The book of Acts chronicles the advancement of the gospel from "Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV) If I were to chronicle the history of my home church, or any random church in the Big Rapids area, would the story follow the advance of the gospel? The building up of discipleship and fellowship? Or would it simply chronicle the additions and subtractions to the membership?
I mentioned before that it bothered me that a church would have a class on prophecy when the congregation had never been trained how to share their faith. I still hold to that conviction. As interesting and exciting as end time events can be, there is something more urgent than the study of the future. It is the practical application of missions and outreach in the culture today. Like the believers in the Thessalonian church, it appears many believe that Christ is coming back in this generation. I find myself to be a minority in this view, but I don't see his coming as totally imminent, and I base that conclusion on this verse: Matthew 24:14. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the verse, but please don't misunderstand me. I eagerly await the arrival of our Lord. However, I don't spend my time looking at the sky!
Being ready for His return has nothing to do with that.
Please, study prophecy. Whether Christ returns before or after the tribulation is of great importance to the believer, and much can be learned beyond that. But the heart of the issue in waiting for His return is to grow more and more into the image of Christ. Part of that is obedience, and part of obedience is reaching people. I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica in 2005. The church we worked with had many traditional elements, but it was an active and growing church. Part of the reason for that was evangelism. Every day we went out to distribute the gospel and share about Christ, people from the church assisted us. One such individual, whose name I forget, was quite young. I asked him, "when did you get saved." His response? Two weeks before! In two weeks he had already learned the importance of sharing his faith, and although he may not have known much about the Bible, theology, or any of the questions people may pose, he knew that God had done something in his life and he would never be the same. You can't teach that. You can't replicate it. That type of commitment flows from a heart that is turned over to God.
Churches can send people on mission trips to places far away. Part of the vision that came out of the SBC annual gathering this year in Indianapolis was "every believer sharing." That is my dream too for my church. Sharing the gospel is not the responsibility of the select few. When Christ says the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, he doesn't mean that should be the norm. If I shared my faith with just one person every week, I would reach 52 people a year. When I was in high school we had a bible study that met every Wednesday at lunch. We averaged anywhere from 25 to 30 people. If we had each shared our faith with one student every week, we would have reached 1560 people. We'd have actually had to reach out to other schools because our school didn't even have that many people! When it comes to sharing our faith, we tend to be shockingly silent. We don't want to turn people off to the gospel, but it ends up being an empty excuse when week after week, month after month, and year after year, the number of people we've spoken to about Jesus doesn't go up. Part of being ready for Christ's return is people reaching people.