By Gary L. Johnson
Another Easter weekend has come and gone. Packed worship services were exciting. Music and preaching stirred our celebration of Jesus raised from the dead. And we reveled as we witnessed people being baptized into Christ. It’s no wonder Resurrection Sunday is considered the pinnacle weekend of the year for Christians.
What if we could experience Easter weekend every weekend? It seems the first-century church in Jerusalem had a Resurrection Sunday experience not only on the Lord’s Day, but every day, as “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Can the same happen today? Clearly, the Lord’s power must be unleashed, but we must also be fully engaged. Every day can be a Resurrection Day if elders pursue this post-Easter priority.
Leading by Example
As elders, we must lead by example in leading people to Christ. Sadly, this is far from reality. In “First-Person: The Dying American Church” (at the Baptist Press website, bpnews.net, March 28, 2006), Thom Rainer shared the results of a survey he conducted that revealed more than half (53 percent) of pastors made no evangelistic efforts in the last six months. No attempt was made to engage a spiritually lost, unchurched individual at any level. Has anything changed for the better in the decade since the survey was taken?
As elders, are we reaching out to the lost? Are we sharing our faith with others, discipling them, and baptizing them into Christ? Do we have friends who are not Christ followers? Why not? Can we even lead a person to Christ? How can we expect others in the church to bring nonbelievers to Christ if we are not doing so ourselves? As elders, we cannot—and must not—ignore our responsibility. We are to lead by example (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Bringing people to Christ is not rocket science. Advanced theology degrees aren’t required, nor do we need the “gift of evangelism” to be witnesses for Christ. Yet people exempt themselves from sharing the gospel, claiming they don’t have this gift.
Remember The Wizard of Oz? In the classic movie, Dorothy meets three new friends while walking on the yellow brick road: a scarecrow who needed a brain, a lion who needed courage, and a tin man who needed a heart. If I may extrapolate, we fail to share our faith with nonbelievers because like the scarecrow, we think we do not know enough; like the lion, we lack courage; and like the tin man, we do not have a heart for the lost.
A Winning Formula
A four-part formula has helped me when trying to reach people for Christ. Each of the four components is essential if I hope to introduce someone to Christ. The simple formula is I + C + C + C.
I for Individual. Every follower of Jesus Christ must be engaged in evangelism. Moreover, the command to make disciples in the Great Commission comes with the power of a “great companion” who said, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus Christ is with us in this endeavor.
C for Contact. Once we realize God expects us to share our faith, then we must have contact with nonbelievers. Yet, we too often do life with believers only. We go to dinner with Christians, invite Christians into our homes, travel with Christians, and so on. When was the last time you deliberately established a friendship with an individual who was far from God? Can you make a list of spiritually lost friends or family for whom you pray and invest in an actual friendship, all in hopes of earning the privilege of sharing your faith someday?
Many of us lead with what I call a “Little Bo-Peep” mentality. Referring to lost sheep, the nursery rhyme ends with the phrase, “leave them alone, and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.” We assume “lost sheep” (i.e., nonbelievers) will just show up in church and become Christians on their own volition. If people want Jesus, we believe we can “leave them alone, and they’ll come home.” But Jesus commanded us to “make disciples” when we go to work, school, family gatherings, and so on. With our actions, attitudes, and words, we are to share our faith every day, everywhere we go. After all, we belong to a sending God. Jesus said that as the Father sent him, so he is sending us (John 20:21).
C for Concern. In our culture, people think—and even believe—that everyone goes to Heaven. There is little mention of Hell, for Hell is not real in the minds of many. Yet, Jesus said more about Hell in Scripture than anyone else. Hell, according to Jesus, is a place of indescribable, eternal suffering—and he came to save people from that place. If we truly loved nonbelievers, we would be concerned about their eternity. Billy Graham said, “Heaven is real and Hell is real, and eternity is but a breath away.” How can we not share Christ with nonbelievers whom we say we love?
In Mark 12:31, Jesus said the second royal commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. When Jesus gave that command, Jews thought of love as an action more than an emotion. Think with me: “For God so loved the world that he gave . . .”—gave is an action. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Since love is an action—and we are to love our neighbors (i.e., anyone around us)—then our consistent, compassionate actions will show our heartfelt concern for our new, nonbelieving friends. We must earn the privilege of sharing Christ through friendship.
C for Communicate. Do you remember “show and tell” in kindergarten? As children, we would “show” something to our classmates and then “tell” them about it. Likewise, it’s one thing to show our concern and compassion toward nonbelievers, but we must also tell them of the love of God. We must be able to clearly articulate the plan of salvation.
After dinner in their home on January 19, 1978, a husband and wife took out a single sheet of paper and drew six circles on it, and then explained to me the plan of salvation. The proverbial lightbulb came on in my mind when I heard this “plan-on-a-page.” I knew exactly where I was in my God hunt. We got up from the dinner table, went to the church, and I was immediately baptized into Christ. Through friendship, this couple showed their concern for me, and then told me the good news of Christ. I have shared this simple plan-on-a-page with hundreds of people these past 40 years. Likewise, I’ve taught people how to share their faith using the same explanation I heard four decades ago. If you would like a copy of this plan-on-a-page, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every individual must have contact with nonbelievers, and out of genuine concern for their eternal well-being, we must earn the privilege of communicating with them the good news of Jesus. I + C + C + C is not only a simple formula, it’s a winning formula for winning people to Jesus Christ.
Now that Easter has come and gone, let’s go and do.
Dr. Gary Johnson serves as an elder/senior minister at Indian Creek Christian Church (The Creek) in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is a cofounder of e2: effective elders. Gary offers resources and coaching as he works with elders to lead with greater focus and confidence.