The following are presuppositions that drive us to be purposeful and intentional in seeking to spread the Gospel and win people to Christ in the local area around Maranatha Bible Church. It is these assumptions that compel us to action in our evangelistic efforts.
Man is Hopelessly Lost in Sin
From the beginning, mankind has rebelled against God’s plan and purposes (Rom 5:12). As a result, all people are naturally under the condemnation of God and are at odds with Him (Col 1:21). God cannot and does not have a relationship with those who are sinful and rebellious (Is 59:2). Thus, He must punish those in sin by pouring out His wrath upon them (Rom 1:18) and subjecting them to everlasting torment in hell (2 Thess 1:9).
God Seeks to Redeem and Save
Despite man’s desperate condition, God seeks to redeem lost sinners and save them from their sin and His judgment (Ps 103:2-4). Though He is just, He is also the justifier and seeks to remove the sin that separates fallen man from Himself (Rom 3:26). By nature, He is slow to anger, compassionate, and forgiving (Ex 34:6-7). He desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
God Has Elected Those Who Will be Saved
In order to ensure salvation, God has sovereignly chosen, before the foundation of the world, whom He will save (Eph 1:4-5). He has appointed many to eternal life (Acts 13:48) and has predestined and called them to be saved (Rom 8:30). Not only does God desire that people are saved, He graciously and unconditionally elects out of the mass of fallen humanity those whom He will save (2 Tim 1:9), having given them to the Son in eternity past (John 6:37, 39; 17:2). Thus, evangelism is finding and winning the elect to Christ while at the same time offering the Gospel to all. This tension ensures that in our evangelistic efforts to all people, some will be saved.
Jesus Christ Has Made Salvation Certain
Jesus Christ has come for the purpose of redeeming sinful and fallen mankind (Mark 10:45) and rescuing them from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13). This He did by being born of a virgin, living a perfect life, dying for the sins of the world on the cross, and raising from the dead having conquered sin and death (1 Cor 15:3-4). His sacrifice was completely sufficient to pay for all sin (Heb 10:12) and it is only through Christ that people can be saved (John 14:6).
The Holy Spirit Has the Power to Regenerate
One of the responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to apply the work of redemption by Christ to the heart of sinful man. It is through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit that dead sinners are made alive and brought to salvation (Titus 3:5). Thus, the Holy Spirit causes sinners to be born again (John 3:5-8), thereby overcoming the rebellion in their hearts and bringing salvation.
The Word of God is the Means by Which the Spirit Saves
It is through the living and abiding Word of God that the Holy Spirit causes the new birth and brings about salvation. The Word of God is powerful (Heb 4:12) and accomplishes what it is designed to do (Is 55:11). It is capable of turning a sinner from his ways (Ps 19:7) and causing them to be born again (James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23).
The Power of the Gospel is Universal
So powerful and comprehensive is the Gospel that people from all over the world will be saved from their sin and granted eternal life. Through Christ’s death, God will purchase people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9). This is our confidence as we seek to win lost people to Christ both locally and globally.
God Has Charged Believers and Churches to Spread the Gospel
God has left believers on earth, rather than taking them to heaven immediately upon conversion, for the purpose of winning others to Christ. We have been saved and adopted into God’s family in order that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). We are charged to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) and to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) and, therefore, we must be serious in our charge to spread the Gospel.
The following principles explain the necessary and vital components of our philosophy of local outreach. These principles have direct impact on the kind of strategy we will employ in reaching people for Christ as they both determine and direct our approach to local evangelism.
1. Prayer is Essential – We must be praying for opportunities to share Christ and for the Lord to lead us in how He desires us to be involved in reaching the community around Maranatha Bible Church (Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:2-6). In short, the effectiveness of our evangelistic efforts at MBC are directly related to how much we pray for evangelistic opportunities.
2. The Word is Key – Today numerous evangelistic and church growth strategies abound in the church which promise to build the church and bring in more people. We reject most of these strategies in favor of the faithful, fervent, and bold proclamation of the Word of God which alone has the power to genuinely save sinners (Eph 1:13; 1 Thess 1:5-8).
3. The Church is Central – We are not seeking to just win individuals to Christ but are seeking to get those individuals actively involved in the life and ministry of the local church where they can practice the one-anothers, be ministered to by the body, and minister their gifts within the body (1 Cor 12:1-31).
4. Equipping is Necessary – We must equip the people of Maranatha Bible Church for the work of evangelism (Eph 4:12). This requires a number of things:
- All Members
- Must understand that evangelism is not just for the “professional” or the pastor or the one who is gifted in evangelism; it is the responsibility and privilege of every believer
- Should understand the Gospel and its key components
- Are able to share their faith
- Have a basic grasp of fundamental Bible doctrines
- Can feed themselves on God’s Word
- Lay Leaders
- Can follow up a new believer
- Are equipped and actively involved in the discipleship process
- Are trained in basic ministry skills (biblical counseling, etc.)
- Understand how to study the Bible and communicate it to others
- Are able to train others to share their faith and follow up new believers
- Can train others in basic ministry skills
- Have a deep understanding of the Bible and can “refute those who contradict”
- Are able to teach the Bible to others
- Are modeling a heart of evangelism
5. Holiness is Vital – As individuals, we must live godly lives and demonstrate the reality of the Gospel through our actions. We want to let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works and glorify the Lord in heaven (Matt 5:16). We want to live as a holy people so that we can proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness (1 Pet 2:9). Keeping our conduct excellent among unbelievers is crucial for effective Gospel witness (1 Pet 2:12). Also, obeying God’s instructions for the roles of men and women is crucial for showing the lost the power of the Gospel (Titus 2:3-10).
6. The Family is the Focus – While we want to focus our evangelistic efforts on all people God brings our way, we particularly want to concentrate on families. The family is the God-ordained unit by which children are trained and equipped (Dt 6:6-7; Ps 78:5-8; Eph 6:4). Therefore, we want to seek to share Christ with whole families and prayerfully ask the Lord for Him to save parents and children alike.
7. Urgency is Critical – We must have an attitude of urgency when it comes to evangelism. Eternity and souls are at stake in this evangelistic endeavor; therefore, we cannot become complacent about this. Like Paul, we must beg unbelievers to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20).
The following strategy represents our attempt at MBC to be purposeful in reaching unbelievers in our sphere of influence. This is the “nuts and bolts” and the practical “how-to” for mobilizing Maranatha Bible Church to local outreach. While we may not employ this entire strategy at any given time, it gives us something to shoot for over time.
Individual Evangelistic Activities
These are activities that we want to encourage individuals and families of MBC to be striving for in order to focus on evangelism:
- Identify 1-5 unbelievers in your sphere of influence (work, school, neighborhood)
- Put these names in a prayer book and pray regularly for opportunities to share Christ with those people
- Plan to have those families over for a meal on a regular basis to establish a relationship
- Plan yearly neighborhood block parties to get to know neighbors
- Read missionary/outreach biographies to children to get them excited about sharing Christ
- Watch The Way of the Master DVD’s as a family (have in church library)
- Encourage involvement in community activities for the purpose of building relationships with unbelievers (i.e. coach sports teams, go to same restaurants/stores, etc.)
- Give MBC families MBC business cards to leave at local businesses
- Host a summer backyard Bible club for kids in the neighborhood
- Maintain helpful resources in the church library that promote evangelism
Corporate Evangelistic Activities
These are activities that we want to consider doing corporately as a body of believers at MBC in order to focus on evangelism:
- Continue outreach events MBC has done traditionally (Flag Football, Day Camp, etc.)
- Assemble an “ambassador corp” which will go out into the community on a regular basis and canvas neighborhoods around MBC to make contacts and share the Gospel
- Host business lunches for employees of businesses in a 2-3 mile radius of MBC with a time for lunch, short message, time for prayer, etc.
- Put together a Maranatha Bible Church Study Center which offers classes for the community on various topics of interest (parenting, marriage, finances, what the Bible says about _____, etc.)
- Consider ways to use the property God has blessed MBC with for the purpose of evangelism (father/son overnight camping, open swim at the pond on Sunday afternoons, host a community days celebration in the rec area 1-2 times in the summer – swimming, volleyball, kickball, picnic, etc.)
- Plan a York Creek outreach (teach ESL, sports events, teach classes for moms and kids, etc.)
- Plan for a short term summer team for 2010 that aims to reach Comstock Park and/or northern Grand Rapids
- Consider hosting a community movie night and show movies like Fireproof, End of the Spear, The Passion of Christ, etc.
- Encourage small groups to have an evangelistic thrust by inviting unbelievers to their group
- Come up with ways to show acts of mercy to the community
- Offer equipping classes to the body of MBC periodically about Contagious Christianity, etc.
- Do the fall 2009 preaching series on the topic of evangelism, missions, etc?
- Regularly communicate this vision to our church body and urge people to take ownership of this opportunity
Should the Lord grow MBC numerically, our goal is not to become a mega-church. We do not desire to get caught up in building more buildings and growing a larger church campus. Rather, our aim is to engage in church planting in the Comstock Park and greater Grand Rapids area. Once Maranatha Bible Church reaches 300-400, we will begin to think about planting another church locally.