Some years ago when Tom Savage was the student ministries pastor here, he told me about the first pastor that he had worked with in what was, I think, a Southern Baptist Church near where he grew up in the DC / metropolitan MD suburbs. He marveled at this man’s gift for evangelism. Tom said that visiting in a home with this fellow, it seemed like he went from chatty small talk into leading them to Christ in about 90 seconds of time.
Back in high school I had a “gal pal” with whom I had worked at the same Christian camp in south Jersey. We later ended up working in Cape May at the same Bible Conference and were often together around town in the evening. She had a passion for lost people, a capacity to know no strangers, and the Biblical knowledge to converse with anyone – even at age 17. We would meet total strangers on the boardwalk, talk about the Gospel, and some would respond in faith. It was an amazing time of life.
These are people with great gifts. Most of us don’t just naturally do this; we find ourselves worrying too much about not looking pushy or overbearing on issues deemed personal and private. It is best to just let the folks with this sort of gift do most of the evangelizing, right? After all, that’s their job; it is what God gave them to do.
While we recognize that some people have a special ability that has been given them, and though that skill looks about as easy for them as eating ice cream is to the rest of us, the fact is that we all have a responsibility to be people who share the Gospel message of Good News with other people.
When Jesus ascended back to heaven, he didn’t say, “And those of you who have the special gift of evangelism will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and unto the ends of the earth, while the rest of you simply tithe your money to support these people who are actually doing the ministry.”
We need to think of outreach and evangelism as a COMMAND, more than we think of it as a GIFT.
Let me say three things in preparation for this week’s theme – “Myth 4: Sharing the gospel is best left to pastors and missionaries”
We need to be aware … In John chapter 4 we encounter the story of how Jesus had struck up a conversation with the most unlikely of people – a sinful Samaritan woman. He was energized by it, confusing the disciples who did not understand where he had gotten anything to eat.
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
We need to be aware that of the two groups of people in the world – those who are of God’s family, and those who are yet to receive the message and respond in faith – the latter is like a vast field at the point of readiness for harvest. And God wants us to be reapers for his glory. But we don’t tend to see it this way, as we tend to believe there is no such work around us … that everyone is totally happy in their sin and contented with their lives as they know it. Not true.
We need to care …
The Bible teaches clearly of a literal hell and lake of fire that is the eternal abode of those who do not know Christ. Hellfire preaching is out of vogue in 2015, but the truth remains unchanged.
Earlier in that same chapter four of John’s Gospel, Jesus said …
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.
And the same writer – John – penned near the end of the Bible in Revelation 20 …
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
As we will talk about on Sunday, think of all the things you would do to prevent someone from suffering a pending accident of some sort – even people you don’t know at all. So why would you not be willing to go to extreme efforts to communicate God’s truth with people whom you do know and love who are in danger of eternal separation from God?
We need to share …
How many people who love you genuinely and care for you deeply and earnestly do you hate because they have been too overbearing in your life? I’ll bet you can’t name any. It is difficult to despise someone who obviously loves you and has made that clear in their concerns for you, even if you don’t agree with what they have said to you when expressing that concern. You may think their viewpoints are a little bit nuts, but you just can’t dislike someone who so genuinely loves you.
It is easy to hold the truth to ourselves and never really get around to sharing it. We need an intentional plan and a thoughy-out ability to be ready on those occasions where, God willing, the quality of our lives and hope in Christ in a crazy world will even lead to discussions upon the questioning of others.
In 1 Peter 3 it says …
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect …
Always be prepared … so are you prepared?
Our study this week, along with the accompanying class at 11:00, makes a shift and turn into a truly practical category of knowing and planning what to say and how to say it. So don’t miss it.