Evangelical Essentials

The Main Thing

How a return to evangelism almost cost me my church.

As the old saying goes, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And what is the main thing? It is surely this: Why Jesus died on the cross. The most important decision I made at Westminster Chapel in 25 years was to invite Arthur Blessitt, the man who has carried a cross around the world, to preach for us. Arthur preached for us six Sunday nights in a row and turned us upside down. I nearly got thrown out over it!

His contribution was threefold: First, he invited people to come forward to receive the Lord Jesus after his sermon (that had never been done before at Westminster Chapel); second, he got us to sing choruses (instead of hymns-I thought the chandeliers would fall) and third, he took us out on the streets to witness to passersby.

The thrust of Arthur Blessitt's impact on us, in a word, was: evangelism. As I look back, it is hard the believe that a church could get so upset over the changes we made in those days. Those changes moved us outside our comfort zone! We never looked back.

I had to decide whether to keep up those three things Arthur started. I did. I gave an invitation for people to receive the Lord publicly every Sunday. I even wrote a book on it-a theological rationale for calling people forward, Stand Up and Be Counted. (Billy Graham wrote the foreword.) We kept singing choruses as well as hymns. And I started the Pilot Light Ministry (witnessing on Saturdays to all who would listen).

I struggled in early days as we took to the streets of Victoria and in the area of Buckingham Palace. People were indignant with me. They felt my job was in the pulpit, not on the streets. And I will admit to you, it is a lot easier to speak to hundreds from the pulpit than it is to speak to one person at a time.

But what gave me greatest comfort was reading Paul's spirit being stirred in Athens and how he went to the market place to “reason … with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17, NIV). Until the day I felt convicted that I must witness to the lost in the streets as well as from the pulpit on Sundays my aspiration was to be a theologian. But I died to that. And then I read that Paul urged one to “be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philem. 1:6).

What makes for good theology, then, is witnessing to the lost. That is the way of having our understanding increased. From the moment I died to becoming a theologian and became an evangelist, my knowledge of the Bible and theology increased a hundredfold! I began receiving more insights than I could put to print.

Once we are engaged in evangelism-and get involved in the real reason God sent His Son to die on a cross, we get in tune with God's own heartbeat. I worried that I might lose my church. Six of the 12 deacons at Westminster Chapel tried to get me fired. But God kept me there, and I believe the reason was because I was involved in the main thing. It was worth getting fired over!

Many of us get exercised about important issues-but not the main thing. The founder of a group of churches in England, called Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (of which Westminster Chapel was a member), E.J. Poole-Connor, said at the age of 98: “The longer I live the more amazed I am that God sent His Son into the world to die on a cross for our sins.”

We have to ask, Do we really believe that people need to be saved? Do we really believe that if they are not saved that they go into an everlasting hell? If we believe the answer to these questions is yes, what do we do about it? I hope you won't think I am unfair, but dare I ask: Do you talk to people you meet about the Lord Jesus? Have you personally led a soul to Christ? Do you consider this the main thing?

What the devil hates most is talk about Jesus' death on the cross-for our sins. That is where the offense is. Not talking about His blood with reference to our healing or what the cross of Jesus might do for us in the here and now-but with regard to our final destiny. That is where the offense is.

Someone asked Arthur, “Why is it that God is always talking to you but He never talks to me?”

Arthur replied, “Did you ever feel an impulse to talk to someone about Jesus that you did not know?”

“Oh yes, as a matter of fact I have,” the person replied.

Arthur then said, “Start obeying that impulse and the voice of the Lord will become clearer and clearer.”

By keeping the main thing the main thing not only will we bring greatest honor to God but there is also a selfish reason that comes into play: Our insight into Scripture will increase-and we get to know the Lord with an intimacy we never dreamed possible. That seems to me to be a pretty good reason for keeping the main thing the main thing.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing and The Word and the Spirit. His Web site is rtkendallministries.com.

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