Missionaries from every facet of Christianity have gone throughout the world. At some time or another every corner of the earth has been touched. Yet the missionary effort has not been very effective.
Both men and women have spent their lives laboring on the mission field, some at great sacrifice. In respect to the amount of labor, energy, and millions of dollars spent, very little has been accomplished. Various religious organizations have made missions their primary focus and interest. Why hasn’t there been more accomplished? What must we do to effectively evangelize the world?
The answer is not more money or more laborers. In the days ahead we will need much more of both, but that is not the primary need. There hasn’t been enough of God in the missionary effort. We must find a way to get more of God in it. It is not that He is not interested. God is concerned, but it has to be done His way.
The Bible speaks of two great evangelistic movements in the earth. One involves the early apostolic church at the beginning of the Church Age. The other is the great harvest at the end of the Church Age. The first is past; the second is yet to come. However it is time now, if not past time, to begin the end-time harvest. Now is the time to prepare for the greatest move of evangelism this world has ever known. We can learn how to do this by seeing how the Lord Jesus Christ prepared his disciples for their evangelistic ministry.
A very important aspect of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels is often overlooked. The most obvious, of course, is the spectacular. Jesus healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, worked miracles, and even raised the dead on occasion. But in everything He did and said He was, first of all, training and teaching His disciples. Luke refers to this in the Book of Acts concerning his gospel: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach. Acts 1:1.
While Jesus healed and worked miracles because of His compassion for the people, His main concern was to teach his disciples and train them for their ministry. He knew the time would soon come for His ministry as Jesus the Nazarene to end, and the Christ-ministry would be continued by His disciples. Christ would become a many-membered Body with the Lord Jesus as its Head and Lord. Thus, His disciples had to be prepared for such a ministry.
Before Jesus ascended He gave the following commandment: All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 NAS. This commission to make disciples of the nations has never been fulfilled. Obviously there needs to be some on-course correction, maybe, even going back to the drawing board and getting a fresh start. When the present system isn’t working, some changes need to be made. Religious organizations are growing numerically, but spiritual growth is practically non-existent. History itself tells us that the various religious sects aren’t getting the job done. The religious machinery of the church-world isn’t working.
It is interesting to note that during the forty days of Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry, that there is no indication that He ministered to anyone other than His disciples. During that time Jesus opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), and spoke to them of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). His last instruction to them before His ascension was to not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4), and they would be “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto all the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8. They were not to begin their ministry at the departure of Jesus. Their preparation was not yet finished. The final phase of their preparation for ministry was to be completed after His ascension.
Herein lies the problem with modern-day evangelism. The church-world has not been properly prepared for the ministry of the end-time harvest. It is obvious that seminaries and Bible colleges are not producing the kind of ministries needed to accomplish what the Lord has commissioned us to do. The church needs an enduement of power from on high. If it was so necessary for the disciples to be properly prepared to begin the Church Age, it is just as important (if not more so) for today’s church to be prepared for the completion of the Church Age and the establishment of the Kingdom.
Three things, in particular, need to be done to prepare us for the ministry: (1) the Lord must open our understanding, so we can understand the Scriptures, (2) the Lord must speak to us of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and (3) we need to receive the Holy Spirit.
(1) The Lord must open our understanding, so we can understand the Scriptures. Understanding the Scriptures is not as simple as you may think. After walking with the Lord for about three years or more, it was still necessary for Jesus to open the understanding of the disciples (Luke 24:44-45). The Scriptures cannot be correctly understood by the reasoning of the natural man. They must be spiritually discerned. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:14. Jesus said, The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63). Words of spirit and life are not understood with the mind. They are understood with the heart. They must be revealed to our hearts by the Lord.
Peter said, No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation (II Peter 1:20). Do you know what that means? Any interpretation that you arrive at by the reasonings of your own understanding is a private interpretation. The Scriptures did not come by the will of man, but men of God ministered the Word as they were moved and enlightened by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21). All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God. II Timothy 3:16. And if you receive an accurate understanding of Scripture it will come to you by revelation from the Lord, not by your human wisdom.
Man is so conditioned to leaning upon human reasoning, that he continues to do so even after becoming a Christian. Consequently, there is usually very little spiritual growth. Paul was probably the most educated of all the apostles. Yet he determined not to lean upon man’s wisdom. And I, brethren when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory. I Corinthians 2:1-7
If we are going to be effective in any kind of ministry, the Lord must open our understanding to the Scriptures. We must learn to receive spiritual truth, and spiritual truth comes by way of the heart, not the carnal mind. Trust the Lord to reveal His Word to you; do not trust your own understanding. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7.
(2) The Lord must speak to us of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a mystery. It is a mystery that is only revealed to disciples under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Hear what Jesus said to His disciples. And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Mark 4:11. The mystery of the Kingdom is revealed to the Lord’s disciples, those who are dedicated to His will. On the other hand, the mystery of the Kingdom of God is hidden to “them that are without.” And when He speaks of those “that are without,” He is not just speaking of non-Christians. Much of Christianity is numbered among those “who are without.”
Many Christians place the Kingdom in the future, but Jesus said, Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). That means the Kingdom of God is available now. It is at hand! It is another realm, though, another world. Jesus said, My Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The Kingdom is here! It is at hand! But it is not of this world. We must be delivered from the present realm of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Colossians 1:13. Those “who are without” (Mark 4:11) are under the power of darkness. Just because one is a Christian doesn’t mean he has been transferred into the Kingdom of His dear Son. The Kingdom is another realm! Listen to what Jesus said to some that believed on Him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32. They believed on Jesus, but they would only become disciples if they continued in His Word. Discipleship is a prerequisite to the Kingdom of God!
We need the Lord to speak to us of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. We need to learn how to think, to have the mind of Christ. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5. Jesus was dedicated in His earthly ministry to the Kingdom of God. And we must also seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Notice what Paul said about having the mind of Christ. Let nothing be done through strife (faction) or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5.
Too many are locked-in to a “me first” gospel. “Lord, bless me. Do this for me. Do that for me. Bless my project.” We were not raised up out of the pit of sin so the Lord could serve us. We were redeemed so we could serve Him. He is the Lord – not us!
The same thing happens with churches. We will never be Kingdom-oriented as long as we are church-oriented, thinking like independent local churches. The same principle is true with denominationalism. These things tend to close the door to the Kingdom of God. We must get our focus off of our little corner of the world, and seek first the Kingdom of God. We need the Lord to speak to us of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
(3) We need to receive the Holy Spirit. This is not to say we don’t have the Holy Spirit, but there was a special infilling of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that completed the disciples’ preparation for ministry. They were not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the power to be witnesses of the Lord. Jesus had told the disciples prior to this that the Spirit dwelt with them (John 14:17), but they needed to be filled (a special anointing) in order to accomplish the work before them.
Every Christian has the Spirit to some degree, but something more is needed to fulfill the commission to make disciples of the nations. The church has been trying to evangelize nations without this experience, and very little progress has been made. It probably will not happen as it did on the Day of Pentecost, because the ministry that completes the Church Age and establishes the Kingdom of God will be different than the ministry which began the Church Age.
There is no need to defend our spiritual experience. We don’t have enough of God yet. Some Christians say they received the Holy Spirit when they were saved. That cannot be denied, but it is not enough. Some say they have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have spoken in tongues and prophesied. That is not enough either. The church needs an infusion of the Holy Spirit it hasn’t received yet.
The apostle James speaks of an outpouring of the Spirit, which will result in bringing forth the precious fruit of the earth (the end-time harvest). Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming (Greek, parousia) of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. James 5:7. The early rain was the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The latter rain is the outpouring of the Spirit for the preparation of harvest.
We have two choices. We can open our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to prepare us for the ministry, or we can continue to spin our wheels doing our own thing. What we’ve been doing hasn’t worked, and it never will. Evangelization has to shift into another realm. As long as we are going out to evangelize the nations for God, we haven’t been properly prepared yet. It has to be God ministering through us. Then and only then, will we see the proper results.
Copyright © 2003 by Henry DuBose