The table was set in the most exquisite fashion, adorned by lace tablecloth and fine china. The place settings were carefully arranged with the spoon and knife on one side and the forks on the other, and the large plates each sat on their own silver charger. It was a beautiful display! The napkins were artfully folded into fan-shaped centerpieces and laid out on each place setting. Crystal glasses. Polished silver. A special occasion? Yes. This day, a special friend was arriving, and every detail was checked and checked again.
The atmosphere was right, and the mood was set. Everything was prepared. The host of the party wanted the guest to feel both welcome and honored.
Does this account sound familiar? Perhaps it reminds you of a special banquet or dinner you once attended or were, yourself, the gracious host of. Perhaps you’ve been part of some similar special occasion where much effort was made in preparation of the event, only to bring pleasure to the guest of honor.
“2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Mark 1:2-3
Mark begins his account of the Gospel by echoing words spoken by the prophet Isaiah many hundreds of years earlier, “Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” He found it not only important, but necessary, to mention the act of going out before the Lord and preparing the hearts of the people before Him. This prophecy was concerning the role of John the Baptist, in which he would preach repentance to anyone who would hear, and baptize them for the forgiveness of their sins. His cry was, “the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel!”
It is extremely important that we, the members of the Church, do all we can to “prepare the way of the Lord” in the hearts of the people around us and the visitors at our services. While John’s work was fulfilled when he baptized Jesus in Mark 1:9, the necessity of, “preparing the way of the Lord”, is still as important today as it has ever been.
Jesus Christ, the Guest of Honor, desires to dwell in the heart of every person alive, and we are the chosen “elect” whose job it is to prepare them.
There are three areas in which the Church must diligently work to prepare our world for His coming, and they are 1) outreach, 2) evangelism and 3) discipleship. In Romans 10:14-15, the Apostle Paul affirmed these 3 essentials.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent?
The only hope for our world believing in Christ lies within the body of the church. It is essential for the members of every congregation to be active in outreach at some level. Unless we reach them, they will perish in an eternal damnation. Is there not a cause for outreach? Outreach could be defined as any method used to make contact with potential converts. We should all find some avenue of personal outreach to be involved in. Go through the phone book and write letters or make phone calls to people in your community. Print up flyers and post them in your local shopping centers. Go door-to-door and take prayer requests from your neighbors. Freshen up old contacts with a phone-call or card, and invite them to church. Do something! It doesn’t have to be deep, just make contacts with people, and try to get them to church.
Outreach and Evangelism are closely tied together, but for the sake of this article, I’ll talk about evangelism as it happens inside the church. This is usually the next step after contacts are made through Outreach. Evangelism involves creating an atmosphere of faith and freedom, and delivering the Gospel.
Often, we consider evangelism to be the preaching of the word, but if we neglect the preparation, the preaching can be more difficult to accept. This preparation includes coming to church early and praying in the sanctuary or prayer room a few minutes before each service. It includes warm handshakes and gentle words of kindness to our invited guests. It includes participating in worship when we sing and pray, and showing them by example how to respond to the presence of God. It includes words of faith and encouragement. As we come into the Church building, let’s “set the table” for all of our honored guests; from those who come to visit us, to the Lord Jesus Himself.
We must be very careful not to hinder the work of the Lord in our services by our casual demeanor in the House of God. Remember, we are there to glorify Jesus Christ and help lead the lost to an intimate relationship with Him!
You may not be a preacher, but you can greatly influence the message that is preached through your participation. You are a key element to effective evangelism in the church.
Paul asked, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” Notice the complete recycling that is taking place here? 1) someone is sent, 2) they reach someone else, 3) the contact is preached to, 4) they believe and are converted, 5) they are discipled, and 6) they are sent. This process should continue over and over again. When a person is ‘saved’ in the church, they MUST be discipled in order to fulfill the rest of the process. It is through discipleship that men and women are equipped to continue the propagation of the Gospel message! Perhaps you can get involved in teaching a new converts course within your church. When someone at your church is baptized and/or receives the Holy Ghost, it is time to begin strengthening them in the Word and preparing them to do what you are doing.
Somehow, we must become professionals at making disciples. When this continual process of conversion takes place, the church cannot help but grow! Too often, though, church folks are content with their own perceived salvation, and become disinterested in ‘preparing the way of the Lord.’
I want to encourage you to take the words of Isaiah as your personal mission… to lay out all the fine china, and set the places at the table… to create the atmosphere for Christ to come into the hearts of those around you. Are you willing to, ‘Prepare the way’