By Jordan Easley and Ernest Easley
The old saying, Take two Aspirins and call me in the morning, doesn’t really apply if you have a fast-growing cancer in your body. You need something far more drastic.
But if you don’t know the cancer exists, you’ll never take the necessary steps to address it. You’ll just continue self-medicating, hoping that eventually it’ll go away or fix itself.
To address a problem, we must first become aware of the problem. In order for that to happen, we must intentionally look internally and recognize any warning signs or symptoms that may provide indications that something is wrong.
When we as disciples of Jesus Christ take an honest look internally at our hearts, our passions, and our priorities as Christ-followers, we’ll discover there are certain things we naturally emphasize, and certain things we don’t prioritize at all.
What do we truly prioritize?
As a pastor, I will attest—we will never go a week without singing. Nor will there ever be a Sunday without preaching God’s word or passing the offering plate.
At our church, there will always be small groups and we will always have an emphasis on teaching our children about Jesus. We prioritize these things, and as a result, we are consistent in doing them.
Don’t get me wrong—all of these things are good things. We hold them high because Jesus told us to. But let us not forget that Jesus told us to do much more than just meet, eat, worship, and teach.
Choosing to do a handful of these good things doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus Christ; knowing Jesus, being the person Jesus calls you to be, and living in obedience to His commands is what makes you a disciple of Christ.
Therefore, if we’re going to live the life that Jesus called us to live, we must begin prioritizing the things that Jesus told us to prioritize.
What did Jesus tell us to prioritize?
In Mark 16:15, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” That is a mandate to the church and therefore should be a priority in our lives.
But for many of us, we’d have to admit who we are and what we do in real life doesn’t necessarily match up with who we’ve been called to be.
When we begin peeling back the layers of our heart and take an honest look internally, we will most likely discover that the pulse of our personal evangelism and even the pulse of our corporate evangelism is pretty faint, and seems to beat at a slower and slower pace.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
The initial problem is that our personal evangelism pulse doesn’t match what Jesus has called us to. But perhaps the more immediate problem is that the church seems to be in denial.
We’re like the person who knows something is wrong with his body but refuses to go to the doctor. He continues to live as normal, and all the while the sickness gets worse and worse.
The reasons for this may be many, but most likely the attributing factors boil down to two things: complacency and fear.
A person who has poor hygiene or a person who doesn’t take care of his or her body most likely will not prioritize regular visits to the doctor.
I recently read a stat that said, “80% of Americans avoid preventative care. Further, 9 out of 10 millennials avoid seeing the doctor annually.”
At first these statistics shocked me, but then it hit me—the reason they don’t take care of themselves or prioritize doctors visits is because at this point in their life, they simply don’t care enough or see the benefits of taking care of their body.
This is a great example of a complacent attitude. Unfortunately, in this day and time, there seems to be more and more complacency among those who call themselves Christians.
The follower of Christ who does not share his or her faith may avoid doing so simply because at their core, they really don’t care about other people.
I know that sounds harsh, but why else would we keep our mouths shut about Jesus when people around us are dying and going to hell? Maybe it’s because at this point in our life, we truly don’t care. We’re complacent.
Or perhaps it has less to do with our apathy and more to do with our fear. Some of us avoid gospel conversations simply because we’re afraid.
We’re afraid of what it might cost us, or we’re afraid of what the outcome may be. We’re afraid it won’t work, that we won’t know all the answers, that we’ll lose a friend, or that the whole thing will be embarrassing.
This is the person who avoids going to the doctor because they’re afraid of what the doctor may find. We think, If I avoid going to the doctor, he can’t tell me that I’m dying. He can’t tell me to make adjustments. He can’t tell me what I’m doing wrong.
But that doesn’t change the fact that on the inside, there’s something wrong!
For us as believers, we think, If I simply avoid sharing the gospel with this person, they won’t be able to shut me down, or think I’m weird, or ask me a question I’m unprepared to answer.
Many times we keep our mouths shut because we’re afraid. We’re afraid because we treasure our own comfort and identity more than our obedience to God.
In Ezekiel chapter 16, we see the results of complacency firsthand with God’s children.
“Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable acts before me, so I removed them when I saw this.”
This passage of Scripture is a part of an analogy describing Israel’s relationship with God. God had rescued them from their enemies, but in response, they turned to other gods.
They were too prideful, prosperous, and prone to sin, and as a result, they were “removed” because of their disobedience.
The underlying principle in this passage implies that comfort often leads to apathy and complacency.
Israel ignored the poor and needy because they knew that providing aid to these people would have caused them to be inconvenienced in a great way. In short, their inaction was a sin that God detested.
I believe this too should be a warning for the church today. The western church is prosperous and, in many ways, prideful.
We have large buildings, big budgets, well-trained church staff members, and countless evangelism and discipleship tools at our disposal.
In fact, we have more tools to aid us in fulfilling the Great Commission than ever before, and yet we continue to make excuses for why we don’t share Jesus.
The poor and needy in today’s context not only include those who are physically or monetarily so, but also those who are spiritually poor and needy.
When we forsake these people and forgo sharing the hope we have in Jesus Christ with them, we are as disobedient to God today as the Israelites were in that day.
When you consider your own pulse for personal evangelism, what is it that you see?
Are you maximizing the moments God gives you and making much of Him, or have you been missing opportunities to share of your salvation? What are the reasons you don’t share more?
What are the reasons you may be prone to neglect opportunities to sow seeds of hope in the lost people around you? Is it because you’re complacent? Is it because you’re afraid?
We’ve got to look at the answers to these questions as if they are warning signs from the Lord.
It’s almost as if He’s saying, “The complacency you’re living with was never a part of my plan for your life! That fear you’re experiencing didn’t come from me, but it’s keeping you from obeying me. It’s keeping you from living in my will!’”
What do the warning signs show you? And how will you respond?
JORDAN EASLEY (@jordaneasley) is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tennessee. He’s the co-author of Resuscitating Evangelism with ERNEST EASLEY (@ErnestLEasley), teaching pastor of First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tennessee. Excerpted from Resuscitating Evangelism and used with permission from B&H Publishing Group.