The Importance of Evangelism: Part 2

Then Jesus said, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’  (Matthew 28:19-20)

As I said last week, evangelism is a challenge; many people, and so many churches, struggle with this.  For some, evangelism is an important objective, “we’ve got to get out there and evangelise”, but the methods of pursuing can appear vague or ineffective.  For others, the term itself is uncomfortable.  Fear grips them!  The very word can bring to mind doctrinal rigidity or the use of manipulative ways of leading people to faith.  So what to do?

Focussing on the characteristics of biblical evangelism can help de-mystify evangelism and strengthen our evangelistic efforts.  Four key practices; proclamation, community, service, and witness, are rooted in scripture and have proven effective in the history of the church. Employing these four practices as we share the gospel moves us, as well as the listener, closer to God.  So let’s have a look at each of these practices in turn.

1. Proclamation

After the second world war ended, it is said that there were some Japanese soldiers deep in the jungle who carried on fighting because they hadn’t heard the proclamation that the war was over!

How often have you heard, or even said of non-believers, “They need to hear the gospel”? In Romans 10:14, Paul writes, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

The key is the ending where Paul says, “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them”.  Here, preaching (Greek kerygma) can also be translated as proclamation.

I like the use of the phrase “proclaiming to them” as it implies that you are not talking about preaching as a professional occupation.  I think Paul is talking about someone willing to share the good news verbally.  If we think of proclamation as something only done by professionals, it lets the majority of us off the hook.  But I believe Paul is arguing the opposite — that all of us are called to proclaim the good news so that someone might hear it, and have the opportunity to be saved.

Too often individuals believe that because they pay the minister/pastor to proclaim they do not have to do it.  The truth is this; as we grow more comfortable in our congregations we tend to share less.  And as a result, fewer and fewer of us are proclaiming the good news. We need to reclaim the understanding that all believers are responsible for the practice of proclamation.

2. Community

The best model of Christian community is found in the Trinity and the way in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make room for each others’ gifts.  The three-in-one God models for us what is possible when we are willing to share our gifts with the community and make room for the gifts of others.  It is a community constructed on love, trust, and accountability.

Throughout the history of the church, community has been a key factor in successfully engaging new people. Look at Acts 2:42:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  44All the believers were together and had everything in common.  45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,  47praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

More recently in the Wesleyan revival people found community with one another in societies, classes, and bands that were essential to their personal transformation.  My own experience of belonging to a CYFA group (Christian Youth Fellowship Association) laid a firm foundation for my faith in Jesus Christ.  We still mimic this approach through encouraging people to be part of a small group.  But the results are often mixed because we copy the form of Wesley’s small groups while ignoring the rationale for connecting people.  This is why we’re developing the RedBRick Connections, groupings of people who are committed to working at connecting to other people in an authentic Gospel and Jesus-centred way that engenders God’s love, trust, and accountability.  Our evangelism efforts today need to focus on connecting people in an authentic Gospel and Jesus-centred community and not just copying a certain model of community.

3. Service

In Ephesians 3:7 Paul uses a form of Greek word for service (diakonia) when he talks about being a servant of the gospel.  The idea of being in service to something or someone is challenging in our culture because of the history of slavery.  But the language of servanthood is prominent in Paul’s letters, particularly being a servant to Jesus.  Paul understood his role as carrying on the work that Jesus started, and we are called to do the same.  To be in service to Jesus means engaging in holistic ministry that addresses your entire being, body, soul and spirit.  Notice how Jesus provided for those in need while sharing the transformative power of the gospel.  If, on the one hand, we simply respond to physical needs, we are merely providing a social service.  On the other hand, if we are simply sharing the gospel, then we are not addressing the concrete challenges people experience.  Holistic ministry in Christ’s service is always both. The idea of serving is never to be disconnected from an expectation of an ever-deepening spiritual transformation.

The struggle we have today is we have disconnected service from an expectation of transformation through Christ.  In an effort not to offend we do things for people and hope they figure out our Christian motivation.  I am not suggesting clubbing people over the head with the gospel, but a holistic understanding of service must include sharing the transformative power of Christ, that He takes us, sinners, and through forgiveness leads us into new life with Him.  Too many of us ignore the importance of letting others see that without the act of repentance of sin we are denying Jesus’ transformative power to take what is broken and make it whole again.  That is what I believe happens every time we receive the bread at communion… by taking something broken, the bread (aka Jesus’ body) we are being made whole, made complete, being born again!  This is how God’s love intersects with us in a transformative way.

4. Witness

This word has its root in the word martyr.  The truth is, when we hear the word martyr, we immediately think of someone dying.  Martyrs of Christ literally give their lives for the gospel.  But we are not just required to die to witness to Christ.  When Jesus was eating with His disciples before He ascended back to heaven after His resurrection we find this command in Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem … to the ends of the earth.” This form of the word martyr (martureo) is not about death.  A martyr or witness is someone who gives their whole being to something.  It is more than proclamation because one’s entire life becomes a sign pointing to God.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus is asking the disciples to devote their entire being to telling His story.  What Jesus does not want is a half-baked effort.  The disciples are to dedicate themselves to the work of witnessing.

For many of us, witnessing has become a technique rather than an expression of our divine supernatural spiritual identity.  Perhaps we just see it as a means of getting people to our church.  Many times when we witness, people are not hearing about God’s transforming love that opens their eyes to see the need for repentance.  They hear “come to my church.”  The Wesleyan movement was successful because witnessing was a part of their DNA and not a technique.  We need to reclaim this dimension of witness.  RedBRick Connections is a way we can release our evangelistic DNA which is already in each of us.  How do I know it is in each of us – well, we are often very quick to witness to the things we enjoy doing, particularly our hobbies.  As this is the case how much more should we be prepared to engage in evangelism for God’s sake and His created world.

These four practices should work together in an integrated, synergistic way. But too often, we make them into separate things, lessening the overall impact of our evangelism. A holistic, biblical approach to evangelism employs all four practices in ways that inform and enhance one another so that we share the gospel and all move closer to God and to neighbour.

Time to think

Read Romans 10:1-15.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

  1. Paul is sharing the gospel in these verses. Please write down the quote that he uses to clinch his powerful gospel presentation (Romans 10:11).
  2. Paul also uses Old Testament scripture to defend his missionary zeal (Romans 10:14-15). Complete the logical steps Paul develops in these two verses.

How can they call upon the Lord if they haven’t _______? (Romans 10:14)

How can they believe unless they have _______? (Romans 10:14)

How can they hear unless someone ________ to them? (Romans 10:14)

How can they preach unless someone _______ ? (Romans 10:15)

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

First, please read and reflect on this quotation from Chuck Swindoll, an award-winning author and senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, TX.

Because God gave you your makeup and superintended every moment of your past, including all the hardships, pains, and struggles, He wants to use your words in a unique manner. No one else can speak through your vocal cords, and, equally important, no one else has your story.” 

In last week’s Time to Think (The Importance of Evangelism: Part 1) I encouraged you to write down your story of how you established a living relationship with God through Jesus. Perhaps you can share it with someone.  To start with, why not share it with another Christian as a way of honing your story?

Prayer Response

Lord of the Harvest, we see that Your harvest field is ripe and ready all over this nation and the world! We long to see Your kingdom come on this earth, so may we allow you to strengthen us to obey Your commission to go into all the world. May we as individuals, as families and as Your Church allow you to show us how you want us to serve You, to respond to Your command in whatever way You call us, so we answer Your call to go.  Show us how to pray effectively for the protection, boldness, clarity, health, and fruitfulness in your mission and ministry here in our communities. May we actively seek to align ourselves with Your heart so that our hearts would be obedient to the desires of Your heart, and the whole earth come to a saving knowledge of the truth – the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose powerful name we pray.  Amen.


The Importance of Evangelism: Part 1

Then Jesus said, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20)

What is a biblical approach for evangelism?

Advent gives us a wonderful opportunity to evangelise.  What a story we can tell in the run up to the Christmas story itself!  We have Old Testament prophets foretelling that the Messiah will come to save us from sin and thus reveal the power and nature of God’s love for us, His creation.

Then there’s John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who came to prepare the way with a call of repentance for “the Kingdom of heaven is near”.  Then there’s the story of how Mary became pregnant, her visit to Elizabeth, her cousin, the mother of John the Baptist.  John’s own conception and birth was a miracle too.  In this rich and vibrant story, full of intrigue, wonder and mystery we see God at work in miraculous and wonderful ways.  Plenty to get our teeth stuck into for evangelism!  A new era was about to break.  How do you greet a new era; with joy, or with fear and trepidation?  This new era is about God sending His Son Jesus to save the lost.

Numerous theories abound on the best way to evangelise the lost.  The best way is to go to the source; Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus laid out the best method of biblical evangelism as He evangelised those He met while on earth.

When Jesus evangelised the lost, He began by challenging people with the statement “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).  Repentance of sin is the very first step in biblical evangelism.  Those who would come to Christ must first understand that repentance from sin is required.  This means explaining three realities:

  1. the inherently sinful nature of mankind
  2. the holiness of God
  3. the existence of heaven and hell

The only means to escape the punishment of sin is faith in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  While many Christians begin their evangelistic efforts with God’s love, that is really the second half the story.  The message of God’s love is lost on unbelievers unless they first come to grips with sin, judgement, and punishment.

There is no doubt that God is a loving God.  But He is also a holy and righteous God who hates sin.  Therefore, our sin separates us from Him.  Because He is holy, God is “a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11).  A crucial element of true biblical evangelism is the understanding of the holiness of God.  Isaiah caught a glimpse of God’s holiness in his vision of angelic beings around God’s throne praising God’s holiness (Isaiah 6:3).  When we understand just how holy God is, we can begin to understand His hatred of sin and His holy wrath against sinners.

Evangelism is helping the unsaved person to accept the fact that they stand in the direct line of fire of the wrath of a holy and just God.  Hebrews 10:31 warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  There is nothing anyone can do to appease God’s wrath, nothing of value they can offer to God to mitigate their sin.  No amount of good works or good deeds can bridge the gap that separates a holy God from a sinner.  Every good work that humanity thinks can be done is as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6).  No amount of good living will make us acceptable in God’s eyes because the standard is holiness which no one can achieve, and without holiness no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).

This is why the acceptance of the realities of personal sin and the holiness of God is so important.  Without that the readiness for the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is lacking.  What no one can do is to save themselves, yet the Good News is this: by His death on the cross, Jesus exchanged His righteous, holy nature for our sinful one, making us completely new creations with a new nature that replaces the old sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:17–21).  The truth is this: Christ accomplished on the cross something we can never accomplish by ourselves!

And this is where God’s love comes into play.  Because of His great love and mercy – not because we deserve or earn it – God provided the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin (Ephesians 2:8–9).  Only those whose natures have been changed can escape the wrath of God and experience His love and grace.  If we believe these things, we will live eternally with Him in the joy of heaven.  If we do not, our eternal destiny is hell.

This is the truth, from the Bible.  If we are to truly evangelise people according to the Bible, we have to tell them the whole truth, even if some react badly to it.  This is telling the truth in love, and I spoke about speaking the truth in love last week (see Discipleship 2).  And some people will react badly!  But others will be relieved and grateful.  As Paul said, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15–16).  Evangelism involves living out the command to be “living sacrifices” through agape love, a self-sacrificial love that works for the benefit of another over the benefit of self.

Evangelism is a challenge, but we have an amazing story to tell of Jesus, how He was born, and that God sent Him so we can be saved!  We are to share how He has changed our own lives, how confession and repentance of sin sets us free to live and love more fully for God, and how this shapes our attitudes about God, His world and our role in it.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we can share the truth, and thus show the love of God by calling others to repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.

Time to think

Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 1:6-8 & 19-28.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

  1. Why did John the Baptist and Jesus both call people to repent of their sin?  What does “the kingdom of heaven is near” mean?
  2. People invest time and energy into developing their career, their bodies and relationships, but often neglect the spiritual dimension of their lives.   How do you actively pursue spiritual growth?
  3. How did you establish a personal relationship with God?  Perhaps you could write this down using the following outline: Before–What characterised your life before you trusted Christ. During–How you came to trust Christ. After–How you are different now.

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

  1. What is your concept of God? Do you view Him positively or negatively?
  2. Do you find that faith and spiritual values play a role in your work, day, marriage, perspective on life?  What is the difference between religion and relationship?

Prayer Response

Lord of the Harvest, we see that Your harvest field is ripe and ready all over this nation and the world! We long to see Your kingdom come on this earth, so may we allow you to strengthen us to obey Your commission to go into all the world. May we as individuals, as families and as Your Church allow you to show us how you want us to serve You, to respond to Your command in whatever way You call us, so we answer Your call to go.  Show us how to pray effectively for the protection, boldness, clarity, health, and fruitfulness in your mission and ministry here in our communities. May we actively seek to align ourselves with Your heart so that our hearts would be obedient to the desires of Your heart, and the whole earth come to a saving knowledge of the truth–the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose powerful name we pray.  Amen.


The Importance of Discipleship: Part 2

6th December 2020

Then Jesus said, ‘Therefor go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:19-20

How can we grow Spiritually?

At the close of life, the question will not be “How much have you got?” but “How much have you given?”

Not “How much have you won?” but “How much have you done?”

Not “How much have you saved?” but “How much have you sacrificed?”

It will be “How much have you loved and served,” not “How much were you honoured?”

Discipleship very much involves how we are growing spiritually, and Scripture offers valuable insights into this.  First it is Christ’s power in the believer that gives us the ability to grow spiritually (2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 3:20).  Relying on Jesus’ supernatural power and following His teachings is the only way we can develop greater maturity.

Peter provides a peek at the process:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:5-8).

We studied these spiritual gifts last December, and the teaching can be found in this series.

Involvement in a local church and the exercise of our spiritual gifts are invaluable to our discipleship.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16).

But what does it mean to speak the truth in love?  In this context it is about speaking the truths of the Gospel, of Jesus, in a loving, caring and compassionate way.  To do this we are to train ourselves in foundational gospel truths.  Truths such as Jesus being God incarnate, that His death and resurrection was a sacrifice that we could never make as an atonement for our sin, a sacrifice that abolishes the power of death to separate us from God.  This is the truth that Jesus is our Salvation, through which we are saved from the penalty of sin, power of sin and sin’s presence.  Deliverance from sin’s penalty is immediately secured by Christ’s death.  The resultant life of Christ in us saves us from living under the power of sin while the hope of His coming, His second Advent, assures us of eternal salvation.

Our motivation to do all this is love.  And the “love” referred to in this verse is agape love, a self-sacrificial love that works for the benefit of the loved one.  We speak truth in order to build up.  All our words should be beneficial to the hearers of those words.  We should speak truth in love.(Ephesians 4:29).

To evaluate our personal spiritual growth, and so our discipleship, we can measure our improvement in the “fruit of the Spirit.”  The Spirit desires to produce these qualities in you: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Are we increasing in this fruit?  Are you growing in love, in joy, in patience, towards those around you?  If so, you are growing spiritually.

We should be aware that growth often comes through trials.  Just as physical strength is built through exertion and straining against resistance, spiritual strength is developed in the hard times of life.  My own experiences of life, the death of our son John, the loss of jobs through redundancy, a daughter who attempted suicide, going through a debilitating prolonged illness, certainly bear out the saying “No pain, no gain”!  James gives encouragement: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4). Did you notice the phrase “trials of many kinds”?

Because growth comes through trials, scripture also teaches we are not to grow weary in the process.  Much spiritual development is the result of persistence.  “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13 & Galatians 6:9).

When people have said to me that they can’t go on, or that they don’t want to do something because they don’t feel able or well enough equipped, I have often replied they need to let Percy Perseverance help them!  Pushing on is so important if we are going to succeed, grow, reap the harvest, and fulfil the plans God has for us as individuals, but MOST importantly as His disciples corporately.

Out of His mercy and grace God wills us on like the parent on the side-lines at school sports day, to grow to be more like Jesus.  We also have a wonderful promise that the Lord Himself will oversee our growth and bring us to maturity.  “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 & 2 Corinthians 13:11).

Fellowship and Discipleship under the tutorship of Jesus leads us to experience the freedom He has for us.  This is why they are so important, and it is so important that we know what these words mean biblically.

So, what is Freedom in Christ all about?

Freedom is a basic human desire, so we should expect to read about it in the Bible.  While the Bible speaks often of freedom, its focus is most frequently related to the spiritual freedom a person can experience in Christ.

First, freedom in Christ is seen in contrast to the bondage of sin, because sin enslaves people for spiritual death and eternity apart from God.  Knowing Christ provides freedom from the control of sin and promises eternal life with Him (Romans 6:20-23).

Second a person who has experienced true freedom in Christ is called to live as His servant. (Romans 1:1).  This seems like a paradox to the non-believer, yet the freedom found in Christ gives the believer a desire to live for Christ as a servant.  This attitude reflects the attitude displayed by Jesus Himself during His time on earth (John 13:1-20; Philippians 2:5-11).

Third, those who find freedom in Christ also become His children, for we are now children and heirs of the inheritance of eternal life with Christ for eternity. (John 1:12 & Galatians).

In short, we experience true freedom in Christ by knowing Him, walking in His ways, and engaging with the changes He makes in and through our lives as we focus on service to Him and to others.  This freedom transcends the human freedoms desired in this world, providing peace in this life and freedom with Christ forevermore.

Living with such an understanding of these truths enables us to answer with confidence the questions we may well be asked at the close of life, when we stand before God on judgement day. 

Are you ready to answer those questions?  Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today!  Accept your need for discipleship and grow in the freedom that Christ has for you.

So…

How much are you giving?

How much are you doing?

How much are you sacrificing?

How much have you loved and served?

Time to think

Read Ephesians 4:11-16 and Mark 1:1-8.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

  1. How much of yourself are you giving to the Lord?
  2. How much are you doing for the Lord?
  3. How much are you sacrificing for the Lord?

Digging Deeper into God’s Word

  1. How much are you loving and serving the Lord?
  2. How have the trials you have experienced in life impacted your discipleship?  Did the draw you closer to God?

Prayer Response

Lord, you have called us to love and serve you;

And with your help we will.

Give us the wisdom to know what we should do,

The courage to keep on loving and giving,

And the faith that will see us through.

For the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord,

Who died that we might truly live. Amen.