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Exhortation to Evangelize

by Jake Roberts

Reprint from www.kpgnewsletter.com

     Leighton Ford is a minister and evangelist who has preached the gospel of Christ in over 40 countries. He tells a story about an event he spoke at with Billy Graham, in Canada:

“I was speaking at an open-air crusade in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Billy Graham was to speak the next night and had arrived a day early. He came incognito and sat on the grass at the rear of the crowd. Because he was wearing a hat and dark glasses, no one recognized him. Directly in front of him sat an elderly gentleman who seemed to be listening intently to my presentation. When I invited people to come forward as an open sign of commitment, Billy decided to do a little personal evangelism. He tapped the man on the shoulder and asked, “Would you like to accept Christ? I’ll be glad to walk down with you if you want to.” The old man looked him up and down, thought it over for a moment, and then said, ‘Naw, I think I’ll just wait till the big gun comes tomorrow night.’ Billy and I have had several good chuckles over that incident. Unfortunately, it underlines how, in the minds of many people, evangelism is the task of the ‘Big Guns,’ not the ‘little shots.’”

      Dear reader, the burden of evangelism, the responsibility of sharing the gospel, is not the sole-responsibility of preachers – but everyone who follows Christ. All Christians have to share in this ministry of the church, and no Christian should be the sole purveyor of any ministry in a church.

     The great apostles of old, who spoke words given by the same Holy Spirit with us today, are no longer here. Yet, their ministry carries on. It continues in the lives of current Christians. No Christian – past, present, or future – bears the sole, singular responsibility of evangelizing. All Christians should take part in this work. Sadly, slothful saints seek to shirk their ministerial responsibility.

The Evangelist’s Message

     The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines “evangelism” as, “an active calling of people to respond to the message of grace and commit to God in Jesus Christ”. That well describes Paul’s preaching. It was a succinct and accurate definition of New Testament preaching in general. Often times, today, there are well-meaning ministers who are wonderful communicators, powerful orators, and many of them are experienced writers. However, there are not many responses to their ministries (at least true conversion responses). Yes, there are mega-churches across the land, with thousands coming through the front door. However, there are tens of thousands leaving out the back door.

     The reason for the shallow and slow response to ministry is because the evangelistic message is skewed. I am just as guilty as any preacher in the world, trying to speak to issues, current events, and present-day problems. Instead, if we wish to follow the New Testament’s template, we ought to be concentrating on Jesus.

     That is not to say Christians and preachers cannot address current topics, but topical preaching must be done with Jesus at the center.

     Many “Christian” ministerial books could be moved from the religious section of the bookstore to the self-help, or psychology section of the bookstore – if not for the spiritual title on the front, or a famous’ preaching name on the spine. Far too many sermons today are filled with personal truths and psychological aids, and not enough Jesus Christ. These can be used as supplements, but Jesus must be at the center. The apostles never gave a sermon built around the “top 10 things to improve your life.” They preached Jesus and Jesus crucified.

     If believers are to evangelize and proficiently preach, they must take note of the New Testament evangelists’ message (1 Cor. 2:1, 2).  They preached the Person of Christ. Paul did not enter into ministry with any other intent than informing his audience about the life of Jesus. They emphasized his personhood. As a human being, he came to earth to ransom mankind from sin. Paul, when speaking to a group of his Jewish brethren in Rome, preached the person of Christ (Acts 28:23, 30).

     New Testament evangelists also preached the passion of Christ. When the Apostle Peter was giving his great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, no subject matter was more central than his plainspoken point on Christ’s passion (Acts 2:23, 24, 36).

 

     They further preached the pardon of Christ. Luke tells us that the people of Jerusalem were moved to respond to the apostles’ gospel message (Acts 2:37 – 39). Their message was not, by any means, complicated. Every sermon preached in the New Testament, in some way, centered on these three things: The person of Christ, the passion of Christ, and the pardon of Christ. The lesson for the twenty-first century Christian must be learned. Rather than bolstering our own efforts and church “strategies” for missions and outreach, let us focus on the message on Christ.  In addition to telling the world of its own sin, Christ-followers need to tell of Jesus. The Jesus who changed the world, Jesus who changed people.

     Jesus is the one by which the entire calendar is structured. In previous years, it was BC & AD – “Before Christ,” and “Anno Domini (the year of our Lord.)” Now, the world’s history is reckoned by BCE & CE – “Before the Common Era” and now, the “Common Era.” Though the name has been changed, the calendar is still structured around the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

     Jesus is so much more than a religious figure. He is alive today! When we focus our evangelistic message on him, we are following in the footsteps of the apostles and all New Testament evangelism. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The same is true of evangelism and good preaching; unless the message (and the messenger) abide in him, fruit cannot be borne.

The Evangelist’s Method

     If the believer has ever felt anxious when seeking to share the savior, he or she is not alone. Paul says it was in weakness, in fear and trembling, that he proclaimed the gospel (1 Cor. 2:1 – 4). Commentators of scripture are partially divided on Paul’s reasons for stating this. Perhaps he was admitting to his own faults, perhaps he was telling all of his opponents and detractors in Corinth (the ones who spoke ill of his physical presence and preaching) he knew of his own failures and shortcomings.

     Yet, one thing can be certain. Paul approached his calling with the utmost seriousness and sought to preach properly. In Acts 28, the scripture says Paul “expounded” to his hearers. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, the doctor tells us that Jesus “expounded” the entirety of the Old Testament to his apostles.

     The notion of exposition, or expository preaching, is the most reliable way to preach adequately and properly.    Furthermore, it is the New Testament Christian’s method of evangelism. Paul, in expounding, was simply telling his audience what the Bible says. Even Peter, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, made it a point to undergird his assertions with verses from the Old Testament. If believers are to “expound” God’s gospel, the method of evangelism will be to tell others what God has said – not what others wish for God to have said, nor do we need to embellish what the gospel is.

Far too frequently, in Christendom today, people are acting as if the gospel is not good enough to win souls. Churches attach coffee houses to sanctuaries, engage in all manner of lecture-style courses, form organizations, plans, and strategies with catchy names. Yet, many of these endeavors are seeking to add to the gospel.

     If you were to go to a fancy, Michelin-star owning restaurant, you probably will not find salt and pepper shakers on the tables. At all of the local, cheaper restaurants, we see on the tables ketchup, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, sugar, Splenda, and, of course, salt and pepper. But at a Michelin restaurant, owned by say, Gordon Ramsay, or Bobby Flay, or someone of that caliber, you will not find salt and pepper shakers. In fact, if you were to add some seasoning to their professionally prepared dish, it could be taken as an insult.

     Why would you feel the need to change their creation, the creation that they worked so very hard to create, their creation that they see as completely and unanimously perfect and complete? Christians who place addendums and epilogues on the New Testament gospel are doing the same thing!

     To those who would “add to” the gospel of Christ, Paul wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed”. (Gal. 1:6 – 8).

     In the same way, many Christians today try to “spice up” the gospel. Believers try to make things more “palatable” for their audience, but when Christians add to the gospel, they are (as one pastor said) “substituting the life changing blood of the cross for Kool-Aid, because they think it’ll taste better.” Paul plainly said, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Finally, we now arrive to perhaps the most important part of soul-winning:

The Evangelist’s Motivation

     Apostle Paul did not wish to look impressive, sound smart, or use big words. He was interested only in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Cor. 2:4, 5). Paul sought to draw his hearers into the power & presence of God. To reiterate, all Christians have a responsibility to share Christ and do the same as Paul. Yes, there are designated preachers & teachers in the church. However, all “clerical” offices of the church are meant to equip laymen and laywomen with the tools needed to evangelize (cf. Eph. 4:11, 12).

Like Jesus and his apostles, every believer should be equipped for the work of ministry and evangelism, just as Jesus was (Matt. 9:35 – 38; 1 Pet. 3:15).

     Besides the inherent expectation to evangelize, the New Testament gives several examples of evangelism. What was being practiced in the early church are blueprints and examples for us all. After the apostles Peter & John were interrogated by the same Jewish authorities who had Jesus crucified, they were charged to stop evangelizing. Yet, we read, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42). And, of course, Jesus is his own earthly ministry, and the whole of the Book of Acts, along with other New Testament writings, we have plenty of examples of evangelism.

     Finally, our motivation for evangelizing rests on a sense of urgency that should plague every believer. The heathen, in the deep and remote places of the world, perhaps, has never heard of Christ. Does such a soul enter heaven after physically dying? In light of Jesus’ sacrifice, statements, and status, one can be sure that no one outside of Jesus’ atoning work will be saved. The person who has never heard of Jesus will die in their sin. If mankind could be saved by ignorance of God and truth, the best thing God could have done would have been to leave us in our ignorance. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only salvation from sin to be had!

     How are people to hear the message of Christ if Christians do not tell them? How can Christians, who know the truth that God has allotted a time for grace, a time to return, and (eventually) a time to judge, sit idly by? The emergency of evangelism is that the burden rests on us to tell others. Thus, Apostle Paul also said, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Rom. 10:14, 15).

     Yet, how many churchgoers sit idly by, patting friends and family on the back, telling them that God loves them as they march straight into eternal damnation? Hence, there is an emergency to evangelize. Like the storms that swept the U.S. Gulf Coast this year, God’s judgement is imminent. Residents of the Gulf Coast were warned beforehand of the coming danger. Likewise, God has warned humanity of the coming danger of being outside his gift of grace. There is an emergency to witness to friends, family, and all acquaintances.

     Charles H. Spurgeon once remarked, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

     Christians are called to evangelize. It is not just the responsibility of the preacher to share the gospel; it is not just the role of the minister to warn people of God’s judgment and tell them about God’s grace. In the heart of every Christian and within the body of every congregation there is an emergency to evangelize.

-Jake Roberts is the  preacher at LeCompte Church of Christ in LeCompte, LA




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4