From Where I Stand
Maynard H. Belt
MARBC State Representative
Exposing The Myths Of The Church
If The Church Lights Are On – The Lost Will Come!
Some of the older saints of our congregations will recognize these words, “If the church lights are on – the lost will come!” Actually, there was an era in which this was true. At the turn of the last century, there were many who made their way to the House of the Lord because there were not all of the other attractions of the world, and they often sought refuge in a place that could give them solace and peace. Have we not heard of the wanderer passing the church at night, seeing the lights, hearing the singing, and going inside to see what was happening?
One of the churches that I pastored was founded during the great depression. It began with a series of evangelistic meetings, from which came the first members. Their very first pastor was the evangelist who conducted those meetings thus the church continued to grow as people came to hear the gospel preached. By the end of its fourth year as a local church, membership had burgeoned to over 500 and was steadily increasing. During that year the Tabernacle that they had built, collapsed due to heavy snow on the roof, and two days later what remained of the broken structure burned. $2700 in debt in the midst of the depression, the flock decided to trust God and build again, and build they did, putting up a new Tabernacle that had a seating capacity of 3000! God honored their faith – they continued to grow and I have pictures of some 2000 people, on Sunday evenings which were the evangelistic hour in that day, gathering to hear the gospel proclaimed. I know for sure in those days that they had a bus ministry, radio ministry and other outreaches but it was also a day when people came on their own just to see what was going on and went home “saved!”
Well, today unbelievers are not flocking to church just because the lights are on. For some churches, it is difficult enough just to get the believers there! As a result, we are living in a culture where the modern church is “marketing” itself in order to lure the lost. Some are attempting to “draw” them in by means of enticing techniques, rather than going to where they are through aggressive measures of loving kindness. The church must get out of the fortress, in obedience to Christ’s command in the great commission, carefully analyzing our motives and methods as we do. If we market ourselves only to charm a lost society to “come and see” and amuse them in a way in which they are already accustomed, then we are not following the biblical pattern. John MacArthur in his book, Reckless Faith, states, “Many Christians have the misconception that to win the world to Christ we must first win the world’s favor. If we can get the world to like us, they will embrace our Savior.” An important question we must ask is ,“Are our methods that we are using today pragmatic or biblical?” The church’s basic objective is evangelism, edification, worship and instruction. Evangelism is the weak link. Though I am greatly encouraged by the increased efforts of many of our Fellowship churches regarding various aspects of evangelization, we still can improve in reaching out to our communities with the glorious claims of Christ and how He can fulfil their every need, beginning with that of the forgiveness of sins.
We also need to be reminded that we cannot confuse church growth with effective church evangelism. Many churches grow today by “collection” rather than “conversion.” Local church evangelism is a work of God in which he uses the members to take His word to people in whom the Holy Spirit works to bring them to the place of trusting in Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is also providing the means, whether it be financial assistance as with the supporting of missionaries, or instruction in order to be a witness for the cause of Christ. It is very clear that the early church was a training center whereby some were sent out into the culture of their day with a clear cut message of redemption (Acts 13:3; 15:30ff; 18:23). God always uses people in evangelism, and there are so many ways in which we can make ourselves available, but we must “go,” for they will not come just because the church lights are on. As we spread the gospel, the Holy Spirit will spread salvation. As a dear pastor friend of mine once said, “They will not seek, they must be sought, they will not come they must be brought, the will not learn, they must be taught!”
The dynamic of evangelism has been placed in the confidence of the church, not to be kept to itself, but delivered by sundry sources to a lost and dying world. Each local church must select the evangelistic strategies that are most suitable and effective in the context of their community. The heart of evangelism is the gospel and the gospel is a dynamic for, as Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God….” A bookbinder once put T.N.T. on the spine of His New Testament, for that is really what the gospel is – the dynamite of God. We but must proclaim it. The Great Commission is a gigantic mission. The “GO” is the imperative of the mission; the “YE” is the instrument through which the mission is accomplished; the “ALL NATIONS” is the inclusiveness of the mission; and the “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS” is the inspiration for making the mission a reality (Matt. 28:19-20).
When John Wesley wrote, “A charge to keep I have, a God to glorify; a never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky,” his burden was for the church to evangelize. Evangelism will test the purpose, the programs, the power and the performance of the church. It is very important to keep the church lights on, but it is also vital to carry the Light to the lost…and that is not a myth!
Give us a watchword for the hour, a thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath, a call to conquest or to death,
A word to rouse the church from rest, to heed the Master’s high behest!
The Word is given, you host arise! The watchword is….evangelize!