We are simply and solemnly asking, “If the world is to be evangelized, if men and women of all nations are to be brought into the kingdom of God, what kind of sacrifice will be needed? What is the price to be paid? What will it cost us?”
The Cost of Identifying With Christ
There is no other place to begin our quest than at the cross of Christ, where by his sacrifice he became the Redeemer of the world. Sacrifice was the outstanding principle of Christ’s fruitful life. Fruitfulness in evangelism will be ours in proportion to the degree the cross of Christ is operative in us. Christ taught this and lived it.
He taught it as a revolutionary spiritual principle as he spoke to the Greeks in Jerusalem during those final days before Calvary. He said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24, KJV).
The Greek outlook on life was very much that of the world today—seeking selfgratification, self-culture, and self-enjoyment. Jesus proclaimed that only as we die to self, renounce the self-centered life, can we experience the abundant life that produces a harvest for his kingdom. There was no other way for him than the way of the Cross. And we, the followers of a cross-bearing Savior, should not be cross-evading disciples.
The devil has always been aware of this law of spiritual harvest, that is why he often tried to convince Christ to avoid the Cross. That is why Satan tries to draw us back from commitment and sacrifice. But Christ, for the joy that was set before him—the joy of the spiritual harvest in millions of redeemed lives—endured the cross, bearing the shame.
His death, the one grain of wheat that died on Calvary, made possible the harvest of three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost a mere seven weeks later. The sacrifice of those early disciples produced the millions who give allegiance to Jesus Christ throughout the world today.
Sacrifice and commitment were the secret of the effectiveness of the greatest of all evangelists, the apostle Paul. The New Testament records a catalog of his sufferings for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. He was harassed by those who belittled his authority, he worked hard with his own hands to support himself financially, and he bore the defection of fellow workers. Physical persecution was routine for him. He was crucified with Christ, he did not count his life dear to himself, and what things were gain to him those he counted loss for Christ. He not only endured these things but gloried in them, for he said,
I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when 1 am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Great revivals and powerful evangelistic endeavors never begin in big ways, but rather by a life given in total dedication on the altar of sacrifice.
How Much Does It Cost You to Be an Evangelist?
Rejection of the principle of sacrifice is deeply rooted in today’s world, where modern man’s philosophy seems to be concerned with little apart from his own success. The worldly mind clutches at position, power, and wealth as the greatest good. In such a world, we shrink from suffering. Sacrifice does not come easy, but when we center our life on Christ and consecrate ourselves to the religion of the Cross, sacrifice for Christ becomes a privilege, not a penalty.
Norman Grubb said,
If I am Christ’s, then voluntary deaths to the normal advantages of the flesh—comforts, loved ones, material advancement, enlarged income, pleasures, leisure—give me the right to claim and receive the harvest in the Spirit. Instead of regarding such as losses and deprivations to be endured if necessary, but avoided if possible, we deliberately embrace them and glory in them as a way of harvest.
Sacrifice Involves Dying to Self
Samuel Logan Brengle, a Salvation Army leader, has written much about sacrifice as a significant ingredient of the Spirit-filled life. In his book, The Soul Winner’s Secret, is a chapter entitled, “The Cost of Saving Souls.” That language may seem a little old fashioned, but what he says is highly relevant. Isn’t that what evangelists are seeking to do—save souls?
There is a price to be paid, says Brengle, in being willing to forgo the world’s applause, in letting go of worldly attachments which draw our hearts away from Christ. In a startling phrase, Brengle says, “It is only dead men who are living preachers.” That is, death to sin, to self, to personal ambition, and to the praise of men and the hope of earthly rewards.
If God has set us to win souls, the pull of the world must die. We must burn our bridges, have no plans for retreat, and realize the enormity of Paul’s words, “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel.” That is the spirit of the true evangelist.
The Cost of Uncompromising Faith
Korea has been a fruitful field for evangelism in the cause of Christ. The cost of discipleship for individual Christians has often been high.
In a cemetery in Korea, boldly inscribed on the tombstone of a servant of Christ, are these words for all the world to see: “If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for Christ.”
The cost of discipleship is often high—as it was for Major Noh Yong Soo, a Korean Salvation Army officer in charge of the corps at Chinju when the town fell to the invading North Korean forces during the Korean civil war.
The victorious North Korean commander brought him in for questioning. In order to make a public example of him, he was inarched through the streets with his captors and made to stand in the town square facing the guns of a firing squad. The people were all brought to watch as he was ordered to renounce his faith. When twice he resolutely refused to deny his Lord, the desperate North Korean commander gave him a last chance. Vehemently, he shouted, “Renounce your faith in Jesus Christ!”
But standing calmly, the major raised his Bible in one hand, and declared fearlessly, “Whether I live or die matters not. But Christ lives.” He fell to his knees, praying for his captors as their rifle shots shattered the silence, and a modem martyr died for his faith. The cruel guards shouldered their rifles and marched away leaving his body where it fell. He was hastily buried by loving hands, but later given a more fitting resting place and a worthy memorial after the North Koreans were driven back. But the greatest memorial to Major Noh Yong Soo is that the gospel of Christ has spread throughout that area. The church, the Salvation Army, has grown. New churches were seeded and the kingdom of Christ has expanded beyond imagination.
The cost of discipleship is seldom low, but its harvest is rich—producing a hundredfold. Few of us may be called upon to face a firing squad, but many will face physical torture, humiliation, and suffering. In hostile environments, antagonistic to the Christian faith because of religious intolerance or political expediency, many of us will be called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s.
The Costs of Identification
The need “to spend and be spent” in the service of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:15, KJV) will require identification with the people whom we evangelize and serve. A group of Christian workers were trying to come to grips with the problem of evangelizing the inner cities of Britain—the urban jungles. It was at a time when there were terrible riots, vandalism, and violence in Brixton, an inner London ghetto.
Lord Scarman, the chairman of the commission reviewing these disturbances, was asked to address the Christian group. Someone asked, “Lord Scarman, could you say in a few sentences what you think is the solution to the problems of areas like Brixton?”
He responded by saying, “Yes, I’ll tell you. In fact, I’ll tell you in one sentence. Go and live there.”
It costs something to “go and live there.” So often the Christian worker drives home from the ghetto to his comfortable house in some quiet suburban neighborhood, and the effect of his work and witness loses its power. We have to sit where they sit—share their life, identify with them. That was what made the Salvation Army so successful among the working class people in the poverty stricken slums of Britain in the last century. They went and lived there.
Are we prepared to do the same today in the Harlems of this world, in the shanty towns of Africa like “Crossroads,” in the overcrowded areas?
In cross-cultural evangelism, costly identification means learning another language and adjusting to new customs and lifestyles. It costs something to step into another person’s skin, to feel what that person feels, to discover the pain that person bears, to share that person’s poverty. Such self-giving is costly, but fruitfulness in ministry is in direct proportion to our identification with those whom we evangelize and serve.
The Lausanne Covenant reminds us, “Christ’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but their personal authenticity in order to become the servants of others.”
In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly condemns the person who refuses to get involved, who refuses to inconvenience himself in order to be of help to others. That is why Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. He praised the Samaritan traveler because he became totally involved, and that involved him in personal sacrifice. The Samaritan gave his precious time to the injured traveller, he risked his life on that dangerous lonely road, he overcame racial prejudice, and he used his own money most generously. It is not surprising to hear Jesus say, “Now go and do the same” (Luke 10:37, TLB).
How much does it cost to be an evangelist? Are you willing to pay the price? Our master, Jesus Christ, gives us the perfect example. He identified with us and our humanity. He need not have been born to poverty in a lowly manger; he need not have worked as a common laborer; he need not have endured mockery, persecution, and scorn—but he did. He humbled himself, made himself of no reputation, and became obedient unto death. Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.
The Demands of Love
The preeminent place of love in the life of the servant of Christ is a distinctive feature of our Christian faith. Love must be the mainspring of our lives: Love for God, love for the brethren, love for the multitudes who are like sheep without a shepherd.
Love is to be prized before every charismatic gift, above the eloquence of inspired preaching, above intellectual ability, above miracle-working faith, and above sought-after martyrdom (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Love transcends all and must be the motive and source of all our service. As with Christ, love leads to fruitfulness and victory.
A friend recently told me about the despair of the leaders of the China Inland Mission when they met in Manila during a time of great crisis. It was 1951, and their personnel had been sent out of China. What was to be their next move? One of the missioners described this baffling experience, “There was no awareness of the presence of God. There was no sense of divine direction. We felt completely at a loss as to what to do.”
Into this atmosphere of despair came the great woman evangelist, Catherine Booth-Clibbon. As she sat at the table listening to their conversation, she suddenly interrupted, “Gentlemen, what is the meaning of love?” There was an embarrassing silence, as each sought a simple definition. Catherine read their unspoken thoughts and challenged them, “Gentlemen, do you want to know the true meaning of love? It is sacrifice.”
Into that important conference came the melting and moving power of the Spirit of God. Reborn out of the flame of that moment, the Overseas Missionary Fellowship has accomplished some of the greatest endeavors in missionary history in Southeast Asia.
To love is to give and to give sacrificially. If Mary had been questioned about the sacrifice of her most precious possession, the box of costly perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus prior to his death, she would have replied, “Sacrifice? What sacrifice? It was no sacrifice. You see, I love him.” The constraining love of Christ is the very sharing of our actions (2 Corinthians 5:14).
The Price of Wisdom Is Sacrifice
In the book of Proverbs is a short but telling sentence, “He who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11: 30). Soul winners, evangelists, must have the wisdom which enables them to understand and sympathize with those whom they seek to win for Christ. That kind of wisdom cannot be learned at a university; it cannot be bought with silver or gold; it comes only through the experience of knowing Christ. It is gained by entering into all the experiences of the human heart. Whether through personal tragedy or by the path of rejection and self-renunciation, he who wants wisdom must not shrink from sacrifice and suffering.
Oswald Sanders said, “God’s method of preparing a preacher is to allow him to bear suffering.” A study of the lives of powerful evangelists reveals this—whether it be D. L. Moody, Charles E. Fuller, or William Booth. Are you willing to pay the price for soul-saving wisdom?
The cost is great and it is not paid in one lump sum. It is paid in installments. We are to present ourselves a living sacrifice on his altar (Romans 12:1). A daily giving of ourselves for Christ’s sake and the gospel’s. Someone has said, “One of the major problems with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar!” Lord, help us to be willing to give whatever it costs.
In his translation of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Canon J. B. Phillips entitles Chapter 6, “The Hard but Glorious Life of God’s Ministers.” This statement aptly describes the work of an evangelist. No one expects it to be easy. There will be sacrifices to make and suffering to bear, but it is a glorious life. It is glorious when a lost soul is found, when a man is brought from darkness to light and from the kingdom of Satan to God.
Lord, may we bear any burden, face any demand, be prepared for any sacrifice, and gladly take up our cross and follow you.
Eva E. Burrows is General of the Salvation Army and a former missionary educator. She is a citizen of Australia.