Probably one of the most misunderstood stories in the Bible is the passage in Mark 11:15-17 where Jesus casts the moneychangers out of the temple. He rebukes them in no uncertain terms: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.'”
What many readers of this passage don’t know is that the moneychangers had set up their tables of merchandise in the area of the temple known as the “Court of the Gentiles.” While non-Jews weren’t allowed in the temple proper, this one courtyard was an area where Gentiles were permitted to come and seek the God of Israel. Yet the moneychangers had increasingly taken over this entire area, leaving no room for “unbelievers” to come and seek The Lord.
Do you see why Jesus was angry about this situation? Yes, He was mad that religious leaders were merchandising the things of God for exorbitant prices – exploiting the people who came to offer sacrifices. But the point often missed is that this merchandising had precluded lost people from coming to God. Instead of being a house of prayer, the temple had become a robber’s den. Instead of being a place where “all nations” could come, God-fearing Gentiles were being excluded.
The parallels today are all too clear. What are the two weakest aspects in nearly every church in every nation today? Prayer and outreach. We keep busy with projects and programs that keep the machinery of the established churches running, while neglecting two of the most important reasons the Church was created – seeking God and seeking the lost to share the the good news of His love with them.
In addition, we have taken over the place where unbelievers would have come, and we have filled it with worthless religious trinkets. Not only have we failed to go out to seek and ave the lost like Jesus did, we have actually placed many obstacles in their way when they might have come to us. The Court of the Gentiles has been overrun again today with activities and programs that have no value in eternity.
The goal of apostolic evangelism is not only to win converts. Nor is it primarily concerned with creating new parachurch organizations. The main objective of apostolic evangelism is to restore the Church to its original calling to be a house of prayer where lost people can be won to Jesus. As the Early Church demonstrated, believers who devote themselves to prayer and obedience will bring a great harvest into the Kingdom.