their faith in him faithfully and frequently with others. I actually believed evangelism was the norm in the church! After all, the Bible says Jesus commanded it, and the early church practiced it regularly. And several Christians had shared their faith with me. So, I did the same.
As I got more involved in the church, I found that my assumption was mostly inaccurate. For many of the Christians I met, evangelism was neither a lifestyle nor a priority; they seemed uninterested and unprepared to tell others about their Savior. I was surprised that they were much more interested in fellowshipping with other Christians than being a witness to non-Christians.
Truthfully, as a new Christian, this attitude of the church was a huge turnoff for me. But my passion both for God’s church and reaching the lost spurred me on to do something. I had read more than a dozen books on evangelism and found a couple corresponding studies, which I used to teach others in small groups and in elective classes.
In one class, about six weeks into an eight-week session, we paired up to practice sharing our testimonies and the gospel. One of the pairs I put together consisted of Shirley, an older woman with a very mature faith, and Linda, whom I didn’t know well. Shirley went first, and when she finished, she announced that Linda had just accepted Christ. I had no idea Linda was not yet a Christian—after all, she was taking a class about how to share her faith! We ended the class and went upstairs where Shirley immersed Linda into Christ as the rest of our class and a few others cheered. (By the way, Shirley continued to disciple Linda in her faith after that.)
I love that true story. But I can also tell less joyful stories from classes I’ve taught.
At another church, in a Sunday school class of senior adults, I asked each person to write on an index card the names of three non-Christians from their sphere of influence. Several of the class members struggled to come up with three names, and one couldn’t come up with even one—and she was the pastor’s mom! All her family and friends were Christians. Someone asked about her hairdresser. Christian. Her neighbors? Christians. A checkout person at the grocery? “I don’t know them or really talk to them.”
This woman, whom most would consider an upstanding follower of Jesus, was not following his most mission-critical command. She had become so insulated in the Christian community that she didn’t have any relationships outside the church. My reaction to this at the time was simply, “Ugh.”
However . . .
Over the years, the more I hung around church people, the more I became like them. My priorities shifted. I was friends with non-Christians, but my passion for the lost became dulled by the herd mentality. Ugh.
God’s love for us compelled him to not leave us in our sin and separation from him. His love led him to send his Son from his perfect—and, I assume, comfortable—heavenly dwelling to a wicked and wretched world to save us from condemnation. But do we love people enough to tell them about Jesus and his love for us? If not, Christ’s love should at least compel us, as Paul wrote, to persuade others. Because of Christ’s love for us, he has reconciled us and has given each of us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-19).
Keeping God’s love to ourselves should not even be an option for us. I confess my apathy toward Christ’s commission and command. I repent of my lukewarmness regarding the lost. I’m done with the holy huddle and playing it safe. I’m going back to the love and passion I had at first when I became a Christ follower.
Will you commit to go with me?
The church needs it. In his Metrics column in this issue, Kent Fillinger provides stats from recent years which demonstrate that our churches mostly are not talking about sharing our faith with others or teaching believers (or even unbelievers!) how to do so.
How can Christ followers be expected to obey Christ’s commands and commission to make disciples if church leaders are not encouraging and equipping them to do so?
The problem is not with non-Christians or their supposed disinterest in God or animosity toward Christians who talk about him. Fillinger cites research that shows that most unbelievers “are open to hearing about faith when someone can show it matters or when it is shared by someone who matters to them.” Fillinger quotes evangelism professor Alvin Reid: “Lost people are more amazed at our silence than offended by our message.”
Christ gave us, the leaders of his church, the responsibility “to equip his people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). When the mission isn’t being accomplished in the church, it’s either because people are stubborn and disobedient or because they’re not being envisioned and equipped. I believe the problem today is the latter.
This is Michael C. Mack’s final “From the Editor” column for Christian Standard. He died on Aug. 24, shortly after writing it. Mike served as editor of the magazine from 2017 to 2023.