Education and Evangelism July 16, 2021

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Oswald J. Smith, the great missionary pastor, identified in his book The Passion for Souls several reasons why the church has failed to evangelize the world. One of them was an improper emphasis on education. He wrote,

Today we worship diplomas, we glory in degrees…It is not what a man has in his head, but what he has in his heart that counts…God can use the best education that can be secured, that is, if the Holy Spirit is in control. But He can also use men with little or no education…Nothing is more fatal to evangelistic fervor than a long course of study…A Christian worker should never become a hermit…He must never be a student only. He must always be in active service. All through his course he should be witnessing, testifying, doing personal work or preaching – somehow busy for his Lord. Otherwise, he will lose his first love. Revival fires will die out and his passion for souls will be gone. Many students think they are through when they graduate, when they receive their diploma or their degree. Let me say that they are just ready to begin.

This very often has more to do with the individual than the institution. Two people can be exposed to the same education but the real issue is their heart! My dad did not have the same educational opportunity that I was afforded. He has often told me that he wished he had. God has His own way of preparing each servant. Regardless of educational opportunity or lack thereof every believer must not neglect their responsibility for evangelism!

Education and evangelism are both necessary and they are not mutually exclusive. It is my conviction that the right kind of education is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. The danger is in allowing education to become the end all and losing the heart to advance the gospel to the world.

I believe in education, a truly Christian education. My parents worked hard to ensure that I received a strong foundation early in life. I had the privilege of pursuing college, graduate, and post graduate studies in wonderful colleges and seminaries. For nearly twenty years it was an honor to work in a fine educational institution, one that had a passion for evangelism. Tammy and I have tried to provide our children with the right kind of education. I continue to teach some online and modular courses for colleges. Yes, I certainly believe in education!

All of this is to brace you for what I am about to say…

EDUCATION IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EVANGELISM.

The early Christians were not consumed with developing educational programs; they were consumed with evangelizing the lost and making disciples. I have often heard people say that education is the development of the mind of Christ. This is true…but have we stopped short of His heart? The mind of Christ is not just to think – it is to do. It is the mind of obedience (Philippians 2:5-8).

In fact, in the context of Paul’s classic treatise on the mind of Christ the emphasis is on looking on the things of others (Philippians 2:3-4). Education is often reduced to receiving a diploma, bettering yourself, or getting more opportunity. This is not the mind of Christ. Our preparation should be connected with furthering God’s purpose in this world. Here is what is on God’s mind and God’s heart: souls.

How can we teach young people to think like Christ without challenging them to do what Jesus did? Education can very easily devolve into the recital of facts and the regurgitation of information. This kind of “education” leads to death. It is only academic and cerebral. It appeals to the analytical and intellectual but it does little to advance the cause of Christ in the world.

We know more than we have ever known and are doing less to impact our world than ever! How is that possible? This is the intellectual pride that Paul warned of when he said, “knowledge puffeth up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The great goal of biblical “teaching” is to develop true followers of Christ and prepare them to make other disciples of the Lord Jesus. Education is an integral part of evangelism because we must teach people in order to call them to repentance and faith. But make no mistake…

EDUCATION IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EVANGELISM.

  • Education can be the transfer of knowledge. Evangelism is the giving of the gospel.
  • Education can be merely information. Evangelism must lead to an invitation.
  • Education aims at the mind. Evangelism aims at the heart.

I have been encouraging young people all summer to enroll in good colleges this fall. Our children will be continuing their education in great schools. But increasingly I am alarmed at a generation that has been educated full of information and is still empty of passion. Education is a means to the end – it was never meant to become the goal itself. Even Christian education must never supplant the work of evangelism in the local church.

A perishing world does not need more lectures. They need more witnesses.

The Lord leads many into the educational field as their life’s work. Our oldest daughter believes this is God’s will for her, and it is a wonderful work! Teachers have in so many ways shaped my life and ministry. Christian educators are also to be evangelists as they tell others of what Christ has done for them, and true education should be seen as equipping others to fulfill God’s will. Whatever your work we must remember that the goal is God and His work is the work of souls.

EDUCATION IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EVANGELISM.

 

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