Archive for October, 2013

Earlier this week, I read this quote from Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional by Alvin Reid:

If you have attempted to witness, you about this fear, “I don’t know what to say, What if they ask a question I can’t answer?” The fear of failure is real. How do we cope with it? This fear may exist because we misunderstand our task. We are called to faithfulness. Faithfulness to share is our measure of success. Our Lord Jesus did not win every person with whom He shared. We are ambassadors. Ambassadors do not speak on their own authority, but for another. We must remember that God holds us accountable for obedience, not perfection. Remember, Jesus called us to follow Him, and if we did so He would make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). If we enjoy fishing as much as catching, we will experience a lessening of this fear as we focus more on the joy of telling good news and less on our “success.”

This quotation resonated with me because it speaks to the fact that we are not personally responsible for winning souls to Christ. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. We are, however, called to be witnesses wherever we are (Acts 1:8). We are to be obedient and share the gospel and rely on the Holy Spirit for the rest.

I have read from various sources that the average number of times a person will hear the gospel before they come to faith in Christ is, depending on the source you read, as low as five (5) times and as many as eight (8) times. Thus, if we are keeping statistics, with all other variables being equal, it equates to an evangelistic batting average of .125 per unsaved person. When you factor in the fact that not all Christians share their faith ever, the batting average for the sharing person is less than that. If it takes that many (i.e., multiple) encounters for the hardened heart to be softened to Jesus Christ, when we do not share our faith, we are stretching out the salvation time line (first encounter with the gospel until the last where conversion occurs).

One of my friends from the time that I lived in California once compared this time frame to teaching basketball to a person. In teaching basketball, we start with dribbling and as the person progresses to the stage where they can dunk the ball in the basket (yes, I know not all people can dunk but allow some poetic license in the illustration). She compared the first sharing of the gospel with an unsaved person to teaching them to dribble. Something effective has been shared but it is just the start. We have planted the seed of salvation. Another person teaches them to dribble and drive toward the basket. Soil is softening and the person is actually thinking about God. Eventually, someone teaches them how to dunk. They are there for that final leap of faith and into the basket of salvation. We all often think that we are supposed to be there for the slam dunk. But, sometimes we are there simply for the dribble. We do not determine where we are in this basketball analogy. We simply must share. The command is obvious (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19) that we must do this. We are not given any additional clause that we have a role with whom the gospel is shared. Our command is to share, share, share.

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), the seed of the gospel was sown indiscriminately on all four soils. The sower is generous with the seed. While it is true that only one of the four was good soil and brought fruit, it did not change the fact that the seed kept falling on all four. Instead of being generous with the seed, we are being selective. I think there is a temptation to be discouraged from sowing the seed because we focus more on the fruit (harvest) than being faithful with the seed. The sower’s responsibility is not to determine the outcome of the seed. In that, we are trying to take God’s place by being selective with whom we share the gospel and worse yet not sharing it at all. We are commanded to be obedient to Jesus Christ. We are not required by Scripture to be a Bible know it all. We must though know what matters – the change that Christ has made in our lives. Sure, as we mature in faith, we can learn how to improve our witness by learning how to witness to baby boomers vs. Gen-X’ers, but that has to do learning what motivates people spiritually – the story remains at the core. When the earth was formed, the core formed first and then the layers of crust and earth developed after that. It is the same with our witness. The core of any witness is our story – how Christ changed our lives (what it was like before, how we came to Christ, and how our life has been radically changed since). To close out, I quote from Will McRaney’s book, The Art of Personal Evangelism:

You do not have to possess the attributes and gifts of Billy Graham to share Christ. You do not have to be an extrovert, meet strangers well, have a booming voice, be courageous in every circumstance, or speak eloquently before a crowd to tell God’s story in your life. Sharing Christ involves faithfulness to report for service in the Lord’s army. God desires to use you, which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of you (p. 195)

If we wait until we have lived the perfect life to share the gospel, then the gospel would never have been shared beyond Jesus. We are commanded to share. We are to share the good, the bad, and the ugly side of us. Therein lies the power of our testimony. God redeems imperfect people through Jesus Christ. We are the tools He chooses to share the gospel through. It makes the story of salvation all the more powerful. God changes us from the ugly lostness of sin and its effects into imperfect beings made perfect in the covering of Jesus Christ before God. Your story of salvation is your personal evidence of how God redeems. That is the substance. That is the meat. That is what we are ultimately to share, as obedient believers. Every time we share, we shrink that person’s salvation time line. Their eternity is worth stepping up to the plate and taking a swing. It is worth being on the court, dribble or dunk.

Earlier this week, I read the this quote from Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional by Alvin Reid. It goes as follows:

People may listen to the preacher’s preaching, but they will follow his passion. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “That will be most in their ears which is most in your hearts.” Deuwel wrote, “A passionless Christianity will not put out the fires of hell. The best way to fight a raging forest fire is with fire.” When William Booth was asked by the king of England what was the ruling force of his life was, he replied, “Sir, some men’s passion is for gold, other men’s passion is for fame but my passion is for souls.”

This quotation resonated with me because it speaks to the fact if we do not have passion for lost souls, then, what are we doing here? If we do not have a passion for the spreading the gospel then we, as ministers and churches, need to evaluate whether we deserve the names of ministers and churches.

To be deserving of those names, we must have the passion of Paul. He said, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). If we are not sharing the gospel in evangelistic ways as the flock of the church and as ministers, we will become divine country clubs, where we go to serve ourselves and not much else. We become passionless. When we lose our passion for sharing the gospel with the world around us, we slowly die. There are churches whose idea of reaching the world with the gospel is a free spaghetti dinner for the community once per month. Yet, when no one outside the church shows up, no one notices or cares. Yet, when twenty people show up for church on Sundays, they wonder why the church is not growing. The example must be set by leadership. We, as leaders of the church, must have passion for those who are outside our doors. As the flock of the church, we must take our pastor’s passion in the venues where we live work and play. Christ did not die for spaghetti suppers. Christ died for “whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” Even if we do outreach where the passion of it is not to spread the gospel, it’s a spaghetti supper with a different name. Even if we do mission trips with the heart of it is not to spread the gospel, we are just having a spaghetti supper in another state, region or nation.

We should be passionate about spreading the gospel because that is what Christ commanded us to do. We should be passionate about it in our finances. We should provide our churches in biblical ways. There is an old saying that “if you show me your checkbook, I will show you what you are passionate about.” Our local church should have the resources that it takes to reach the lost. Even Jesus had those who financially supported his ministry. Just look at Luke 8:1-3 where it says,

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

In this passage, we have the two concepts that we have talked about here. There was Jesus going from town to town. There was Jesus proclaiming the gospel, the good news. And, we have three believers who were supporting the ministry from their own means. They knew Jesus Christ and what He had done for them. They were faithful in doing what was necessary to ensure that Jesus’ team could move from town to town and focus on the message of the gospel. We should be passionate about allowing our church from our own means to be able to do evangelism in a corporate way. We should be passionate about God enough to analyze our finances and begin work on placing those things that we are passionate about that are of no eternal significance in their proper perspective. We should give primary passion to financing the spreading of the gospel through our local church.

Finally, individually, outside of our corporate activities that we participate in through church, we should be individually passionate about sharing our faith. We should be passionate about eternal things. We should be passionate about showing love to our neighbors who are hurting, sick, lonely, cold, and alone. We should have passion for loving these people, our neighbors. We should be treating everyone we meet as a soul that is need of nourishment of the gospel. We should see Christ in them. We should treat each day as an opportunity to share the love of Christ and the good news of what He represents. Evangelism one on one. For it is written in Matthew 25:34-40,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

These are the things we should be passionate about as ministers, as churches, and as individuals. We must see Christ in everyone we touch. We must prioritize our finances to glorify God and not earthly passions such that we can reach lost souls. We must have passion for lost souls. Anything else is just a spaghetti supper.