Eschatology Demands Outreach, Not Isolationism
A couple years ago, I was leading music at a youth missions conference, and a missionary friend of mine happened to be there (on furlough). He was traveling around the U.S. visiting assemblies. I asked him if he had any observations from his visits.
He said that in general, churches are not growing, and many are dying. Some reasons he cited included a general apathy, an overly-internal focus, and a lack of outreach. We were lamenting this together, and he said something that struck me: “Eschatology affects practice.” That has stuck with me ever since he said it.
A slow decline
Are we characterized by inaction and isolationism? Are we staying in, and not going out? It may have not happened intentionally. If so, our end times perspective may not be the only factor, but it is important to evaluate whether our eschatology is allowing us to overlook the importance and urgency of the Great Commission.
Historically, the “Assemblies/Brethren” have been premillennial, and believe in a pretribulation rapture. (I am not disagreeing with this view of eschatology in this article.) We must be aware of a possible assumption that can go along with this view of the end times – isolationism.
Because Christ’s return could happen at any time (imminent), we can perhaps view ourselves as the “faithful remnant,” resting in the fact that God saved us and feeling that all we have to do is wait for Him to return to take us home. In preparation for our reunion with Christ, sometimes it’s like we’ve packed our bags and we are sitting at the table waiting, instead of running out to invite more friends to come with us to see Jesus.
God’s heart for all people
Now whether you are premillennial, amillennial, or just “eschatologically agnostic,” I would surmise that all who are reading this believe scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ will return, and echo the words of John at the end of the Bible: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
This must give us urgency in our calling. We must not close our church doors, hunker down in our proverbial trenches, and put up our white flag indicating “Ok guys, this is over. God saved us few and I’m good with that. Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Look at God’s heart revealed in 2 Peter 3:9, right in the middle of a rich eschatological passage on the “Day of the Lord.” I love this:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
God desires that ALL come to repentance
What an incredibly loving God we serve! (Please note here I’m not a universalist; it’s clear in God’s Word those that reject God will not be saved.) We need to hold both of these Biblical truths in tension: (1) not all people will be saved, but (2) God’s heart is that all people would be. God’s loving desire is to save the world! We need to have the same heart.
We do this by fulfilling our (com)mission to reach the world for Jesus, which was given 5 times in the New Testament.
- “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
- “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).
- “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46).
- “…As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
- “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Living out God’s heart
What does that look like? Well that’s an entirely new blog post. Or book. Or series of books. It’s a huge topic, and we should continue to think and read about it outside of this article.
But here are a couple initial thoughts.
- Love one another. First of all, we need an all-out, unconditional love for one another that shows the world we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35). How can we call people to be disciples of Jesus if we don’t look like one?
- Love and pray for your enemies. This is another command from the Lord (Matthew 5:44), and is so important that He says this: “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Ouch! If we do not love unbelievers with the same sacrificial love that Jesus did, we are not showing the heart of God.
- Learn how to share your testimony. Learn how to share the testimony of God’s work in your life. This is a clear command in scripture, that we be prepared to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15-16). Learn how to share the Gospel in a normal, conversational way. Here’s a helpful guide to start if you never have.
- Pray, then go! Many times we complicate this and feel like we aren’t prepared to go out. It’s important to realize that the believers in Acts who were preaching the Gospel to everyone around them were doing so mere months after Christ ascended. Yes, preparation is important, and we need to know God’s Word, but often the hindrance is that we just never go. Ask God to start opening up conversations for you in your circles, and then to give you boldness and the words to speak. Do this unceasingly.
But it’s so hard to do!
A note: I am a certified introvert, and all of this terrifies me. But I want to tell you, since being challenged of these things myself, I have seen the Lord answer my prayers without fail.
When reading God’s Word, I ask Him to give me something to share in conversation with someone during the day. He does. Before going out in public, I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to prepare someone for me to talk to. He does. I ask Him to give me boldness, and the words to speak. He does.
I think it’s a direct application of this passage:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”.John 14:12-14
We should not think of ourselves as “the faithful remnant.” Let’s not allow that to ever characterize us. But instead let’s pursue a view of the Bride of Christ as a living, growing, expanding (and most likely persecuted) church that is bursting at the seams, ready to meet its conquering Bridegroom whenever He comes back!
One man wakes, awakens another
Second one wakes his next door brother
Three awake can rouse a town
And turn the whole place upside down
Leeland / Lawrence Tribble
Many awake will cause such a fuss
It finally awakes all of us
One man wakes with dawn in his eyes
Surely then it multiplies