A lady at a church gave me one of the best grilling sessions of my life. I have had three serious interrogation/questions in my life. First was my ordination council. I was questioned for a couple of hours and I was very thankful I could explain the inspiration of Scripture well enough without knowing the proper technical term (verbal-plenary inspiration). The second intense session came during my doctoral comprehensive exams. There were some “catch” questions. These are questions where there is no right answer, in my case, I knew the two professors had opposing views so regardless of how you answer, you had to then “battle” with someone was much more qualified to answer. The third and final time came at a church, by a single lady who is a faithful believer while we were eating lunch.
The church was started by a missionary twenty years ago. We were surrounded by other members at the church but she had the center stage. She asked my perspective on ministry and then said something that left me speechless. “You know, we have had a lot of missionaries here and everyone wants us to grow, grow, grow, and they tell us to share the gospel. This is all good but why doesn’t someone teach us how to be a Christian at our jobs? Why don’t you teach us this?” Her words left me speechless.
I was heart broken. I began to think about why they have received the same message over the last twenty years. I have some thoughts and some helpful hints for those in ministry.
- Sharing the gospel is good and biblical. Jesus makes a direct link between those who are filled with the Holy Spirit and those being witnesses (Acts 1:8). These individuals will have power and will be witnesses to the end of the earth. Evangelism is good. It is a Spirit empowered endeavor.
- Missionaries speaking, leading, teaching, and doing evangelism is good. We tend to speak about what we are good at and called to do. Missionaries should be passionate about, good at, and called to do evangelism. If they are not doing evangelism they are not a missionary. A missionary can do many things but they must be doing evangelism. Their work is gospel centered work. It makes perfect sense that they preach and teach about evangelism.
- Missionaries need to have gospel centered teaching to people who do not have gospel centered work. Someone working long hours in a factory makings shoes can have a gospel centered life but their job is to make shoes.
- Missionaries must preach the gospel. Preaching the gospel is much more than trying to get someone to raise their hand, say a prayer, or get baptized. The gospel encompasses all of life. The gospel teaches us how to have a relationship with God, love our wives, raise our kids, be good employees, and any other area of your life.
The gospel is the good news of God. The gospel begins with us being created in God’s image having a perfect relationship with him. This image and relationship was irreparably damaged when Adam and Eve sinned. We are their descendants and prove this when we willfully follow in their sinful footsteps. The only way to restore the relationship and to fix the damage done to the image we now bear is Jesus. He paid our sin debt by dying on the cross and made the way for the image to be restored. After he resurrected and returned to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to lead us, live in us, empower us, and conform us into the image of Jesus. When we die here on this earth, we wake to live forever with Jesus. There is more to it, but briefly stated this is the gospel.
Do you see the evangelism in this presentation? Yes, absolutely. Evangelism is the heart and center of the gospel. Without people acknowledging their sin and need for a Savior and without repenting of former sinful ways, having faith in Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, they cannot have a relationship restored and image returned.
Do you see “3 Steps to being a better employee” sermon in my explanation of the gospel? Yes, absolutely yes, much more than 3 steps are there as well. When God made Adam and Eve in his image, he placed them in the Garden to work. When God saves man by his grace, he left them on earth to live and work. If the goal of the gospel was salvation then God would whisk us away to heaven as soon as we receive Christ by faith. The goal of the gospel is for us to know, enjoy, and experience Jesus. Can you do this as you make shoes? Yes. In whatever we do, we must be walking with God. Consider this statement: “That we should establish ourselves in a sense of GOD’s Presence, by continually conversing with Him. That it was a shameful thing to quit His conversation, to think of trifles and fooleries” that was written by Brother Lawrence, a 14th Century monk who washed dishes.
What was so troubling about the conversation/interrogation I had with the lady was I had just got done preaching that morning. She meant no malice towards me she had a genuine question for me. This has weighed on me for several weeks. I’m preaching this Sunday. What am I to do?
I’m going to preach the gospel. The gospel is more than evangelism. There is practical application to the gospel. There is real encouragement in the gospel for pastors, missionaries, and factory workers.
The gospel teaches us each believer is not alone in this world. Each believer is indwelled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the gospel gives us the power and ability to be great employees because we have the Holy Spirit living in us. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, he lives in us to do and desire the things God wants (Phil 2:13). Isn’t that phenomenal! See the gospel isn’t just a message of salvation. It is the message of life. Not only is it the message of life, it is the desire and ability to do all that real life requires.
Let’s apply this gospel truth to the lady at church. She’s about to get a whole sermon on it Sunday so let’s give her a preview. Being a good hard worker is a good thing but if we are honest, when we are on the clock, we are not always trying our best. We look to cut corners more than we look to increase our output. What does the gospel say? Work hard. Paul tells the church at Colossae to work heartily as unto the Lord and not for men (Col 3:23). I don’t use “heartily” very much in my vocabulary and I’m sure you don’t either. When I think of something that is “hearty” I can only think of a sandwich piled way high with pastrami. You know the ones where the bread is really just hanging on for dear life? Yeah, that one. That’s a hearty sandwich. Paul wants our working to be done in such a manner that it makes people take notice. But here is the kicker, the gospel of work is not that we do it for men’s observation but for the Lord. We work because we serve the Lord not just a boss.
Paul can make this claim because he knows the Holy Spirit lives in them. The gospel is not only the command to obey but the power to do what is required. Let’s not cheapen or weaken the gospel by making it just about salvation or getting into heaven. The gospel is about living. The gospel is for now.