FLINT, MI – Dennis Nunn recently presented his “Every Believer a Witness” training for pastors. This training was developed by Nunn. It includes a Bible study in which he compares Old Testament Evangelism with New Testament Evangelism.
In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to construct a Tabernacle, which was later replaced by the Temple. Both of these structures had an outer court where the priests offered the sacrifices. Only the priests could enter the Holy Place inside the Tabernacle/Temple, and only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year to make atonement for the sins of the people. In the Old Testament, worshippers were expected to come to the Tabernacle/Temple to worship God and offer sacrifices. The only Old Testament exception to “come and worship" was when Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell them of God's pending judgment.
When Jesus came on the scene, the basic method of evangelism was still "come and see." “Nathanael said to him, 'Can anything good come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'” (John 1:46) This began to shift when Jesus sent His disciples out: “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: 'Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'” (Matthew 10:5–6)
Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins. After He rose from the dead, and before He ascended to heaven, Jesus changed the "come and see" evangelism emphasis to the “go and tell" emphasis that we see in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Following His resurrection and ascension, we don't see an emphasis on church members inviting people to come to Jerusalem, or to come to a gathering of believers in order to hear the gospel. Rather, we see the believers going and telling the good news. “Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'” (John 20:21) It seems today the primary focus of many churches is more like the Old Testament "come and see" approach to evangelism rather than the "go and tell" emphasis we see in the various Great Commission passages.
Dennis Nunn points out that a "come and see" evangelism emphasis has several problems and negative consequences.
1. It's not biblical – there is not a single verse in the entire New Testament that instructs us to invite lost people to church. Instead we are to go and be witnesses.
2. The Greek word ekklesia (church) is a compound word that literally means "called out ones." Church gatherings are for those whom God has called out of the world (Christians) to come for worship and instruction in God's word. If the message heard at church is always evangelistic, then believers may not be receiving the "meat" of the word, which will be reflected in their maturity and lack of ministry involvement.
3. "Come and see" is not a very effective evangelism method. Most of us know from experience that inviting people to church doesn't produce a significant response. Unless the Holy Spirit is already drawing a person, most unsaved don't want to go to church.
4. "Come and see" is going to become even less effective as the lost increasingly reject as being hateful, intolerant and bigoted the biblical principles embraced by Christians and churches .
While not all Christians are called to be evangelists, we are all called to be witnesses. Dennis Nunn has developed Every Believer a Witness to make sharing our faith easy, fun and effective for all Christians. Consider having an Every Believer a Witness emphasis in your church, and contact me for more information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Marcus is the Director of Missions for the Genesee Baptist Association located in Flint, MI.