A sermon from Sunday 24th February 2013. Read Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; 1 Peter 3:15 with help from Bill Hybels
Preachers often report a familiar scene – whenever preaching on EVANGELISM the congregation looks like a possum caught in the headlights.
And Adrian Plass throws some light unto why this may be the case.
He writes “Personal evangelism, or rather my failure to do it, was one of the things that caused me quite a lot of guilt when I was a young Christian.”
I understand that – and in part that guilt and feelings of inadequacy explain the reaction whenever the preacher turns to Matthew 28:20.
We don’t like being reminded of our lack and we feel out of our depth when confronted with the super-stars of evangelism who make it all look so easy.
Well sorry possums but we are talking about evangelism.
But before we go on just what is evangelism?
Evangelism defined. The word ‘evangelism’ comes from the word euaggelion. This is a word composed to two other Greek words, eu which means ‘well’ or ‘good’, and aggelion, meaning ‘message’. The word ‘evangel’, therefore, means ‘good message’ or ‘good news’. To evangelize is to present good news.
Sometimes we think of evangelism as seeing men and women come to faith. But that is the result of evangelism and that part really is God’s work. Our part is to present the good news of Jesus the Christ.
Three quick points to keep in mind…
— Act of God... We acknowledge that salvation is of God. It is God who has taken the initiative, while we were yet sinners, to send Christ into the world. It is God who convicts people of their need and convinces them of the truth of Jesus Christ as the only way to live their lives now, and the only way to live the eternal life we were created for.
— Gospel of Christ… Salvation is due to Christ’s work on the cross. He was the sacrifice for sin and was the first fruit of the resurrection. Our salvation is due solely to the work of Jesus Christ and is not based on any form of human endeavour or merit.
— Come to Salvation… everyone is required to come to God in repentance and to place their life under the authority of Jesus. Jesus is the only path to God, the only path to salvation.
But even though the act of salvation is God’s work we must not forget that we are the means God often uses to bring someone to that point where they recognise their need of God.
It is the example we set, the words we speak, the love that we share that so often is critical in a persons faith journey.
Yet in general we find it difficult to share our faith.
No doubt there are many reasons for this: sadly some of us are luke-warm in our faith, it doesn’t excite us, it is not a priority to us, it just is something we do without really doing anything.
Hardly surprising then that we don’t talk about it, and if we did our lack of enthusiasm is hardly going to inspire.
Others however simply feel out of their depth, inadequate. We have not learnt to share our faith and we don’t believe we have the temperament or the knowledge to do so.
But look around – there are friends, family, colleagues and neighbours who are dead. For without Christ we are all dead.
Friends we have an urgent task to get out of our comfort and to share the good news with the walking dead of our community.
In Matthew 5 Jesus describes believers as Salt and Light. But to be of any use the Light must be displayed and the Salt poured from the shaker.
As one of our Parish Councillors put it on Tuesday night the trouble with salt is it often clumps together, especially when in the shaker too long. And the longer left there the harder it is to get out.
Church and church structures and church people are a lot like a giant Salt Shaker. It’s kind of comfortable in here – not too many hassles – all the other grains are similar to me – we fit together – we clump together.
But we are not much use in the shaker. We must be poured out on a lost and broken world.
In his book ‘Becoming a Contagious Christian’ Bill Hybels suggests some basic principles that we need as we are poured out
…and the first is the principle of HIGH POTENCY.
You see, the salt must have flavour – and that only comes from a deep and potent relationship with Christ.
In order to fulfil the Great Commission described in Matthew 28 we need a real and vibrant relationship with our Lord.
A relationship that becomes obvious to anyone who knows us.
I have been conducting a lot of weddings lately and one thing that is fairly consistent with the couples I marry is that they are consumed by each other.
Their relationship is fresh, deep, vibrant and it quickly becomes obvious that they are ‘in love’.
Likewise we are highly potent and impact those around us when we have a relationship with Jesus that is deep and real; so much so that his love flows through us and beyond us. It is obvious when we are ‘in-love’ with Jesus.
This is not something we can learn, buy off the internet or fake – the love of God flows from our relationship with God and no other way.
To positively share our faith with others they must be convinced that our faith is for real. We can’t put this on, and people will know when we are genuine.
People are watching us, more than you realise. They are looking for something and they are watching you to see if what you say matches how you live. Shallow faith, lukewarm faith tends to result in lifestyles and attitudes that don’t reflect the love of God – and make no mistake people notice.
I was asking someone last year about their faith journey: they had recently become a follower of Jesus.
This person had been around the church for many years, involved in groups like Mainly Music, appreciating what was offered and quietly watching. In time they began to explore the gospel and in more time made a commitment to Christ.
There were many important steps in this persons journey but one stands out. It was the watching of people here at this church – people whose words and actions consistently reflected the love of God, that then lead to a desire to know this love personally.
And I bet none of those involved considered themselves to be an evangelist.
Yet they had a key quality of high potency because they themselves have a deep and real relationship with Christ.
… the second principle is that of CLOSE PROXIMITY….
You see, it doesn’t matter how POTENT our relationship with Christ is if we never get close to people who don’t know Christ themselves.
Remember salt does no good if it is left in the shaker. So if we are going to impact our world for Christ, the most effective approach will be through relationships with those who need to be reached.
Statistics show that within 2 years of becoming a Christian most people have no significant relationship with non-Christians. They get so involved in the church that they centre nearly every free moment of their lives within the church and have no time left to develop relationships with lost people.
The salt stays in the shaker.
To really influence our community we must live our Christian lives openly – publically, we must connect with people that have yet to know God.
How do we do this – simply by being involved.
Get involved in the community, school groups are great for this, but so are garden clubs; drama groups, U3A, volleyball and lawn bowls … whatever … look for opportunities to go out there and introduce yourself to people who need to be introduced to Jesus Christ.
Follow Paul’s example in our text from 1 Corinthians and, …become all things to all people so that by all possible means you might save some.
Okay, that’s two steps. In order to effectively do our bit to share the good news so that others can know Jesus we must have a HIGHLY POTENT walk ourselves and we must be in CLOSE PROXIMITY to others A final consideration.
…the principle of…CLEAR COMMUNICATION.
Again remember Paul’s words about becoming all things to all people. One of the principles behind is knowing people and communicating to them in ways they understand.
Paul writes to the Colossians:
… pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison,so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Colossians 4:3-4
Paul knew the importance of ensuring the message was understood, and I suspect he was equally aware that he had to be careful in this regard. He did not dumb down the message but he was careful to convey it in ways that would connect with his audience.
Likewise with us – don’t worry about not being educated, or about knowing all the answers to all the questions. None of us do anyway. Simply tell the story of the gospel that you have experienced – that’s what Paul did, tell it simply and clearly.
Adrian Plass is good at saying things simply and clearly. Today gone is the guilt of his earlier days.
Today he has got his priorities in order and he writes this:
…commitment to God has become my priority, I shall pass on the message of salvation as well as it can be done, in the way and the place that is appointed and right, just as Jesus did …2000 years ago.
Friends may we be poured out.
Arohanui - Ian