First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
–1 Timothy 2:1-7
Evangelism is often viewed as an activity which the church does for God–a necessary but burdensome task for many. Yet evangelism is more accurately defined as God’s action for the world through the church. Christians are simply ambassadors through which God makes His plea of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20), by which His wisdom is displayed (Eph. 3:10), and in which His excellencies are proclaimed (1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus was the incarnation of God’s mission to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and the church is now the embodiment of that same mission (Eph. 1:22-23). The question is, how do we fully live out this divine responsibility? As we asked this past Sunday where I minister, “How can we create, not a program, but a culture of evangelism?” The Holy Spirit directs us toward a missional community within 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
Pray for God’s People
Within the text the key word is “all.” Working backwards: Jesus was given as a ransom for all (6) so that all have the chance of salvation (4), therefore pray for all the people God wants to save (2). In our heading we use “God’s People” in a very general sense and not in any salvific way. The church alone is God’s redeemed, special people. At the same time, the world is full of people God loves, that He died for, and that he wants to be reconciled with. If God had His way, everyone would be saved (2 Pet. 3:9); yet sadly, the vast majority will be lost (Matt. 7:13-14).
How does a church take steps to ensure a constant awareness and responsibility toward the “all”? Pray for them. In fact, pray for them diligently from a multiplicity of different angles (supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings). When was the last time you heard a man lead a prayer at your local congregation diligently focusing on the lost in your community? This isn’t a quick request asking that the Lord will help us grow “numerically and spiritually,” but an ardent imploring of our God to help us reach the people for whom He gave His Son. This is the intention of the prayers Paul is commanding (notice the connection to v. 4). Are the ceilings of our church buildings saturated with evangelistic pryers?
Prioritize God’s Purpose
Recently in the mail I received promotional material for a local community church. On this advertisement a variety of different fun summer programs were listed (particularly for the youth). For example, there was an upcoming one called “Beach Days” where they took the kids to the coast for several days. As I looked at the material I couldn’t help but feel like I was being advertised to. I don’t blame them. We are a growing community and different church groups are “competing” for people. We have done somewhat similar things.
We have fun at the Dripping Springs Church of Christ. We recently took our kids on a trip to Top Golf. We have different fun activities throughout the year. There is nothing wrong with fun (in fact, sharing that joy is so important for the life of the church). Yet we must constantly be reminded that our goal is not simply to have fun. Our mission is God’s mission: to save people and to bring them to a knowledge of the truth (2:4).
Entertainment and church programs are easy. The difficult work is witnessed in making disciples; it’s getting people to know, believe, and live the truth. This is God’s mission: to conform people to the image of His Son and reconcile them through the cross. Is this mission at the heart of your church? Does the preaching, teaching, and programs convey a deep sense that there are lost people in the community who need the saving message of the gospel? A culture of evangelism must be reflected in our programs, otherwise we are nothing more than another social club.
Preach about God’s Purchase
If you aren’t a preacher, you may not understand the difficulty of planning what to preach every week. You want to be sure to give the proper balance of grace and truth, instruction and edification, application and theology, etc. Some weeks the burden can seem almost unbearable and frustrating. In those moments it’s important to refocus and remember my central role as a minister: to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). In 1 Timothy Paul saw the ransoming sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the reason he was called to preach (v. 6-7). That is, preaching the purchasing, redeeming power of Jesus’ sacrifice was central to His ministry. Is it central to ours?
Again, with everything that has to be taught within the local congregation, it’s easy to lose our center. Yet we must never allow ourselves to forget that we are the church of Christ for a reason. We belong to Him and are called to embody Him in all we do (Col. 3:17). Do our congregations have a deep sense of what the Lord has done for them? Do our lessons come back to the cross? The only way churches will learn to stand in the shadow of the cross is if it is constantly lifted before them.
As Paul ends the section of 1 Timothy 2:1-7, he writes that he was made a preacher to the Gentiles “in faith and truth.” These are the tools God uses to fulfill His mission for the world through the church: faith and truth. If that is the case, is our church equipped to fulfill the Lord’s purpose in our community? If not, what can you do to create a greater evangelistic culture in your congregation?