Of the several important lessons from our Teacher and His Apostles, our churches have tended to hold out evangelism as the most important. The importance given it in the early church certainly warrants this emphasis, and it also serves well in some other ways. From our earliest Abrahamic days as "The Chosen People" to the struggles of the early church in Rome and eventually the separateness given us by the Nicene Creed, a major reality for us was our peril as a small tribe, nation, or community surrounded by far more powerful nations many of whom were our enemies.
Increasing our number by having children and by evangelism was critical for our survival. And, in those days, evangelism sometimes meant defying persecutors. Sometimes it meant arduous travel; it probably took St. Paul two months to get to Corinth by donkey and they wouldn't hear from him for many months or years til he returned.
Long after survival has ceased to be an issue, many churches focus on evangelism for growth. Growth means affirmation and prosperity, so evangelism is both faithful to our heritage and it is also self-serving for our leadership. I submit, though, that evangelism is no longer our most important mandate. To be authentic or faithful today, we must build on His teachings that are most critical to our well-being (survival ?) today. I think that those are to "love one another" and to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might..
written by Carl House, May 4, 2006.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (V-ahavta et Adonai Elohecha b-chol l'vavcha u-v-chol naf'sh'cha u-v-chol m'odecha. Deuteronomy 6:5)
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." (V'ahavtah l'reyahkhah kamokhah. Leviticus 19:18)