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EVANGELISM - PERSPECTIVE 1
How do we see evangelism taking place? What is our perspective when you consider some of our standard synonyms for evangelism: Outreach, Soul-Winning, Church Growth. Would we use words like Recruitment, Sales, Signees? Probably not, but we have used methodologies from the domain of sales and recruitment.
Heres how I have envisioned evangelism and outreach:
- We have information to share. We find a way to communicate it to others. One-on-one or mass broadcast. It makes little difference as long as the information gets out.
- Hearers can understand or not.
- When they understand, we ask them to make a decision Yes or No.
- If they say yes, then they move closer to us and become like us.
EVANGELISM - PERSPECTIVE 2
Lets read Acts 10
- Some background to the reading. Peter has had a dream about unclean animals. God has told Peter through the dream not to call unclean anything that God has made. Now he sends Peter to meet a man, a Gentile who is seeking God, named Cornelius. God has told Cornelius that someone is coming to see him.
- As we read through their encounter, ask yourself if the evangelism pattern weve just described takes place.
Heres what I learned from Acts 10. Feel free to disagree or revise, but we will have something to think about, right?
- Unlike our first perspective, God is very much involved. God has set the agenda. He sets Peters schedule and prompts Peter. Without Gods involvement, Peter would not be looking for Cornelius and Cornelius would not have sought out Peter.
- Next, conversation takes place: Questions are asked, story is told. Story is told and gospel is announced, experience is related and witness is given that interprets and names the experience of the other
- And then theres something else ... the Holy Spirit is involved. And the movement is toward one another. God draws the parties together.
- And instead of one becoming more like the other, they both become more like God.
Could we do Evangelism that way? Why not? What other choice do we have?
- Following God Through Open Doors What if we believed in 2010 that God has already set up appointments and encounters. What if he is working in the lives and hearts of those who are seeking him. What he needs are disciples like Peter who will get up and go. Not salesmen to beat the bushes or anglers to reel in the fish, but faithful disciples who will follow God through open doors. [Our campus ministry students started praying ... "God, you open the door and we will enter in."] Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the Spirit of Jesus said no. Instead Paul was directed to Macedonia. Where is God sending us? What doors is he opening? What doors are closing (to us?)
- Humility and Trust Such an approach means being humble. Maybe more humble that we have been. Perhaps we dont have all the answers, but we know who does. Maybe we cannot convince everyone, but we can love everyone. It means giving up control and letting go of power and coercion. (Peter and his friends were convinced, not the other way around)
We have lessons to teach, but we also have lessons to learn. Our lives and our life together has been enriched by some of the people that one would assume we are helping. Theres no distinction. If youve been a Christian for 80 years or became a believer yesterday, then God may work through you to tell the truth and live out the truth.
- Telling the Truth, Living the Truth I dont want to diminish the need for us to tell the truth. Its not something that is easily reduced to a few facts. Rather it is a rich meaningful story, a lens through which we understand ourselves and others. It is good news that cannot be made into Cliff Notes. (Remember those, boiled down stories but not the real thing.)
Thats because it has to be practiced. It is an art and we cannot tell all we know. We have to invite people to taste it and try it for themselves. Come live among us and see? (But what will they see if they live among us? Will they see Gods spirit at work? Will they see Christ leading us?)
- Open and Attentive Is our fellowship open? God was keeping the boundaries open and he gave Peter a dream to shake him into being attentive. Otherwise it would have become quite easy for Peter and the other believers to ignore that God intended for the Gentiles to become a part of their fellowship. Are we open to those that we might receive? Are we attentive to guests and others? I think we are very friendly and when we think about it we would say yes we are, but do our habits and structures support that? Peter acknowledges that his typical practice would never have put him inside Cornelius home. But he is learning, he is open to what God is doing.
- Tuned Into the Spirit We must be able to receive the spirits frequency. We have to be able to recognize it among us and in others if we are going to follow God. Its not so hard if we trust in God and incorporate his word. We must help each other too. Wisdom plays a part in this. In Acts 15, the whole assembly unpacks Peters experience. Takes a lot of prayer. Somewhere between the arid absence of spirit and the excessive baptizing of any whim or hunch is a synergy of Gods living presence and our maturing as disciples and as a community of believers.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 27 December 2009
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