Is Jesus Smart? We often think of Jesus as loving, kind, and selfless, but have you ever considered him smart? If we are honest, we must conclude that he is. He is the “author of life” (Act 3:15) who came in the flesh! And since he is smart, he wasn’t “winging it” when he met with his disciples in a locked room that first Sunday evening. As a thoughtful and intelligent person, Jesus would have been very intentional about his first words to them and to us, and we find them in John 20:19-21:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (NIV)
After greeting them, he spoke directly about the Church’s evangelistic mission. As Jesus was sent by the Father “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), he was sending the apostles and the Church to do the same. We are a part of that church and that mission. The fact that his first statement after rising from the dead concerned evangelism definitely showed his priorities!
Other aspects of being a Christian besides evangelism, such as worship, prayer, and fellowship, are also very important, but these activities weren’t first on Jesus’ mind that day. Some of his last words before being arrested and crucified were commands to love one another, but his post-resurrection message was to go out into the world. Why do you suppose?
Jesus, being the Author of life and very smart, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we will naturally gravitate toward those things that benefit us most and put off those things that are harder, like evangelism.
Think about it. The other vital aspects of a healthy church are beneficial to us. We benefit from worship. Even though our worship is of and for God, we are still inspired, uplifted, and empowered by it. We benefit from discipleship. Growing in knowledge, love, and obedience to God makes our lives eternally better. We benefit from fellowship. We were made for relationships, and we are transformed when we actively love and serve one another.
But what about evangelism? If you’ve ever had the privilege of praying with someone to believe in Jesus for salvation, then you know that there is a tremendous amount of joy experienced in that moment. But let’s be honest. Regularly being about the work of evangelism— being sent— is just plain hard. It’s sacrificial. It’s not about us. It often takes perseverance, and there is little instant gratification. It often doesn’t benefit us directly.
Jesus knew that if we make evangelism the priority, we will actually end up accomplishing the mission AND still engage with the other vital aspects of church health. If a church is first and foremost focused on seeking and saving the lost, it won’t prevent worship or discipleship. In my experience, these other aspects of church health actually improve in such churches so that all is done well in case new believers ask why we do what we do!
Jesus knew that when evangelistic mission is not a priority in a church, it will spend the vast majority of its energies on those aspects from which it benefits most and will never do the harder work of evangelism. This has been the case in just about every congregation we have served through our Anglican Revitalization Ministries. It is also why, when we work with a church and its leaders on becoming healthy to grow again, we emphasize having a “Vision for Evangelism” as the first of the five VITALs of church health.
I discussed this topic in the latest edition of our Anglican Perspectives Podcast. You can listen to this episode and download it here, if you haven’t already: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1651606/8281408-revitalizing-your-anglican-church.mp3?blob_id=37551824&download=true
As you prioritize your church’s efforts this Easter season and beyond, consider Jesus’ wisdom in putting evangelistic mission as his first priority after the Resurrection and how that might affect your plans moving forward.
If you’d like to discuss this topic and other thoughts on how to renew and revitalize your church, please email me at email@example.com to schedule a call.