The Scriptures teach that the work of the church may scripturally be viewed as an extension
of the work of Jesus Christ on earth, and may be properly considered as consisting of three
categories: 1) evangelism, (Mk. 16:15 – 16); 2) benevolence, (Acts 10:38); and the edification of
its members, (Heb. 10:25). But one of these three rises above the others in terms of priority. It is
first and foremost the work of the church to teach or evangelize the lost.
The priority of this area of work is established from several considerations. Among the last
statements made to the disciples by our Lord is what we know as the “great commission.” It is
“great” in scope, as well as importance. Upon the faithful performance of this command depends
our Lord’s promise to be with us “always, even unto the end of the world,” (Mt. 28:19 – 20). This
responsibility was uppermost on our Lord’s mind immediately prior to his departure. It left an
Our Lord summed up his mission on this earth with these words: “I came to seek and to save
the lost,” (Mt. 18:11; Lk. 19:10). All that our Lord did contributed to this mission. Although he
fed the hungry in benevolence, his primary purpose in doing so was not to satisfy physical hunger.
He spent a considerable amount of time an d effort explaining the difference between spiritual
hunger and physical, and emphasizing the priority of the former. Fortunately, John records some
of these words, such as, “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth
unto eterna l life, which the Son of man shall give unto you,” (Jn. 6:27). Thus, Jesus drew a
contrast between the temporal and the eternal, material versus spiritual accomplishment. The
meaning is that while physical food is important, it is like a “doorway” to that which is infinitely
more important. Ultimately, obtaining and sharing the spiritual food should be our constant
desire. In drawing this sharp contrast Jesus effectively emphasized the priority of evangelism
The same may be said with respect to edification of the saints. While encouragement is vital,
a person must first be taught. They must be encouraged in that which is right and faithful, rather
than encouraged in error or edified generally.
If one examines the budget of any congregation , he can usually discern these three areas of
emphasis. Faithful elders understand the priority of evangelism, and every expenditure for
benevolence and edification primarily stems from, or is oriented toward reaching and teaching
the lost. We may open a soup kitchen and feed the entire community for years, but if we do not
lead them by the gospel to to an obedient faith in Jesus Christ, our efforts are ultimately in vain.
The gospel is still God’s power unto salvation, (Rom. 1:16). We may encourage our mem bers
with all manner of social activities, marriage enrichment and other awareness programs, but if
we are encouraging people without leading them by the gospel out of their error, they have no
hope of heaven. We have merely encouraged them in their lost state.
Every youth activity funded by the local congregation should be undertaken with the
underlying goal of “seeking and saving” the lost. Every Bible camp should have an overriding
spiritual emphasis. It should not be possible for accountable young people to spend a week in
summer camp without learning how to become and remain a faithful Christian. Every activity is
carefully planned with that end in mind. Here at the church building, every potluck meal, every
seniors banquet, every graduates reception – all of it – is planned and executed to teach the lost,
and, secondarily, to strengthen the saved. In short, it is done primarily to evangelize people
In times like this, it is important to remember our purpose, our goal. We need to refocus
constantly on our reason for being here. This is not a social club or a feel – good society. We are
not better than anyone else because we have the gospel. We are indebted . We need to be sharing
the gospel with the lost. The primary work of the church is evangelism. These other activities
should be viewed always as opportunities to further the work our Lord has given us. May we
always “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” knowing that all of our other needs
will thereby be provided, (Mt. 7:33)
– by Robert C. Veil, Jr.