In the missions class I am teaching at Southeast there are two constant factors and one variable I present as keys to understanding evangelism (points made in the book, Living Proof by Petersen). The constants are that all humans are created in the image of God and that all accountable individuals have sinned. The variable, the thing most generally the focus of a missions class, is that culture is an ever-changing factor always needing attention (I Cor. 9:18–23). However, the aspect of missions I wish to develop centers on the two constants and their implications for encountering people with the Gospel.
First, we are all created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27). We have longings that only God can satisfy (Ecc. 3:11). The “eternity” God has placed within us is something every person shares. The nature of this void is such that only God can fill it (Ecc. 12:13).
Solomon, as quoted above, tried to fill the eternity-sized-hole with everything at his disposal, and he had a vast amount of things to employ in this “grievous task.” It was “grievous” because his treasure trove was found “under the sun.” Alas, eternity cannot even be filled by the whole of creation! In short, Solomon found only “vanity” despite all his impressive efforts to find what he was looking for.
This is an enormous edge we have in missions. Every lost soul we encounter is a person frustrated with life. The Bible tells us so. Despite protests to the contrary, there simply is no true peace found outside of God. This world offers nothing in all its vast riches that can make even a small reduction in the volume of the hole that is the size of eternity.
This edge allows us to proceed in all evangelistic exchanges with the confidence that the one and only thing all people need in order to be at peace is the very thing we have to offer: the Gospel. Whether Alaska, Egypt, Venezuela, Russia, or the Sudan, all people created in the image of God have a hunger only the Gospel can satisfy.
Second, all humans of an accountable age and faculty have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Therefore, in addition to the relentless urge to fill the limitless void of the soul, mankind is mangled and hurting because of sin. We can no more escape sin’s wounds in ourselves than we can flee the open sores of humanity. We therefore not only live in a restless, unsatisfied world, we also dwell in a realm of pain.
This is our second major edge in evangelism. For all the pain of this sin-plagued world; we alone have the medicine that can heal: the Gospel. There are wounds to bind, gashes requiring balm, and broken bones to set. There is no want of people in need.
With these two biblically revealed constants to give us motivation, let us be prepared and eager to fill the hungry and bring relief to the wounded. God has given us not one “edge,” but two!