I just came across a quote by a famous Christian, who has three “designations” behind his name (which, I suppose, make him to be someone very important?). It reads like this: “Our ultimate goal in the kingdom of God is to win souls!!” (sic). I know many believers who will go like, “Yes, amen brother! Well said!” Personally, I have a problem with this, and I will explain why.
First I want to say that statements and beliefs like the above are the reason for the church’s bankruptcy today. Is there anything wrong with winning souls for the kingdom? Of course not, it is what all believers should be doing! So, what’s the problem? Let’s just examine the statement a little closer. “Our ultimate goal…”. Ultimate means the end in mind, the one thing we should all be striving towards. It means that our entire life should be built on that one goal. Nothing else matters as that one. “…to win souls”. What exactly is the meaning of that? Is it to “get them saved”? Is it to have people say the “sinner’s prayer” and then consider them a part of God’s kingdom? It would seem that this is the traditional church’s preoccupation today, because how else can anyone explain the lack of focus on holiness and seeking of the Lord? How else can anyone explain the exclusive focus of many Christians on evangelism (or what is perceived as “evangelism”)? As long as we have people filling the pews, we are content that the kingdom of God is advancing, and our mission is done there.
Whenever we are on a course and we realize that we have gone off-course, what do we do? The natural action would be to check our map, notice the landmarks around us, and when we spot the reference point, we re-orient our direction towards that point. I am going to show here that our ultimate goal ought to be something completely different, but first I will deal with the matter of evangelism.
We have in the Bible the scripture that we call “the great commission”, a portion that every church preaches about and every Christian knows. It goes like this: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20, KJV). This translation has a few things mistranslated, so, for comparison reasons, I give you the International Standard Version’s words: “Then Jesus came up and told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.” Here is what we have missed in translation:
- The word translated as “power” in KJV is actually the word “authority” in the original Greek text (“exusia”).
- The Lord told His disciples to do something as they go, not “go therefore…” This makes a world of a difference.
- The commandment was to “disciple” nations, not just to “teach” them.
- The word for “observe” (or “obey” in ISV) is the Greek “terein”, which means “to observe, to watch carefully.
From this, we should be able to see how wrong our modern practices have been. We have defined evangelism as forming teams of two or more, and then going up to people randomly, either on the streets, door-to-door, in open-air “crusades” or, as is the more contemporary practice, organize services or concerts, and invite unsaved people to attend. Those are some ways to teach people, right? We literally go and teach. Teaching is our means to the ultimate goal, the salvation of souls. So we check our knowledge (our academic knowledge, that is), and we go and teach people about Jesus. But we just saw that the Lord actually sent us to make disciples, and not by making this a special part of our “busy schedule”, but as we go.
A disciple is someone who learns, someone who imitates the life of a teacher, not someone who simply hears facts about that teacher. And for proper learning to take place, observation is vital. We know this from our secular education system. We don’t tell our kids about how great their school teachers are and how many things they know; how would they learn their ways in that manner? Why, then, we have a different attitude towards the greatest teacher in the universe? The answer is, simply, because we ourselves fall way short from being His examples to the world! At best, we try to live after a certain pattern that we perceive is Christ-like, instead of dying to ourselves and allowing the Holy Spirit to live, move, and have His being through us. Only when we do this, when we go to the cross and find ourselves dead with Christ, will we also find His resurrected life in us, and we will be His letter to the world (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
This also gives meaning to verse 18 of Matthew 28: “All authority… has been given to me…” We seem to be missing this point, for how else can we accept the false teaching that the authority has been given to us? There is no shortage today of “teachers”, preachers, “motivational speakers”, and other charlatans who claim to be under “the anointing” and “big up” our ego, our self-centeredness with promises of grandeur. The message is clear: Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, and as we decrease He increases, and as He increases He touches people’s lives through us, His living channels, as and wherever we go. There is required no short of an unconditional, complete surrender to His authority and Lordship, if the world is to be won for His kingdom.
Now that we settled this, we are going to see what should be our real ultimate goal, and how we should be living in order to accomplish it.