I sat in my office as my phone beeped. The church secretary told me we had an interesting call and that I should take it….so I did. I answered the phone, and about three hours later I was helping baptize someone into Christ. Pretty cool. The neat part of the story? The man studied the Bible online through our website…the neatest part? He was a quadriplegic man that required six men to baptize him. The even neater (is that even a word?) part? He found our church family by searching online for the church that matched that which he found in the scriptures. We had no part in his “conversion” except to immerse him and disciple him after the fact!
A few years later I was in Zigong, China when I got a message on Facebook asking me if I would be willing to meet with one of the underground churches in the area to preach to them. The weird part? Facebook is banned in China. How in the world did they find me? How did they even know I was there? Didn’t matter – they found me, and I went and was able to worship with them, teach them, edify them, and glorify the Father. I was able to preach the word of God to a group of Christians who had never had a “full-time” preacher or minister. They craved the word of God. They wanted to study all day! We spent over nine hours with them. NINE. HOURS.
Rewind in time a bit. A few years ago I found myself posting each and every day a “praying for…” post asking people to pray for different countries. Each day a new place to pray for. On one eventful day, I asked everyone to pray for the country of Australia….and I hash-tagged Australia (#australia) and the word church (#church). Soon after, the archbishop (bishop?) of the Catholic Church in Australia retweeted me to his 200,000+ followers. Soon after I received messages from Christians in Australia thanking me for praying for them and asking if I had any Bible materials they could study. So I sent them studies to help strengthen their faith. How cool is that?
All three of these examples are powerful stories that show the power and opportunities found within social media and technology. However, that’s not always the view of social media and technology we find within the church today.
Are you ready for this?
“Why do you use social media to evangelize? How will you ever know if you have any impact at all? You can’t possibly think that these statuses, posts, updates, shares, videos, tweets, photos, and likes will ever lead to someone coming to know Christ. It’s just not the same. You can only reach people through personal evangelism. The rest of this is just a waste of time.”
True statement. True story. I wish I were kidding….but I am not. The above statement was said to me in passing by a well-intentioned person that simply doesn’t understand the power of social media and technology. Now, I get it. I understand the underlying point they were trying to make, but I am at a loss for words when it comes to how small their vision for evangelism is. And maybe that is where the problem lies…..vision.
Using technology and media to evangelize to the world requires a vision beyond our local church, beyond the personal satisfaction of knowing someone came to Christ through our own “personal” interaction, and beyond our own self-importance.
Let me explain.
Social media and technology allow me to reach across the world and share the gospel with people I have never met…and may never meet. From the comfort of my home, my local coffee house, my iPhone, my office desk, I can share the gospel. I can explain through an email, a blog post, a shared video, an encouraging note, the beauty of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected! I can do all of these things….but there is just one thing I can not do.
Baptize them. Personally. Me.
I can teach, preach, evangelize, edify, communicate, glorify, and disciple from anywhere in the world at any point in time. But there is one simple thing I can not do. I can’t physically baptize them.
I can’t physically be there, but am I called to? I’m not asking if they should be baptized. That is an undoubtedly, incredibly loud, awesomely emphatic, YES. Transformation, recreation, change, and forgiveness of sins comes from submitting to the will of God and obeying Him by being buried in the waters of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This is imperative for any and all who call on the name of the Lord. But I’m not asking that question – I’m asking the question, “Does evangelism only happen if I, myself, am personally able to immerse them in water?”
This is where it gets tricky. You see, Jesus never called for me to personally baptize everyone I preach the gospel to. In fact, we know that many will hear the gospel call and reject it. That’s just the sad truth of sin. However, we also see Paul, Peter, and many of the other apostles preach without ever meeting the people they “preached” to. Paul wrote/preached to the Romans without ever having met them. How else, you say? Well, have you ever met Paul? Have you ever met Peter? 🙂 I personally have not and yet I have been blessed by the writings of the Holy Spirit through their hands. The gospel was given to all through a medium – writing – that we all are beneficiaries of….even without ever having met the person who penned the words!
You see, God called me to “go into all the world preach the gospel to all creation.” He called me to teach His good news of salvation, redemption, and hope. He called us all to a new life found in Him. What a joy! What an incredible peace! He didn’t call me to only use one “medium” to share His gospel. In fact, I dare say He wants us to use every way possible for us to make Him known and for Him to be glorified!
We must remember that there is a difference between our seeing the fruits of our own labors and our fulfilling the mission of God. If we believe that the only way someone can come to know God is through a personal Bible study then we limit God. We limit His ability to impact people. In fact, if we must personally partake in the “harvesting” then we limit God down to our own ability to change the hearts and minds of men. We limit Him to MY BEST abilities and talents…..and, let’s be honest, this is an incredibly dangerous and small minded thing to do.
God gives the harvest. God changes lives. God saves through His word and through the redemption found in obedience. God saves through the blood of His son, Jesus.
We do not save anyone. We do not convert anyone. In fact, I can baptize a thousand men, and I would have still saved none. Salvation is found in Christ alone – not the actions of the man DOING the immersion. I am nothing but a tool in the hands of God.
But that doesn’t mean my vision for evangelism must be so small as only to include me personally. There are Christians all over the world who are ready to help the lost fulfill the spiritual journey of those seeking by helping them into the waters of forgiveness. They are out there waiting to be used, to be called upon, to be of help. I was one….in America. In the year 2014.
So, what does this all come down to?
This – Our vision for the church is far too often confined to one geographical location, and we are unable to see Gods true vision for the global church. Far too often we think that it’s not evangelism unless a person is added to our local church. That it is not true evangelism unless our membership grows. This attitude must change! We are not adding them to “our” church – they are being added to Christs’ church no matter where they are in the world.
The reality of the above “vision” is so small that it rarely demands Gods participation. We struggle to see beyond the things that we can see. We struggle to see the 7+ billion souls that went to sleep last night without the gospel saving message of Jesus Christ.
We place so much emphasis on the local church that we forget the global mission of God for His church. He didn’t say, “Go and wait for them to come to a Bible study, invite them on Sundays, and create special classes for seekers.” He said, “Go into all the world.” All of the items listed above are GREAT things when they are PART of the mission of God – but not if they replace the mission of God.
So, you know what this article is really about? Vision. It’s about reclaiming the vision of the Church and Her mission. It is about dethroning the usurpers to Gods throne and placing God back firmly on it. It is about seeing the world as God does.
When God calls for His people to go into all the world, He wasn’t kidding.
So, I will make Him known through every avenue, means, and possibility. Video, stream, periscope, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Vine, film, blog, and article…and I won’t expect anything in return. Its not about me. I don’t need to know what happens to each and every person who reads, watches, or see what I write or post. I will simply allow Gods word to work and be ok with that.
Welcome to the modern world. Now, go into all of it. Share this – in and of itself someone may come to know Christ because of it.
How cool is that?