Evangelism and spiritual harvesting are not for everyone calling themselves followers of Jesus. Fruitbearing is for the obedient. Believers aiming to obey the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-10) should not miss one huge fact: No one not living as a faithful disciple himself can make someone else a disciple of Jesus Christ. Only disciples make disciples. Only the faithful can bear fruit. Put another way: No one can teach others to “obey all the things I have commanded you” who is not obeying those things himself.
The church which is rebellious or wayward or chronically immature or systemically sick has no business trying to convert outsiders to what they are doing and how they are living. (Note: “Systemically” is not “systematically.” When the sickness is throughout the body, we say it is “systemic.” The problem is not with one person or two, but throughout the body.)
The sick church should get well first and then it will be able to help others.
Here are several churches that have no business sending soul-winning/visitation teams into their community or hosting evangelistic crusades.
1. Until Clearview Church leaders and members stop fighting and learn to love one another, they need to cancel all outreach.
I saw Clearview Church run off a pastor and half its members. They then proceeded to call a new preacher who walked in, saw all those empty pews and announced, “We need an evangelism program around here.” They scheduled a meeting, brought in an evangelist, papered the town with posters, and held their gatherings. All to no avail. Even if the new preacher did not know the character of his congregation, the community did. They wanted none of what that bunch had to offer.
Jesus prayed, “I pray not for these (disciples) alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
The Savior who redeemed us and reigns now as Lord has laid down a fundamental law here: if we expect people to believe in Him, we must live in love and unity.
No wonder our efforts fall pitifully short.
2. Until Park Ridge Church stands up and deals with a few cancerous leaders, they need to call off all evangelism plans.
Few things kill the spirit of love within a congregation and the spontaneous atmosphere necessary for outsiders to respond to the invitation to step forward and follow Jesus more quickly than a few strong-willed leaders who keep their thumb on everything within the body lest it erupt into something they might not be able to control. One thing we know: The Holy Spirit will not be controlled by anyone. (See John 3:8).
Until there is freedom and liberty within the fellowship, God’s Spirit is going to be inhibited from doing any work and sending any blessing. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). No liberty, no Spirit -- and no Spirit, no evangelism, no harvest, no births.
What part of that do we not understand?
3. Until Causeway Church clears up its terrible reputation in the community, their evangelism efforts will be fruitless.
The members of Causeway Church, most of whom joined in the last couple of years, do not understand why the citizens in their town seem completely unmoved by their good works, their impressive growth, and their attempts at recruitment.
Let them ask around; they’ll find out soon enough.
Sometime in the past--last year, last decade--that church was a cancer in the community. Its leaders were sick, its ministries self-serving and harsh, and its bills unpaid. When the pastor ventured out into the community, it was only to berate the city commission over its failures or the school board for their wickedness.
God got rid of that pastor and some of its worst troublemakers died or moved away. But the reputation lingers. The memory of that ugly little congregation made a lasting impression.
I heard a woman pastor ask for prayer for her church one day. “We have found that we are located over a toxic site. Underneath, there are poisons that were buried in the soil a long time ago. We are going to have to deal with it--which we can’t afford--or move.”
Causeway Church needs to dig down and locate the source of the toxins and deal with them. There are groups and businesses and individuals in the town who need an apology and then evidence of repentance. Furthermore, they will need time. Causeway Church leaders need to humble themselves before their community and find what it means to become servants. In time, if they remain faithful, God will send them a harvest. But it will be in His time. The question remains whether they will be patient and steadfast in their works.
4. Until North Howard Church opens its doors to everyone, they do not need to be inviting anyone.
North Howard’s sign is lying. The two feet by four feet board out front says “Everyone Welcome.” They aren’t.
Certain minority groups are not welcome at North Howard Church. The leadership first, and eventually the membership, has shown a prejudice against African-Americans, Latinos, the homeless, illegal aliens, and the chronically poor. Don’t miss this: it’s not just non-whites they reject; they are suspicious of anyone not like themselves.
We may rejoice that the Holy Spirit will not be sending converts to this bunch. The last thing the world needs is more like them.
5. Until Chateau Boulevard Church begins a foundational work of ministry which will legitimize its evangelism, they need to hold off.
A church has to earn the right to be heard in the community when it speaks of spiritual things.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe when I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12). What we do and say in the earthly realm lays the groundwork for us to be heard regarding the spiritual.
This week, a woman I know who is highly critical of what she calls fundamental Christians (people I call “Bible-believers”) posted on Facebook a photo of a preacher handing out Bibles to children in Haiti. She lambasted him for not giving them food and clothing. In the comments which followed, some of her “friends” resorted to profanity to condemn such misguided ministries.
I’m usually conflicted as to whether to risk posting a comment into such an atmosphere. What I said was, “No doubt from your comments you are heavily involved in feeding and clothing Haitians.” (I hoped she would get a feel for her own hypocrisy. Not very likely, I know.) What I wanted to say and didn’t was that no one knows all that evangelist may have done to feed and clothe those children of Haiti. All the article showed was him distributing Bibles. I’ll tell you this, Christian groups have fed and clothed a thousand Haitians for everyone helped by skeptics and hostiles.
We feed and clothe for a hundred reasons: it’s the right thing to do, it meets a genuine need, it’s basic compassion, Jesus would have done it, the Spirit within us commands it, and so forth. And, let us not hesitate to admit that one reason we show our concern for their welfare is that afterwards we’re usually given a hearing to present the gospel. Even if we’re not given such a hearing, however, we still hand out food and water and our love. That’s the Christian way.
Got time for a quick story?
I was in my first church after seminary, Emmanuel Baptist in Greenville, Mississippi. This collection of members had come in from other churches, I had been told, and many were unhappy and disgruntled. Being young, idealistic, and ignorant, I scheduled a revival and invited Don Womack of Memphis to preach a weeklong meeting.
The meeting was awful. Our attendance grew weaker and weaker. Wednesday night, one child responded to the invitation and joined the church. Other than that, nothing.
At the same time, there was bickering among members, and rumors were flying about their new young preacher (me!) trying to stir up racial strife in the community, and such as that.
Following the final sermon and the fruitless invitation time, Evangelist Womack handed the service back to me.
I remember what I said like it was last week.
“People, I don’t know what to do. Brother Don and I have worked so hard this week. But you have not supported this meeting with your attendance and support. I’m looking around at quite a few people who have told me you intend to join this church and several of you who need to walk this aisle and give your life to Christ. But you did nothing today.
“And I just want to say, I don’t blame you.
“I wouldn’t join this church either.
“There is a bad spirit in this congregation. And God is not going to send revival until we get our hearts right with each other and then make things right with one another.
“Folks, the Bible says ‘It is time for judgment to begin at the House of God’ (I Peter 4:17).”
And, little by little, day by day, God broke through that log jam and sent a spirit of revival to that church. People who belonged to Emmanuel Baptist Church in 1968-70 still talk about it.
This little writing goes forth with the prayer and hope that you find something here that will help your church.
This article was posted earlier from joemckeever.com, and is reposted here by permission of the author.