Influence

 the shape of leadership

Prioritizing the Mission in the Midst of Ministry

Advancing the message of Jesus in all we do

The Book of Acts reveals a powerful, sweeping, game-changing move of God’s Spirit in which thousands of people came to faith in Christ. It even describes this transformation as an event that “turned the world upside down” for Christ (Acts 17:6, ESV).

The question is, how did the Church keep this primary mission in focus? What kept it centered on reaching people with the gospel?

A closer look at Acts reveals an interesting pattern: Everything the Early Church did resulted in evangelism. Everything the Early Church did led to sharing the message of Jesus with others.

God’s power resulted in sharing the message of Jesus. What happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, after the believers received the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Peter stood up, boldly preached the gospel, and 3,000 people became followers of Christ. And when the apostles performed miracles and healing, those demonstrations of power repeatedly led to the preaching of the gospel.

Fellowship of the believers resulted in sharing the message of Jesus. Acts 2:42-47 describes the Early Church meeting together to enjoy the apostles’ teaching, share meals, pray together, worship and serve one another. What was the result? Acts 2:47 says that the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Evangelism was the end result of the believer’s fellowship.

Prayer and fasting resulted in sharing the message of Jesus. In Acts 13:1-4, believers were fasting and praying when the Holy Spirit told them to appoint Barnabas and Saul for the work to which God had called them. So, the believers laid hands on them, prayed for them, and sent them on their way. For what purpose? To preach the gospel in Salamis. Again, sharing the message of Jesus was the end result of prayer and fasting.

Empowering leaders resulted in sharing the message of Jesus. In Acts 6, widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Therefore, the apostles selected a group of leaders, prayed over them, and then released them to meet this need. What was the end result? Acts 6:7 says, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Persecution resulted in sharing the message of Jesus. In Acts 8, after Stephen had been martyred for his faith, Saul began going everywhere trying to destroy the Church. Scripture says that a great wave of persecution swept over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.

If our spiritual activity only makes us feel good about ourselves, we’ve missed the point.

What was the end result? Acts 8:4 says, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

Let me say it again … everything the Early Church did resulted in sharing the message of Jesus.

How often do we lose sight of our primary mission as the Church? How often do we let the Church’s peripheral activities get in the way of our No. 1 calling — to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20)?

Some might say, “Yes, but our primary purpose is to worship and glorify God.” I understand, but have you ever stopped to consider the link between worship and evangelism? Author Steve Moore makes this powerful connection when he writes, “I have come to believe the ultimate prize for Satan is not the satisfaction of damning a human spirit to eternal fire. It is robbing God of the worship he deserves from that human spirit, forever. There is a fundamental connection between worship and missions.”

When we reach people with the gospel, we simultaneously multiply the magnification of Jesus’ name in the earth. That is our primary mission.

The film Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss and his military service during World War II. This soldier’s religious convictions would not allow him to carry a weapon, which irritated his superiors to say the least. In Okinawa, Doss and his fellow troops were on top of a 400-foot cliff called Hacksaw Ridge when they received an order to retreat. Doss chose a different path, even though he didn’t carry a weapon.

For the next 12 hours, Doss risked his life to rescue wounded soldiers, and single-handed lowered them down the 400-foot cliff to safety. By the time he finished, Doss had saved the lives of 75 men. Years later, someone asked Doss how he managed to continue such an unrelenting task. His answer was concise. He kept praying, “Lord, just help me get one more.”

What would happen if that became our prayer today? Rather than becoming consumed (and sometimes distracted) by the 99, what would happen if we went after the one who has wandered away (Matthew 18:12-14)?

Today, we love to see God move. We love to see people healed and delivered. We enjoy fellowship with other Christians, and we find strength in prayer. But what is the end result of all of it? What should be the final outcome?

The account of the Early Church makes it clear: Reaching people who don’t know Christ should be the final result. That’s the end game. That’s the win. That’s the final outcome. If our spiritual activity only makes us feel good about ourselves, we’ve missed the point. We’ve abandoned the mission.

Prioritize the mission of reaching people with the gospel in the midst of ministry. That’s the mission Jesus ultimately entrusted to us.

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