If you watched the recent World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros, perhaps you noticed a 31-year-old reliever for Atlanta named Tyler Matzek. Many pundits talked about how he was the most dominant reliever in the playoffs this year and a key reason why the Braves won.
This young man was a first round draft pick in 2011 but soon found himself out of the major leagues. Why? He lost confidence in his ability to pitch!
It took quite a while, but he finally made it back, simply because he rediscovered his confidence in his ability.
I am afraid the church is experiencing the same issue, the loss of confidence, not in our ability but something far greater: the gospel!
The church will state her utmost confidence in the gospel! “The gospel is what changed our lives and redeemed us,” she will declare. Perhaps, even more passionately she will state, “The gospel changes everything and is the only hope for the world.” Yet, there is a disconnect in our stated confidence in the gospel and our lived-out actions concerning the gospel.
The Apostle Paul stated, “I must tell the good news to everyone. That’s why I am eager to visit all of you in Rome. I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles” (Romans 1:15-16 CEV).
Paul’s practice of sharing the gospel is tied to his confidence in its purpose and power. Paul was absolutely convinced that the gospel was the only path and plan that God had to redeem sinful humanity. Paul had complete confidence in the gospel. He knew its power, for the gospel had transformed his life. Paul knew if people heard the gospel and responded in repentant faith, it would transform them, too.
The essential question is this: Has the church lost her confidence in the gospel?
If we judged by surveys that tell us about how little Christians share their faith with others, we would conclude that those who claim to have been changed by the gospel have lost their confidence in the gospel to change others.
An objective observer would say the church seems to have few successes to celebrate when it comes to the gospel. If one is honest, the church seems to look a lot like the Tyler Matzek of a few years ago, possessing everything necessary to succeed, but not succeeding, due to a loss of confidence.
What would happen if the church regained her confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would it not change our churches? Would it not be evidenced by more believers sharing the gospel?
If Illinois Baptists truly want to see a gospel movement sweep across our state and change our communities, it will require once again having complete confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This will mean no difference between our belief and our practice.
How do we get there?
(1) Communicate the power of the gospel clearly to our congregations. We must preach with confidence. Preach on the life changing power of the Gospel. Remind our churches of what the gospel has done for them and can do for others.
(2) Confront the disconnect between belief and practice. It isn’t easy to point out the inconsistency of maintaining belief in the power of the gospel while never sharing it with others. We must make sure we confront this in our own lives, as well as challenging our people in this area.
(3) Coach our people in the process of sharing to build confidence in their practice. As a pastor-coach, I take seriously the idea that people are fearful to share because they do not feel prepared to share. They need us to coach them. In the new year, our church leaders need to make ongoing evangelism training a normal part of the discipleship process.
Like Paul, I am confident in the gospel! It is still “the power of God unto salvation.” When our churches are confident of this, we will see what God does among us through his Word and his Spirit.
Scott Harris is IBSA Mission Team Leader and Evangelism Director. ScottHarris@IBSA.org