“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

Apostle Paul, in Acts 20:24

Jesus gave us our central mission just before he ascended back to heaven—and it was for every one of his followers then, now, and until he returns. He told us to go all over the world and, in his power and under his authority, make disciples. As his church, our mission includes teaching and baptizing people, but it starts with what is most often neglected: reaching them with the gospel, helping them trust and follow Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).

While other matters are important, none is greater than the priority of evangelism. Yes, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). We are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We must help newer believers grow in their faith, serve people in need, fight racism and prejudice (Ephesians 4:11-15; 1 John 3:16-18; Galatians 3:28), and seek to have a godly influence on our communities and culture (Matthew 5:13-16). And now, more than ever, we need to teach sound doctrine as presented in the Bible and spelled out in the historic creeds of the church (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-7).

But God’s love compels us to make Jesus’ final command our highest calling: Leading spiritually wayward people to the salvation that is available through Christ alone (Acts 20:24). We must help all who are willing to trust Jesus as their forgiver and leader (Revelation 22:17). In our increasingly secular culture, we need to be equipped to respectfully “give a reason for the hope that is in us” to those with spiritual doubts and questions (1 Peter 3:15). And we must train as many believers as possible to present and defend the truths of the Christian faith (2 Timothy 2:2). Both evangelism and applied apologetics are vital to the health and growth of the church—especially among younger generations (Colossians 4:5-6).

So how should we respond to Jesus’ mandate to reach the people around us? First, as leaders, we must live out this priority in our own lives, trusting that as we abide in Christ and he in us, and as we take risks to share the love and truth of Jesus, we will bear more and more spiritual fruit (John 15:5). Second, we must intentionally instill these evangelistic values into the people we lead, establishing ministry cultures that prioritize reaching others with the gospel. Third, we must empower evangelism leaders who will partner with us to reach our communities for Christ. This should include training other Christians to share their faith in ways that are natural to their God-given personalities, preparing them to defend the truth of the Christian message, and innovating effective ministries and events to reach our communities for Christ. After all, every believer is a member of the church to which Jesus gave the Great Commission, and thus each and every Christian is called to be part of the church’s outreach efforts (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:18-20).

The danger is that over time our churches tend to become preoccupied with lesser matters. We quickly get caught up with internal concerns, and this causes us to lose our urgency to reach and disciple those who don’t yet know the true God. We believe it’s time to refocus our efforts around the priority that Jesus gave us. As individual believers, as leaders, as ministries, as churches, and as entire denominations, we must regain our outward vision, seeing once again that our central God-given mission is to reach our world for Christ.

We must redouble our commitment to pray, prepare, and prevail in taking the Good News of the gospel to people both near and far. We must do so knowing this message is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), that the Holy Spirit goes before us to convict people of sin and draw them to Christ (John 16:8-11), and that God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11). In this mission we need to be bold and wholeheartedly united (Acts 4:29; John 17:20-23).

Therefore, we will urgently share the message of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, declaring and defending the biblical gospel, and trusting God to bring a spiritual harvest as more and more people put their trust in the Savior and learn to live in allegiance to him—and all the more as his return draws near.