Itâ€™s simple. We are not being obedient to the Gospel of Christ. Thatâ€™s what Paul Borden (author of â€œDirect Hitâ€ and â€œHit the Bullseyeâ€) told the General Council at its retreat in January. How many non-believers have we nurtured into faith this past year? How many adult baptisms has your congregation celebrated this past year? When we donâ€™t place making new followers of Jesus Christ as the primary mission of the church, then we are disobedient of Christâ€™s mandate to make disciples of all peoples.Anyone who has met Borden or read one of his books knows that he doesnâ€™t mince words. He is direct; and he left most of us feeling appropriately uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. Itâ€™s not that no one had ever accused me of being disobedient to the Gospel before â€“ but, letâ€™s face it, usually they were on the other side of an argument or theological divide, and, frankly, I didnâ€™t agree with them. What disturbed me about Bordenâ€™s comment was that he was right. Even I, the Associate General Presbyter for Evangelism â€¦, couldnâ€™t name one new believer that I nurtured into faith in the past year.
Evangelism is at the core of what it means to be Christian. â€œThe proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of humankindâ€ is the first great end of the church. (G-1.0200). Our congregations will continue to decline in membership as long as we consider making new disciples a peripheral activity of the church, or a duty reserved for the pastor.
Our confessions confirm that the witness of Christ to all peoples is the responsibility of every Christian, not a select few. Whatever we do, wherever we find ourselves, it is our joy and responsibility to not only act in love and serve compassionately, but to teach, share, and witness to the truth in Jesus Christ.
Many of us, though, donâ€™t know where to start. We havenâ€™t been taught how to nurture a non-believer into faithful relationship with Christ. And, on top of that, most of us have been conditioned NOT to talk about our faith, at least not in public; religion, weâ€™ve been taught, is a private matter. But, the reality is that nothing is more public than the visible expression of Christ alive in each of us, nothing is more vital to the lives of our neighbors than the Good News of Jesus Christ, nothing is more necessary for peace in the world than the way of Jesus. And there are ways of sharing our faith and knowledge of Christ that are non-confrontational, compassionate, respectful, and life-giving.
And now a plug from your AGP â€¦ the presbytery can help your congregation learn ways of sharing faith. We can recommend resources, lead workshops (check out the Chip Arn event in May at First Westminster in Baytown), and even teach courses at your church. But none of these will be fruitful until each one of us decides to pray and nurture someone into faith.
Disobedience calls for repentance; and repentance means doing something different. When we begin living in a way that takes faith-sharing seriously, we will feel awkward and weâ€™ll make some mistakes, but weâ€™ll also be the witness to Christ visibly changing lives.
Originally published in the March 2007 edition of Connections, a publication by the Presbytery of New Covenant