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CHURCH CENTERED EVANGELISM!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, July 6, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20).


Many people think that evangelism should be done by a few people in the church, maybe the pastor and the deacons, or a few other special people. But that is not what the New Testament teaches. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 is given to every member of the local church. Dr. W. A. Criswell correctly said,

The commission of Jesus was to the whole church in every age. The imperative word in the commission is "teach all nations," more literally rendered as "make disciples" (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1979, note on Matthew 28:19-20).

"The commission of Jesus was to the whole church." Every person in the church is commissioned by Christ to do the work of evangelism. Every Christian is called and commissioned to make disciples of all nations. That's the reason we believe in every-member evangelism. Evangelism must be at the very heart of our church program. That's why we place evangelism on the "front burner." We have prayer, followed by evangelism every Saturday night. We have evangelism every Sunday afternoon, following the morning service. We have evangelism every Wednesday and Thursday night. As Dr. Criswell said, "The commission of Jesus was to the whole church."

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

Many other people think of evangelism as going to pass out "tracts" or get people to pray a superficial "sinner's prayer." But we must remember that the purpose is not to get decisions, but to make disciples. As Dr. Criswell correctly said, "'teach all nations' [is] more literally rendered as 'make disciples'." This shows that the Great Commission is local church-centered. Passing out tracts and getting people to say the "sinner's prayer" doesn't get anyone into the local church. That's why most people are giving up this method. But there is a better way! We call it "local church evangelism." You go out and get people's names and phone numbers, then you telephone them and invite them to come. Then you go in your cars and pick them up. When they get to church, we preach a strong Gospel sermon to them. That's when people get saved. This works. The other way does not work. You can e-mail me if you want more information on "local church evangelism." My e-mail is given on the front page of this website on one of the buttons on the left hand side. Or you can phone me at (818)352-0452.

In the last few generations, decisionism has led to the idea of "getting decisions" rather than getting people into the local church. But what is the use of "getting" decisions if we don't "get" people? For congregations to grow they must literally obey the Great Commission by bringing people into the local church. That is where they will be converted and discipled. Instead of doing "follow up" with people who have never really been converted, we need to go out and bring them in to the local church. Please turn to Luke 14:23, where this is made so very clear. Let us stand and read this verse aloud.

"And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

You may be seated.

That is the practical application of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. Where should I go to "teach all nations"? Answer - "into the highways and hedges" - into the roads and lanes - out into "the world" (Mark 16:15). What should I do when I encounter these lost people? Answer - "compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." Simple! Local church-centered evangelism!

Now, notice two words at the beginning of verse 23 and two words near the end:


"Go out."

"Come in."


Simple! "Go out" and get them to "come in." That's how you "teach all nations." That's how you get them converted and discipled - in and through the local church.


"Go out."

"Compel them to come in."


I. First, church centered evangelism begins by going "out."

We can't wait for the world to come in by themselves. Yes, I believe that God is sovereign. But a sovereign God uses means to accomplish His purposes. If we as a church do not obey the command of Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 and Luke 14:23, we must not expect God to bless us. Obedience to the Great Commission is the key to success in any church. We may pray - and that is good. We may study the Bible and teach the Bible - and that is good. We may sing our hearts out in the worship services - and that is good. But if we fail to obey Christ's command in the Great Commission, if we fail to "Go…and teach all nations," if we fail to "go out, and compel them to come in," we have failed to obey the last command Christ gave to us. We've got to go and get the lost or we have failed our Lord, we have not taken His command seriously, we have not obeyed His voice, we have not lived up to the charge He gave us. And so, I say with all the strength that is in me,

"Go out…and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

Some may be old and weak. Some may be too small and young. But the older members can come to church and watch the little children - and thus labor together with us and free their parents to go out. Those older people, no longer able to go out at every evangelistic opportunity, can hold up the hands of parents, like Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses. You can play a highly important role by freeing parents with children to go in your place to "compel them to come in, that [God's] house may be filled." Do it! Whatever it costs, whatever sacrifice you must make, for evangelism is the ministry of Christ's church, and all the members must do what they can, in their own way, to help this local church obey the command of Christ Jesus, and "Go out…and compel them to come in." Do it! Work together as a church to help every able bodied man and woman, boy and girl, to obey Christ Jesus, and "compel them to come in, that [His] house may be filled."

You go on in the strength of your youth and vigor, you step up to the plate for Christ. You expend the strength of your youth and health, and your comparatively unencumbered life, to push forward in a mighty stream of evangelistic fervor, a steadfast commitment that, at all costs, will fulfill the Great Commission and "go out - and compel them to come in." That is the first point that we need to stress in a church that makes every-member evangelism its holy duty and sacred calling. It starts by going out. If you don't go out, they will not come in - and God's house will not be filled. "Go out…and compel them to come in"! It starts by you, saying in your heart, "I will go out. I'll do it no matter what it costs and no matter what hardships I must bear. In spite of everything - I will go out. Christ commanded me to do it, and I will obey Him. I will 'go out'!"

Now is the time to bring in the harvest of souls. If we fail, we will be discouraged and defeated. But - if we succeed - we shall see many bright new faces, college students from the schools we evangelize, and the malls and streets where we carry the message, flowing in to our church with happy faces. God grant that you will help us make this joyful scene become a dynamic reality! Say in your heart, "At every opportunity, I will obey the command of Christ. I will 'go out' with eager feet and a Spirit-filled heart - I'll do it for the sake of Christ Jesus, who died to redeem my soul from sin and Hell! I will 'go out'!"

It starts by going out. That's the way we begin to fulfill Christ's command. Get all the names and phone numbers you can, and bring them to the leaders of the church to phone, arrange rides, and get them to the Sunday services.

II. Second, church centered evangelism continues by bringing them "in."

It isn't enough to hand them a tract or a flyer. We know by long experience that few if any will come in that way. We know also that praying a sinner's prayer with them at their doorstep or on the street - is an ineffective way to bring them in. Such methods may give comfort to "decisionists," but we have long since found by experience that this method brings few if any into the local church. We must do more, much more than that! Jesus said,

"Go out…and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."

They must be "compelled" to come into God's house. They must be compelled to come in! Pressure them, persuade them, constrain them to come in! That's what the Greek word for "compel" signifies! As Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago,

Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
   Bring the wandering ones to Jesus.
("Bring Them In" by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).

But they are not "in" when they come to a service or two. They are not "in" until they are "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30). So, we must not think that our task of evangelizing is finished when a person comes to a few services in the church. They are not "in" until they are united with Christ in true conversion. We must continue to "compel them to come in" until they have heard enough preaching to know that they are lost, until they come under conviction of sin, and are united with Christ in an instantaneous moment of trust. Even after they are converted we must work with them and help them become strong disciples of Christ Jesus.

"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).

This is not the work of the pastor alone. The Bible says,

"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…"
     (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We must not forget about newer people when they have been coming to church for a while. We must continue to "provoke [them] unto love and to good works."

I think we sometimes read the Great Commission too quickly, without actually thinking about the words. Let us stand and read it again, out loud, from Matthew 28:19-20.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

You may be seated. Surely a careful reading of Christ's command in the Great Commission includes what I have said. Surely real evangelism is not confined to merely going out. Surely it also includes compelling them "to come in" (Luke 14:23). Evangelism that does not add people to the local church can hardly be said to follow the pattern of the New Testament! Biblical evangelism added people to the local church. We see this concerning the church at Jerusalem.

"There were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).

"And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47).

"Soul winning" that does not add people to the church, as they were added to the local church at Jerusalem, is not New Testament evangelism!

III. Third, church centered evangelism fills the house of God.

Jesus said,

"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

I take this to mean the local church,

"The house of God, which is the church of the living God"
     (I Timothy 3:15).

"That my house may be filled." To me, this is meaningless if it does not refer to the local church, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (I Timothy 3:15).

Yes, I know, if we obey Christ's command there will be many new, untrained and unconverted people in the services. I know that this will cause various problems and difficulties. But isn't that precisely what evangelism is all about? Jesus said,

"As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21).

Many selfish people in America don't want to have children because children are a lot of trouble. So they are content to sit in front of a TV set until they drop dead - alone. Having children and raising them would disturb their quiet, selfish lives. And isn't that exactly what some church people think about bringing new people from the world? "Let's just go ahead and train our own church kids, and not bring in anyone from outside to disturb us," they seem to say. But this attitude comes from a failure to obey the Lord's Great Commission! He tells us,

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19).

How can we say we are obedient to Christ if we fail to do what He said?

Our "mission field" is all around us - on the streets, at the colleges, at the malls, and at the stores. "All nations" are right here - on the campuses of seven colleges surrounding the civic center of Los Angeles where our church is located. Our commander in chief is Jesus Christ. His commission is clear,

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).

"Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23).

Go to evangelism! Let nothing stop you! Throw yourself into the work of Christ! "Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled"!

Some of you here this morning are still unconverted. I cannot end this sermon without appealing to you to come to Jesus. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. He is alive up in Heaven praying for the salvation of your soul. Come to Him. Throw yourself on Him by faith. His Blood will cleanse every sin, and you will begin a new life in Him and in this local church.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:19-21.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Bring Them In" (by Alexcenah Thomas, 19th century).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHURCH CENTERED EVANGELISM!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20).

(Luke 14:23; Mark 16:15)

I.   Church centered evangelism begins by going "out," Luke 14:23.

II.  Church centered evangelism continues by bringing them "in,"
I Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:41, 47.

III. Church centered evangelism fills the house of God,
I Timothy 3:15; John 20:21.