The church has often relegated the call of an evangelist to one among the list of many spiritual gifts. But evangelism and missions was always communicated as a command by our Lord to spread the Gospel to all the nations of the whole world. Therefore, the command applies to the entire church and to every Christian. We are all to be ready to preach the Gospel in season and out of season (2Tim 4:2). We are all to speed the Day of God in one way or another (2Pt 3:12 & Mt 24:14).
I believe that the more Christian people mature in their walk with Christ, the more involved in reaching the lost they will become, simply because it is a matter of obedience and not one of preference or choice. I like the way the late Christian singer Keith Green put it in his posthumous song, "Jesus Commands Us to Go":
It should be the exception if we stay.
It's no wonder we're moving so slow,
When His church refuses to obey."
Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines a missionary as "a person undertaking a mission, and especially a religious mission". We've all been given a "very religious" mission by Christ, which means that every Christian should consider themselves a missionary and an evangelist. The question is, how does that work out in a practical way for people who have ministries at home?
One of the most amazing developmental phenomena of the twentieth century is the speed of travel and the ease of its access. It has shrunken our globe spectacularly. Where people groups were once secluded and relegated to their particular corner of the earth, we now see entire populations moving everywhere. Where next door neighbors in America used to be only other Americans (WASP and Afro-American), we now have people moving into our neighborhoods from many different nations and religions: Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Many of these people come from unreached people groups. Now, even at home, we have a chance to be missionaries to people from unreached people groups; to people living right next to us who have never heard the Gospel. I believe God is doing this because he knows that there is little time left before Christ returns and He will make sure the church reaches her objective of preaching the gospel to all people groups before He comes. Being that these people are coming to us, we have an opportunity (and an obligation) to speak to them and bring them the Gospel right from the comfort of our own homes. And in many instances, this will be the first time they hear the Good News. I cannot count the times we have had such opportunities here in our New York City Church at New Life Christian Center.
To give an example of this, a few years ago our evangelism team was able to befriend an Egyptian family whose father had abandoned them and went back to Egypt without saying a word. The mother was left to support five children in a low paying job as a substitute teacher in the public school system. In an outreach effort, my wife sat down beside this weeping woman and befriended her. When she told her story, we were able to pray for her and, in the course of the next few months, help her get back on her feet. In the meantime, we were able to witness both to her and her five children, the oldest two who were teenagers and about to graduate from High School. It is interesting to note, that, although the children were born in New York City and went through the Public School System, no one had ever told them who Jesus was. They had NEVER even heard the name "Jesus", even though they were surrounded by Christians at school and at work.
These are the kind of opportunities that we have right here at home in our cities as we work towards the completion of Christ's Mission. In former times, in order to have such an opportunity, it would have been necessary to get on a boat and cross the oceans for many months in order to reach people who had never heard the Gospel. Today, although missionaries must still be sent across the oceans, missions has become something we can do simply by crossing the street.
Nevertheless, it is astounding how few Christians are actively involved in Evangelism. It is inexcusable that our cities are becoming filled with people who were born in this country, have walked by our churches and gone to schools with Bible believing Christians and to whom they have spoken in social settings, and still have never been told who Jesus is. Such situations are glaring examples of why we are taking so long to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we look at the efforts of our forefathers who have gone before us, those who have taken their part in spreading the Gospel, we see many examples of successes and error. We see how the church has often allowed the world to have too much influence on their obedience to Christ's command to love people and bring them the Good News. But we also see examples of great men of faith who left everything to follow Jesus and take His message to the ends of the earth. Such stories encourage us. Yet after two millennia since Christ founded His church, we are still far from completing His mission. We all need to take up the challenge to go and make disciples of the nations. Each of us needs to make serious plans and scheduled efforts to do our part in reaching out to these people with the gospel. If we don't have a clear picture of how we are to obey, when we are to obey, and where we are to obey, it is very unlikely that we will obey. I believe God would ask each one of us, "What have you been doing about this lately? Are you involved?" We need to get serious about Christ's Commission.