I was a Microsoft-user before I became a Mac-user. Among the many frustrations I had with Microsoft was the problem of missing files. Occasionally, while trying to boot up the PC, an error message would appear on the screen telling me that the boot-up could not be completed because a certain file was missing. This file was there when Windows was being installed onto my computer. But, for some unknown reason, it had gone missing. Now, to get my computer to work again, I have to find that specific file on the Web, download it, and re-install it onto my computer. A time consuming and unnecessary action, in my opinion.
There is an Installation Disc for the Church too. In it, all the files and programs needed for its smooth and effective running are found. And, for some strange reason, some of these critical files have gone missing. Some have been restored – such as the files concerning the Gifts of the Spirit – but others have merely been substituted by non-proprietory versions. The one I would like to highlight in this article is the file concerning the Ministry of Reconciliation.
When was the last time you used or heard the term “Ministry of Reconciliation” used? My guess is that it was not recent. That’s because in the modern church the term “Ministry of Reconciliation” (10 syllables) has been replaced by a shorter one, “Evangelism” (5 syllables). The shortening of the term perhaps reflects the Church’s attempt to mitigate the true task at hand: instead of reconciling sinners to God, the Church is content with just obtaining professions of faith.
If you have been involved in any form of counseling, you would know that the process of reconciliation is a long and complex one. It starts with an “Offender” and an “Offended”. The mediator has his work cut out for him. He has to persuade the Offender to humble himself enough to apologize to the Offended. At the same time, the mediator has to help the Offended cool down enough to forgive. Assuming the mediator is successful in bringing both the Offender and the Offended to the table to “broker” a truce, his job is far from over. The process of reconciliation is complete when the two are restored to the place they were before the offense occurred. They must be friends again. (Keep that word in your mind.)
The Bible says that a sinner, which we all were, is “hostile to God”. He is an enemy of God. But God (a very precious and powerful phrase), in His mercy, sent His Son to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). In Christ, the sinner will find forgiveness of sins, redemption, adoption, inheritance, and much more. But the sinner must first believe in the Son. We call this Conversion. And typically, it is marked by the sinner’s willingness to pray to God and acknowledge Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. But is the process of reconciliation complete at this point?
Far from it. The process of reconciliation continues and culminates in the sinner becoming a “friend” of God. And who is a friend of God? Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14 NKJV).
Based on this, we know that many Christians still have not been fully reconciled to God because they are still habitually disobedient to God. They are, in Paul’s words, “carnally-minded” and not “spiritually-minded”. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom 8:7 NKJV).
The Ministry of Reconciliation seeks to bring the sinner all the way to becoming a “friend” of God. Evangelism, sad to say, falls short of this goal.
Somehow, we have managed to dichotomize the Ministry of Reconciliation into two distinct tasks: winning soul and discipling the believer. “Evangelists”, such as Luis Bush and Billy Graham, are primarily relied upon to accomplish the first task. When the “evangelist” has done his part, the local churches takes over and tries to disciple the new convert. We know very well from experience that this method is not working as we hope it would. The retention rate (of saved souls) is consistently under 10 per cent. After all the effort and expenditure of valuable resources, only 1 out of a 100 professions of faith continue to walk with God.
We can always comfort ourselves by saying that every soul counts for the kingdom of God. And this we have done. But, if there is a way that we can improve our effectiveness, wouldn’t we want to know it? The better way is known as the Ministry of Reconciliation. This is the file from the Installation Disc God gave to the Church that has gone missing. And we have replaced it with another. Now is the time for us to recover the original file and re-install it.
Ministry of Reconciliation…Re-loaded.
The work of evangelism is the work belonging to every Christ. This is the message of 2 Corinthians 5:18.
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
This squashes the excuse used by many Christians that they do not have the “gift of evangelism”. They gladly let the anointed “evangelists” do the work for them.
There is no such thing as the “gift of evangelism”, says Ed Stetzer. There is, instead, the Evangelist whose assignment is to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”. Listen now: the Evangelist is an Equipper, not the “professional” preacher of the gospel, as we have made him to be. He equips the saints – that’s you and I – to do the work of the ministry. What ministry? The Ministry of Reconciliation, in particular.
In his letter, Paul instructs Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5). Thus, Timothy was to equip the saints where he was to do the work of the Ministry of Reconciliation. In doing so, Timothy would be fulfilling his ministry. From this we know that Timothy’s calling was to be an Evangelist.
The Ministry of Reconciliation is inline with the Great Commission because it incorporates the work of “teaching them to obey” – discipleship.
Often, it is said that The Great Commission has become The Great Omission. I agree, to a certain extent. The Great Commission has become The Great Omission not because Christians are not going but because, even having gone, we are not making disciples. We are merely evangelizing – a half-step between “Go” and “make disciples”.
The Great Commission is a two-part commandment. You have not obeyed it if you have only obeyed one part – to Go.
What remains to be done, urgently, is for the Church to recover the missing file and reload it into its spiritual DNA. Evangelism is at best a task, a project, a program, or an event. Granted, we try to encourage Christians to make evangelism a lifestyle, but we must admit that we have failed drastically. Instead of being clever in our own eyes and invent new ways of achieving this, let us return God, and Do His Work His Way.