Preparation for Evangelism

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5 (ESV)

Often, during the nights that I perform devotions with my daughters, I ask the question “What does it take to be a Christian?” They know that I am looking for a specific response that relates to the catechism they have been taught. Today, I ask you that same question. Do you know what it takes to be a Christian? I have asked a number of those who have been part of my respective congregations over the years, and I have gotten a variety of responses. Many of these responses were very accurate yet others were not so accurate. Some have stated that “one has to believe in God.” Others claim that “one has to ask Jesus in his or her heart.” Further, some communicate that “the Spirit has to lead him or her, or he or she has to be part of the church.” The answer is pretty simple; “One must repent of his or her sins and trust in Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.”

Now you may be at home thinking that I am splitting hairs. You could be saying to yourself right now, “Self, I know that many of those folks may not have given the exact words that the preacher wanted, but if he would have just taken the time to ask a few more questions, then they would have given answers to his satisfaction.” If you were thinking that, then you would be correct. Most of the folks who answered in the ways that I characterized were usually confused at the question. As I spent time and dialogued with them about what it took to be a Christian, they generally reassured me that their understanding regarding God’s gift of salvation in Christ and their response to the gospel message was legitimate. However, I must beg the question, why is it that many of us cannot answer this simple question and communicate in clear terminology how it is that one becomes a Christian? Further, if we cannot explain this most elementary of principles as it relates to the Christian faith in our own lives, then how can we communicate the gospel message to someone else whether that be our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, or our brokers for that matter.

As I have written in my previous newsletter articles and communicated countless times from the pulpit, we are all commissioned by Christ to share the gospel with non-Christians in our own community and all around the world. The manner in which we share this gospel is extremely important. There are many of us who do a wonderful job at communicating the clear gospel in a loving manner through a conversation style with the lost. Others of us need a little more work and preparation on our witnessing techniques, but all of us can improve. May I say that asking a person if he or she believes in God, if he or she has asked Jesus into his or her heart, if he or she has been baptized, or if he or she goes to church may open the door to a spiritual conversation, but a “yes” to any of these questions is not a conclusive response to whether this individual is truly a child of God. In fact, if a person were to answer the question about how one becomes a Christian in the specific manner that I previously communicated, they still would not have exhibited conclusive proof that they are indeed a Christian. Does he or she understand the concept of sin and its consequences? Does he or she understand and adhere to the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone? Does he or she believe in what we call the substitutionary atonement as it relates to God’s provision of salvation? Does he or she believe that Jesus is fully man and fully God in the way that the Bible defines deity? Does he or she believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead? Is he or she living a penitent lifestyle that is characteristic of a genuine believer? All these questions are so very important as we consider what it means to bear witness to the gospel in a lost and dying world.  

Others may retort that often quoted phrase attributed to Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” However, Francis never stated this phrase. He did communicate periphrastically that our deeds should match our words, but the gospel must be communicated in words. Duane Liftin, president emeritus of Wheaton College claims, “It's simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.” Therefore, we absolutely should adorn the gospel we proclaim, but we must dialogue using the precepts and principles of God’s Word to accurately communicate its message.

So what are we as disciples of Christ to do? The simple answer is to prepare. Prepare by attending church on a regular basis where we can be fed the truth, and then we will will be more prepared to give the truth. Prepare by reading books like Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel. We went through this book as a sermon series a few years back. Prepare by reading and studying great gospel tracks that we can leave behind with people after our conversations, such as “Eternal Life,” “Life,” “4 Spiritual Laws,” “Steps to Peace with God,” and Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel” tract. Prepare by receiving intentional evangelistic training, such as the class that will be offered this Summer, “Share Jesus Without fear,” so that we can gain insight regarding how to conduct a gospel conversation. Prepare by joining us in GROW, attending the meal ministry for the purpose of sharing the gospel, participating in the block party for the purpose of sharing the gospel, and participating in our outreach night at Kool Beanz coming up at the end of June for the purpose of sharing the gospel. Evangelism is most definitely a hands-on activity. I can attest to the truth that I have heard others communicate time and again, which is that the best way to get better at evangelism is to do it. Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism as We Go

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

 The words our Lord gave to His disciples, and indirectly to us, before he ascended to the right hand of the Father in the Great Commission indicate His desire for us to go and make disciples. Now making disciples encompasses much more than just evangelism or sharing the good news of the gospel, but evangelism is a big part of making disciples. The language of this command communicates that we are to be very intentional about making disciples as we are going. But one might ask, “as we are going about what?” The concept of “as we are going” is reflective of the truth that evangelism is something that should be at the forefront of our minds at all times. We should be thinking about how we can have evangelistic conversations with people in our neighborhood, work place, recreation facility, or hair salon. A simple perusal through the New Testament reveals that Jesus had unplanned evangelistic encounters with a religious leader who came to visit him at night (John 3), a sinful woman who drew water from the same well at which He sat (John 4), a blind man who he healed so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9), and a wee little man who climbed a sycamore tree just to see Jesus. Deacon Philip was ready to share the gospel with an Ethiopian who was just riding by (Acts 8), Peter was willing to share the gospel with a soldier and his family (Acts 10), and Paul, well there are just too many stories to verify this already established point with Paul, just read the entire last half of Acts. I think it is sufficient to say that Paul also shared the gospel as he was going.

Have you ever wondered how the Roman world went from persecuting and ostracizing Christians to being Christianized itself? Listen to what historian Justo Gonzalez writes about the conquest of Christianity upon the Roman empire.

Although it is impossible to give exact statistics, the enormous numerical growth of the church in its first centuries is undeniable. This leads us to the question of what methods it used to achieve such growth. The answer may surprise some modern Christians, for the ancient church knew nothing of “evangelistic services” or “revivals.” On the contrary, in the early church worship centered on communion, and only baptized Christians were admitted to its celebration. Therefore, evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather, as Celsus said, in kitchens, shops, and markets. A few famous teachers, such as Justin and Origen, held debates in their schools, and thus won some converts among the intelligentsia. But the fact remains that most converts were made by anonymous Christians whose witness led others to their faith. The most dramatic form taken by such witness was obviously that of suffering unto death, and it is for this reason that the word “martyr,” which originally meant “witness,” took on the meaning that it has for us today. Finally, some Christians were reputed for their miracles, which also won converts. [(Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 1(pp. 115-116)]

These individuals were predominantly those of the lower classes and possessed little if any formal theological education. They were those who studied the Word of God, met with other Christians regularly, and took Jesus’ command seriously that we should be telling others about the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection and calling them to faith and repentance. My friends, we possess the same empowerment of the Holy Spirit that those in the early church possessed, and so in the words of William Carey let us “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism - Pt 2

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 13:35 (NASB)

 

Hello Beloved,

As we move into this next discussion on evangelism, I would like to talk to you about a culture of evangelism. I believe that this form of evangelism should be the most prominent strategy in Christ’s church. Of course, there are a variety of ways that we can get the good news to the lost, but I believe developing a culture of evangelism is the most effective for clarity and longevity. The early church grew so rapidly because people were talking about Jesus wherever they went. They brought people to check out the community of saints, the church. When lost people saw how different the church was from the surrounding world, they wanted in. That is really the way it should be with us. We should be bringing lost people to our services, our fellowship events, our Bible studies, our meal ministry, and our Sunday School classrooms to let them check us out. We are a team. Consider what Mack Styles writes as he describes a culture of evangelism that should be descriptive of Christ’s church:

When I coached my five-year-old son’s soccer team, we would gather the team (very, very cute) and ask, “Okay, team, when the other team has the ball, which of our players are on defense?” They would shout, with gusto, “Everyone!” Then we would ask, “And when we have the ball, which of our players are on offense?” “Everyone!” they answered. However, when it came to an actual game, putting that concept into play proved to be a bit more difficult with five-year-olds. Evangelism is like that. But the goal for both is the same: for all to pull in the same direction together. In a culture of evangelism, there is an understanding that everyone is engaged. Have you ever heard someone say, “Evangelism is not my gift,” as if that excused him from sharing his faith? That’s a kindergarten understanding of evangelism. All Christians are called to share their faith as a point of faithfulness, not gifting (Matt. 28: 19). I long to share my faith in the context of a church that understands what I’m doing and is pulling with me. In such a culture, when I bring a friend to church, others don’t assume that person is a Christian. They are not shocked when I introduce someone and say, “This is Bob, and he’s checking out Christianity.” And not only are they not shocked, but they respond with something like this: “I’m so glad you are here. I was in the same place a couple of years ago, and I’d love to hear about it. Tell me, what are you thinking through?” I long for a culture where we are all working together toward the goal of being witnesses for Christ. (Stiles, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus)

On Sunday, April 8, we are going to have an evangelistically oriented Sunday. The sermon will be more evangelistically oriented. We will have a chili fellowship afterwards, which will allow you the church to build relationships with many of our guests. And, all of the proceeds will go to support Rusty Ford and his family evangelize through missions in Spain. Please make plans to attend and be thinking about how you can participate in our culture of evangelism at Grace. Until next time, this is pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Evangelism

Hello church family. I would like to take the next few newsletters to talk about the important function of the church called evangelism. What do you think about when you hear the word, “evangelism?” Perhaps you do not think of anything, because the word and the concept are both new to you. Well, evangelism as it relates to our perspective, practice, and preaching should ever be before our minds as disciples of Jesus. It is a critical component in the mission of Christ’s church. It is a challenge that every believer should accept. It is an action that calls for savvy, strategy, and compassion. It is a practice that can potentially be abused or even ignored. It is a duty and privilege universally expected of all God’s children, and in its success, there is great rejoicing.

The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek term euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), which means “gospel” or “good news.” In its most basic form, evangelism means the good news of Jesus Christ. Consider what William Mounce writes about this concept.

Euangelion, is the “good news” about the salvation God has provided through Jesus Christ. The gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). In addition, it has to do with the fulfillment of the OT promise of the coming kingdom of God. For this reason, Jesus announces, “the time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus’ preaching is associated with healings, which are proof of the good news that the kingdom of God has arrived (Mt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). The NT speaks of the gospel in a way that describes its benefits: it is “the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of salvation” (Eph. 1:13), “the gospel of peace” (6:19), and the gospel that holds out hope (Col. 1:23). The gospel is worth dying for (Mk. 8:35; 10:29).

The gospel is intended to be preached in order to announce God’s salvation in Christ and to elicit a response from those who hear it (Mt. 26:13; Mk. 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:14a; 2 Cor. 2:12; 1 Thess. 2:9). It is to be preached to all nations (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 13:10; 16:15; Acts 15:7; Rev. 14:6). Accordingly, Paul’s calling is to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1, 9; 15:16, 19; Gal. 2:7; Eph. 3:6-7; 1 Thess. 2:4). At times he refers to “my gospel,” which is the message of Christ’s death and resurrection that God has entrusted him to preach (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Cor. 4:3; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:8), as opposed to the “different gospel” of false teachers (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6, 7, 11; 2:2).

Paul sometimes uses euangelion to denote the work of evangelism (1 Thess. 3:2). He suffers for the gospel (1 Cor. 9:12; 2 Tim. 1:8; see also Phil. 1:12) and becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23). People give service to the work of the gospel (2 Cor. 8:18; Phil. 1:5; 2:22; 4:3, 15).

euangelion also sometimes refers to the subject matter of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 1:7; 1 Thess. 2:2, 8, 9; 2 Thess. 2:14). Paul reminds the Corinthians of the content of the gospel he preached to them: Christ died, was buried, and was raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15:1, 2; see also 2 Tim. 2:8). The content of the gospel is truth (Gal. 2:5; Col. 1:5) and is meant to be confessed (2 Cor. 9:13), and those who don’t obey it will be punished (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). Through the gospel message, the Gentiles become part of the people of God (Eph. 3:6). By contrast, most Jews do not receive the “good news” but reject Christ, in fulfillment of OT prophecy (Isa. 53:1 in Rom. 10:16).

The word euangelion was not invented by the gospel writers but was already in use in the Roman world, euangelion. It referred to an announcement of “glad tidings” regarding a birthday, rise to power, or decree of the emperor that was to herald the fulfillment of hopes for peace and well-being in all the world. Mark redefines this concept of “glad tidings” by introducing his gospel with the phrase, “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ,” implying that it is really the birth and subsequent actions of Jesus that will change the face of the world in a cosmic way that no earthly king could ever do. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brings true and lasting well-being and peace to the world, in fulfillment of OT hope. (Found in: Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words)

Evangelism is a task that we should be very familiar with, but how do we perform this task in our context? That is often the tricky question. Over the next few months, we will consider evangelism as we go, evangelism in our worship services, evangelism in the life of our church, and preparation for evangelism. Until next time, this Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Blazing Your Own Path


5Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

As many of you know, our family visited Disney World for the first time this past Fall. We had countless experiences from this trip to treasure and upon which to reflect. One such experience involved our exiting from the “Magic Kingdom,” a theme park in Disney World. After spending a day of park-hopping, our family was ready to sit back and watch the festivities as fire in the sky would illumine the castle so iconic for the Disney franchise. Unfortunately, the sky began to pour rain about an hour before the show started, and for our family to get a good perspective, that meant we would have to stand in the rain. So we did. And we saw the spectacular show. But it was after the show that things became interesting.

Our family was only one of a multitude who had gathered to witness the experience. After the final rocket had been launched and the last note had been played, the “Magic Kingdom” was closed. Everybody sought to exit the park at the same time. This task of exiting would be additionally difficult for our family because we had a double stroller to push through a crowd of people that was already packed like a can of sardines. I could have stayed put and planted myself where I was for about half an hour while allowing everyone else to exit first, which would have given me plenty of room to push the stroller where I needed to go. But doing so would have meant that we would have been last in line at the bus stop, and with three exhausted children, one of which had already collapsed like a sack of potatoes, I knew I had to get them to bed. Therefore, I did the only thing a “father on a mission” could do, I rode the heels of another more experienced “Disney Dad.”

This other “father on a mission” was blazing a trail through the crowd, so I maneuvered into a spot immediately behind him, following his every twist, turn, step-up, or step-down. Our family was making tremendous headway, and I really did not want anyone to steal my sweet deal, so I had to stick as close to my trailblazer as I possibly could. I might have nipped his heels a few times on accident, but I think he forgave me. Our family made it through the crowd in a timely fashion, found ourselves with a good spot in line for the bus, and got the kiddos to bed after we arrived at the hotel. I sure am glad I had my trailblazer.

Of course, spiritually speaking, the ultimate trailblazer is our Father in Heaven. He wants us to too follow His principles and precepts as given in His Word with every step we take, sticking so close to Him that we metaphorically nip his heels a few times. He will take us through the correct twists and turns, tell us when to step-up or step-down, and make sure we reach the correct destination. Having the Lord to direct our paths can sometimes be difficult. We have a tendency to want to plan and direct our own paths. We often feel as though we know the best path that should be taken which would lead us to the most significance, even though it may not gel with His Word. However, when we do so, we are forgetting this very important principle, “God’s envisioned journey for our lives may not be detailed in the same manner as what we have envisioned for ourselves.” And that is O.K. because God is much wiser than we could ever comprehend.

Until next time, this is Pastor Daniel writing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”