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Until They’ve All Heard

Pastor Michael Gantt

By Pastor M. K. Gantt Agape Christian Fellowship

“How Can We Criticize a Nation the Church Has Failed to Evangelize?” Evangelist Tommie Zito

Sobering Truth About Evangelism

More than 95% of those in America who claim to be a Christian have never led another person to Christ.

More than 80% of those claiming to be a Christian have never spoken to another person about their salvation.

45% of those claiming to be a Christian don’t believe it’s their job to evangelize the lost.

The State of the Church and Our Culture

We live in a nation that boasts huge churches, superstar preachers, the most dynamic ministries, Christian radio and television, books, CDs, YouTube channels, social media presence, personal growth programs – the list could go on. Yet, in these cities blessed by super churches and super ministries, conditions grow worse and worse. It can fairly be said that though churches and parachurch ministries exist by the tens of thousands across the land – the church has had little, if any, impact upon our culture. We claim to have the key to life, but our communities are dying.

A Personal Reflection

I am certainly not throwing stones here because my church has existed in our town for more than fifty years, and conditions like crime, perversion, and poverty have grown steadily worse. How can this be? What are we missing? Are we like the church at Ephesus that has lost its first love? Do we need to return to the first works?

The Call to Return to First Works

My friend, Evangelist Tommie Zito, recently spoke about the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, where Jesus said, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5 KJV)

He demonstrated convincingly what those “first works” were from the 19th chapter of Acts. The apostle Paul planted the church in Ephesus when he found just 12 men who had believed, but not yet received the Holy Spirit; “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” (Acts 19:2) They had never heard of such a thing. Paul prayed, they received, and the church in Ephesus was born. The next few verses were startling to me:

The Birth of the Ephesus Church

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve. And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened and believed not but spoke evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:6-10 KJV)

Realization and Reflection

The church in Ephesus was born with only twelve men, but in the space of just two years, everyone who was living in Asia had heard the gospel. It becomes clear that the “first works” of which Jesus spoke was the work of evangelism. This realization has captured my heart and imagination. We have great churches, great preachers, great programs, and great everything – but almost everything we have is for us – those who already believe or for those few we can convince to visit our churches.

That was the condition of the church at Ephesus when Jesus commanded John to write on the Isle of Patmos, and it is the condition of the church today: We work hard, we have imaginative programming, clever sermons, dynamic music, everything any Christian family could want . . . but in reality, it’s all for us!

The Hard Question

Has everyone in our region heard the gospel? This is the hard question I am faced with. Our church was founded in 1972. We’ve been here for fifty-two years. We work hard. We have good preaching. We have solid Biblical theology. We have programs for the poor. We live stream all over the world. We have great music and dynamic worship. And yet, we have not truly impacted our community for Christ. The drug problems grow worse, crime rates climb, poverty increases, demonic influence seems to have free reign . . . godlessness is unconstrained.

We are a good church but sadly – predominantly – it’s all for us. The saints are blessed while sinners continue bound for hell, lost and without hope, and we are not alone.

Returning to True Evangelism

True evangelism is not going to be a function of our pulpits and clever preaching.

It’s not going to swell out of our dynamic music and excellent worship.

It won’t come as the result of church suppers, divorce counseling, or knitting circles.

A Local Initiative: Training Evangelists

Locally, we have set our hearts to the task of training and releasing effective evangelists to cover our entire state. We simply must overcome those daunting statistics that tell us almost no one in our churches is sharing the gospel with their friends, their family, or their neighbors. Practically none of our fine Christian men and women are faithfully and consistently sharing the gospel with those lost people with whom they interact with on an ongoing basis. Too many of our members believe that evangelism is somebody else’s job.

The Vermont Awakening Project

Our own church is partnering with Evangelist Tommie Zito (tommiezito.com) in a project we are calling The Vermont Awakening. In the next few years, we will be setting up shop all over the state of Vermont to raise up and train effective soul winners, praying with them to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and releasing them into their own communities to share the gospel. Just this last week we were on the border between Vermont and New Hampshire and in just five days we saw almost 300 men, women, and children receive Christ, even entire families – many of them on the campus at the prestigious Dartmouth College.

Partnerships and Outreach

We are developing partnerships with local churches all over the state to join with us in agreement that we will not rest “until they’ve all heard.”

Expecting the Impossible

I’ve already had one person suggest that I’m expecting the impossible.

My reply? “Exactly! I’m asking the impossible.” I happen to serve a God who specializes in the impossible. He is an expert in bringing to bear the unimaginable. He is known to have taken little and turned it into much. Yes, I want to live in the realm of the impossible and I believe that if 12 men in Ephesus could reach all of Asia in just two years God can help us reach all of Vermont.

A Final Warning

Here is the final warning from Revelation 2: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Many churches in America have already had their light snuffed out and the flame is flickering weakly in so many others.

A Call to Repentance and Return

There needs to be much repenting and a whole lot of returning among us all.

The author is Michael K. Gantt, Pastor Emeritus Agape Christian Fellowship in Brattleboro VT, and a contributor to MyFaithNews.