How can you be best equipped and emboldened with the good news of salvation through Jesus? Why do fear, busyness, and lack of motivation keep you from telling your friends about the life-changing message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Bible Gateway interviewed Dudley Rutherford (@pastordudley) about his book, Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith (Worthy Publishing, 2018).
What is your reaction to recent research by Barna that says 51% of churchgoers don’t know of the Great Commission?
Dudley Rutherford: What’s sad about this finding is that the 51% aren’t even aware of it. They don’t understand that, from day one of receiving salvation, every believer is called to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-21). The blindness to this calling is partially due to the lack of instruction people receive upon conversion; of what’s expected of them once they’ve been redeemed.
And it’s an indictment on all of us who lead churches because Ephesians 4:11-12 places the burden upon us as leaders to teach and prepare the flock to do the work of the ministry. When I sought a publisher for my new book Compelled, I was told over and over again that books on evangelism don’t sell. You’d think, that if there was a great book encouraging people to share their faith, every pastor in the country would want their church going through this material.
What is the Great Commission and how do you define the gospel?
Dudley Rutherford: The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is the detailed marching orders from the lips and heart of Jesus Christ himself to the church. He said to go into all the world, to make disciples, and to baptize those disciples into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and then to immediately begin to teach those baptized believers to obey all the other instructions that Jesus had articulated.
The gospel is clearly defined for us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 as the bedrock of Christianity: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the rest of that 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians explains how lost and without hope we all would be without this gospel.
Knowing and understanding that Jesus has commissioned us, instructed us, called us, and equipped us through the Holy Spirit, to tell the entire lost world that only though the gospel can we be saved, should easily garner our utmost effort to evangelize and reach the world for Christ.
What’s the scriptural idea behind the one-word title of your book?
Dudley Rutherford: In 2 Corinthians 5:13-14, Paul seems to address a rumor that he was out of his mind—that he was almost insane for being so one-track minded in his pursuit of reaching the world with the gospel. He explains that he couldn’t help but be consumed with this cause, and that he was compelled by the love of Christ.
What this means is that, when you realize what Christ did for you on the cross and the depth of his love and sacrifice, you truly are motivated and compelled to spend all the days of your life telling as many people as possible about Jesus and his salvation for all.
Explain what you mean about being a worker for Jesus.
Dudley Rutherford: To be a worker for Jesus is being not just his hands and feet, but his voice as well. It’s understanding we’ve been called not only to do good works according to Ephesians 2:8-9, but also to be Christ’s ambassador here on earth and to “lift up Jesus” in both word and deed. If we “lift up Jesus” in word and in deed, he will draw all men unto himself just as he said in John 12:32.
What do you find compelling about the apostle Paul’s conversion as he traveled to Damascus?
Dudley Rutherford: The biggest lesson is that God can reach and convert anyone. Paul was the number-one persecutor and destroyer of the church before his conversion. And yet, God in his mercy and grace saved a man that many of us would have said, “No way; no how!” When I read Paul’s salvation story, it reminds me that no one is beyond the reach of Christ. It speaks to my heart when I see so many people who are living lives void of God and filled with carnality, that God is able, willing, and wanting to reach the person who appears to be furthest away from him. It tells me to pray for all people to be saved, even those who publicly and verbally attack the church of Jesus Christ and deny the existence of God.
What do you see as the challenges and rewards of spreading the gospel in the parts of the world where Christians are in the minority?
Dudley Rutherford: The greatest challenge is being willing to be persecuted or mistreated for his name’s sake. Jesus of course warned us that if people persecuted him, they would persecute us—and that we, too, must endure as he did. And the only way that we’re able to persevere in our suffering for the Lord is if our concern for someone else’s spiritual well-being is greater than our concern for our own physical well-being.
Paul often ended up in prison inside the cities that he traveled to. Even after he was stoned—nearly to death—outside of Lystra in Acts 14:19-20, he got back up, brushed himself off and went—you guessed it—right back into Lystra.
Second Corinthians 11:23-33 paints a picture of what Paul endured on behalf of the gospel. But it didn’t matter to him what he went through personally as long as people had a chance to hear the gospel. Oh, how I wish we had such a burden to reach those outside of Christ!
How can Christians overcome their hesitancy of sharing their faith?
Dudley Rutherford: The first step is through prayer and the Holy Spirit. Without these two critical components, everything we attempt to do for the kingdom of God will be in vain. Prayer and the Holy Spirit gives us courage and boldness.
The next step is to realize the value of one soul and to consider the sheer length of eternity. When we understand how much each and every person is loved by God and valued by him—to the degree that he sent his one and only son to die for their sins—it’s impossible to overlook people and pass them by without sharing the Good News!
You say you want today’s church to align itself more closely with the early church. How so?
Dudley Rutherford: The early church was on fire for reaching the lost, which is evidenced so clearly in the book of Acts. Today we’re distracted by many things: technology, work, social media, entertainment, relationships, convenience, comfort, politics, you name it! But the early church was singularly focused on the Great Commission. Over and over again in the book of Acts we see the gospel being preached, and then hundreds and even thousands of new believers “being added to their number.” The early church shared and fellowshipped with one another, and had tremendous courage and faith in the face of terrible persecution. And still their numbers increased. I’d love to see the modern-day church more closely aligned with the church we see in Acts, and I can only imagine the kind of impact we could have for the kingdom in this lost world.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Dudley Rutherford: I have so many, but one of my favorites is the story of the four men who carried a paralytic to Jesus in Mark 2:1-5. The men couldn’t get through the front door because the house was already so crowded. Today the fire marshal would’ve been called to empty out the meeting due to safety violations, but these four men decided to carry the lame man to the roof and actually dug a hole in the ceiling to get him to Jesus so the man could be saved. I always imagine that one of these four men was fast, one was slow, one was tall, and one was short. Yet they worked together to get the lost man to Jesus. How better off we’d all be if we looked beyond our petty differences and worked together—at great risk and great sacrifice—to simply introduce people to Jesus?
Dudley Rutherford: I fully believe that it’s a part of helping fulfill biblical prophecy in Matthew 24:14 that the gospel will be preached to the entire world and then the end will come.
Bio: Dudley Rutherford is the lead pastor of Shepherd Church, a 12,000-member congregation in Los Angeles, California. Shepherd has been called “the most racially diverse church in Los Angeles” by the city’s mayor. Dudley is also the host of the weekly television program Lift Up Jesus, which is broadcast nationwide through the GEB Network and DirectTV. He is the author of Compelled: The Irresistible Call to Share Your Faith, Walls Fall Down: 7 Steps from the Battle of Jericho to Overcome Any Challenge, and God Has an App for That: Discover God’s Solutions for the Major Issues of Life. A husband and father of three, Dudley’s greatest passion is his love for Jesus and leading people into a deep and personal relationship with him! To learn more or to connect with Dudley on social media, visit LiftUpJesus.com.
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