As our SBC meeting in Salt Lake City draws near, I am asked with increasing frequency if I really believe it is appropriate to "evangelize" those of Mormon faith. This question is reminiscent of a similar question often asked following our 1996 SBC in New Orleans. There we passed a resolution reminding our convention that we must not overlook any segment of society, including those of Jewish heritage and faith, in our efforts to share the gospel with all people groups.
In both instances my answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" My convictions regarding witnessing stem from my understanding of the very nature of evangelism. Consider the following observations regarding our Lord's commissioning of those terrified followers gathered in secrecy on the Sunday of His resurrection. His words clarify for us the "evangelism equation." "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). In other words, His work is our work. We can conclude these things from His statement:
Whatever else evangelism might be, it is ultimately my response to the Lord.
Jesus was filled with compassion for the lost, based on His knowledge of the terrors of Hell and the joys of Heaven. However, that was not His primary motivation. He came to this earth in response to the sending of the Father. "As THE FATHER HATH SENT ME …." It is imperative to understand this basic motivation for evangelism. Those who wait for a "burden," to have their heart stirred by the lostness of mankind, the plight of the hell-bound, and the wreckage of sin-cursed lives, often quit the battle early if they join it at all. They are seeking to be moved from without rather than from above.
I cannot "do" evangelism unless I get among the lost.
Jesus' mission (and ours) requires a departure from the sanctity and safety of purely holy surroundings. John reminds us that He came to His creation and was not received with gratitude and joy (John 1:11). This is one of the ironies of the incarnation. Evangelism is not meant to be the "inside job" of the Church. It is worthy of note that during those early, explosive years of growth, believers faced persecution and dispersion every time they began to grow comfortable and complacent. This was God's way of keeping them on the job. Once church buildings became popular they served to shut some people out and others in.
True effectiveness in evangelism requires that I die to "self."
Paul reminds us that Jesus "humbled Himself…unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). If I am to fulfill my part of the equation I, too, must die to all that "self" holds dear. Only as a dead man will I work tirelessly, fearlessly, and unselfishly. When I give place to "self" I will seek to accommodate my flesh. Evangelism was never the passion of those seeking convenience.
The time for me to evangelize is short.
Jesus was here in the flesh but a brief time … as am I. I must realize that my life is just a "blip" on the radar screen of eternity. Once I meet Christ, whether by His coming in my lifetime or at the moment of my death, my opportunity to fulfill His commission for me will be ended. As Amy Carmichael said " I have all of eternity to celebrate the victories but only a few moments until sundown to win them."
Many of the people I seek to evangelize will reject both the message and me.
After all, the servant is not greater than the Master. Some have voiced the opinion that we should only evangelize when and where the gospel is welcomed (I notice they don't have the same opinion when it comes to requiring vaccinations against diseases other than sin). Jesus stood before His disciples with visible marks of rejection. Can we expect less?
My faith is not in the evangelism method, but in the one who alone gives eternal life.
Jesus' death was the ultimate expression of faith. Only the Father could raise Him from the dead. Similarly, as I die to "self" with its fears and excuses I simply must trust Him to do what He has promised to do if I evangelize. He is the One who promised that those who "… go to and fro, weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing His sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6).
Should Southern Baptists witness to the Mormons? Yes! — and to all the people of the world. After all, we are part of the evangelism equation. "As the Father hath sent me (in the same way, to the same world, for the same purpose, understanding the same possibilities but exercising the same faith) … even so send I you."