Visions from the Vincents

September 29, 2008

Evangelism Mythbuster #5

Filed under: baptism,Evangelism — Joshua @ 5:22 pm
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5. The goal of Evangelism is a decision. The bible clearly communicates that the  goal of evangelism is discipleship.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20 is commonly referred to as the Great Commission (too often it is also the great omission of the church!).  There it says,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This verse can be used for missions,–taking the gospel across geographic, cultural, or linguistic boundaries– or evangelism–to proclaim the gospel to those with fewer boundaries (both are shortened definitions that should be expanded).  Jesus leaves his disciples in the book of Matthew with these final words, enlisting them to herald the Kingdom that Jesus ushered in with his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Many place the emphasis of this verse on baptizing, thinking it some great service to baptize a lot of people.  Don’t get me wrong, I am intentionally baptistic, because I believe in regenerate church membership and find conversion to be an amazing thing to, which baptism points.  I would never take anything away from the significance and meaning of this divine drama.  And of course, we must decide to follow Jesus.  But, what is more important than a decision, or a Baptism, or filling out a membership card, is that one is presently following Christ.  That is the mark and goal of an authentic decision.  Discipleship is the goal of the Great Commission.  This is evident clearly in the English and even more clearly in the Greek. The focus of evangelism rests in ongoing Christian vitality.  So, where their is no fruit, there probably is no root.  Instead, the plant is probably severed from life, life that is only found in real authentic faith in Christ.

Implications

Individually, this means that practically, our focus should be much more intense than looking for a decision.  When we evangelize we should be looking to the whole person.  We need to see in what ways we can develop long lasting relationships in which we can cultivate the seeds we plant.

As a church, it means that you should be building into your corporate lives a mechanism to invest in the lives of those P.W.E.s (post-water experiences).  You should make it clear to those you baptize the faithful church membership is a natural out working of true grace.  To love God is to love his people, and that it is in this atmosphere that Christians are discipled best.  Moreover, one-on-one disicpleship should be encouraged and provided for christians young and old (in his case, especially young).

Evangelism Mythbuster #4

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 2:13 am
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4. We don’t evangelize because we are fearful.  This is actually both true and untrue. If you are anything like me, you have felt that queasy feeling in the bottom of your stomach that rushes to your head when you want to tell someone of Christ.  We all have been scared of telling the truth about Christ.  I know there are a number of reason we can fear evangelism.  We can fear physical harm like the Christians in much of the New Testament faced.  We can fear being made fun of, or compromising an opportunity to rise up the latter in a job or social circle.  We can fear costing ourselves a relationship with a family member or a friend.  We can fear not knowing enough to talk to someone smarter than us who is a non-christian, or of messing it all up.  All of these are fears of telling the truth.

Where does this fear come from!

But, I think this fear usually finds it’s source in one of two places.

One is not understanding the grace and love of God. God loves for you to speak true words of him.  You don’t have to have deep debates over doctrine to be a faithful evangelist.  You need to know that man has sinned against his good God and that he needs to trust in Jesus Christ, who died for their sins to be saved.  Nor, do you have to have a perfect life.  Whitfield was a horrible example of a husband.  He neglected her to preach and teach.  But, God still used him.

A second reason is that we fear evangelism is that we don’t realize that we don’t evangelize to bring us favor with God.  We evangelize because we have received God’s favor in Christ Jesus. Consider the love a grandparent has for their grandchildren.   We have all seen the way they talk and act concerning their grandchildren.  Some can’t close their wallets because they have so many pictures of their grand kids.  And, they can’t have a conversation with somebody without talking about how advanced their grandchild is. Sometimes, the way that they talk to them when they are around them is kind of embarrassing, but they don’t care.  Why?  Because, they value that child so much.  They have no fear in expressing their affection for that child.  I know this is an imperfect analogy.  But, many of us need to become gripped afresh with the awe inspiring love of our Creator God for us as he displayed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of a God-Man born as a baby in a stable.  We need to really meditate on the excellencies of the salvation that has been won for us.  Paul Little says that to evangelize effectively, we must first get our hearts happy before God.  Part of this includes, I think, realizing that Evangelism isn’t something we do as a job for God.  Instead, it is  something that comes out of our hearts being happy before him.

Conclusion

So, if you are fearful of evangelizing, it could be because your heart needs to be happy before God.  How can we do this?  Spend time in prayer.  Ask God to reveal to you why you have lost joy in him.  Ask him to show you if there is some sin that is inhibiting your happiness in God and keeping you from evangelism.  Meet together with other members of your church in small groups or one-on-one discipleship to hold you accountable and to help remind you of God’s calling on your life to tell the truth to others.  The main point is to be intentional about your relationship with Christ and others.

September 26, 2008

Evangelsim Mythbuster #3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joshua @ 5:50 pm

3. Mowing someone’s yard isn’t evangelism. Evangelism is, without question (though some have and do question it), centered in proclaiming the “good news.” (Okay, so I know this picture may be somewhat offensive, and maybe trite, but it just seemed to fit).

Lifestyle Evangelism?

This statement might sound really funny to you.  Who would call mowing someone’s yard evangelism?  Some of you have probably heard this referred to as lifestyle evangelism.  Your lifestyle is crucial to affective evangelism.  Everyone’s life tells a story. As N.T. Wright has said, we are all in the process of writing our own narratives with the ink of our lives.   Our lifestyle matters.

Is that enough?

But, evangelism means “proclaiming the good news.”  So, we can do all of the good works we want too.  We can love people for decades and work really hard doing it, but never actually evangelize them.  Why?  Because we have never explained what the good news is and how that person must respond to it.

What is this “good news?”

The Old Testament is primarily about the fact that the first man sinned against God who is both good and just, and the rest of the Old Testament shows that every man after that sinned against God. As a result, God punishes the guilty, as any just judge would.  But he also shows mercy, to some in the OT.  He always promises his people salvation from sin and its consequences someday.  Can you imagine thousands of years of waiting for deliverance?  That is why the people of God rejoice that Jesus Christ was sent as our Savior.  He came to answer the countless prophecies pointing to one who would come and gather the people of God from amongst all nations.  He took that wrath and judgment that was rightly ours.  He was crucified on  a Roman cross, not for anything he had done, but for your sins and my sins.  In the ultimate act of power, God raised him from the dead and seated him on the throne of the Universe.  Anyone that makes him king in his or her life will be saved from facing an infinite God’s eternal wrath.  Friends this is the truth that we must tell.  This happened in history and this is the truth we all need to be talking about.  There is no more important truth in your life than what you do about this truth.  This gospel both converts and sanctifies.

What if someone doesn’t believe the gospel?

In Richard Dawkins new tome on atheism, he asks the provocative question, “what is so special about belief that it determines whether or not someone is ‘saved’ or not?”  If you are coming from a worldview developed by a 19th century scientist, and if you presuppose that all that exists is that which can be monitored in a test tube, then you will never get to the significance of things we all know exist but can’t account for, such as: beauty, love, thoughts, and belief.  But, if you are honest, you know there are all sorts of things we can’t test, but we do believe in.  God has spoken to us and given us a much clearer and coherent understanding of the universe than Darwin.  God says that we must believe in Christ and make him our king if we are going to be saved.  If you are a non-Christian, I hope I have been both gracious and clear in this explanation.  It doesn’t take an episode of Mythbusters to prove that you will die one day.  I want you to know that one day you will die, and you will be judged by God.  You will come before the judgment seat of Christ as it says in Phil 2:11 and elsewhere and you will have to give an account.  Are you ready for that?  Or have you already tested whether or not the soul of man continues after his body dies?

What does this means for Christians?

Christians, we have to know the good news ourselves.  We need to know content.  Yes we need to live lives that are reflective of the gospel, but if we don’t ever express the content of the message, we don’t offer the thing that brings life.  We have to speak of what Christ literally did for us on a real cross in history to fulfill the promises made by the God of Israel.

Is sharing my testimony evangelism?

So, sharing your testimony is good, but it is not evangelism.  It is one great bridge to evangelism, but if you don’t speak of the work of Jesus diing in history and on a Cross, and, if you don’t move towards the imperative to change their direction in life because Chrsit is now king, it is not the gospel or evangelism.

The family is often forgotten!

Sometimes lifestyle evangelism is the default in the family.    Make sure that you are living right before them.  But, also make sure that each day you tirelessly speak of what Christ has done in dying for your sins.  The gospel isn’t just that we are to be moral people, it is that Christ makes us innocent, he took our punishment, and we are called to follow his example with our lives.  So, when correcting or rebuking, make sure that you are doing so in light of the actual event and meaning of Christ’s death on the Cross.

September 25, 2008

Mythbuster #2

Filed under: Evangelism,Uncategorized — Joshua @ 1:22 am
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2. Not everyone is called to evangelize. Actually, all Christians are called to Evangelize.  Maybe you have been taught that your job is to invite people to church and the pastor’s job is to invite them to Christ.

What about verses about “evangelists?”

In places in the Bible, we find that some are particularly gifted or called in this area.  In Ephesians 4:11, we see that there is a special gift to the church of an evangelist.  And, in 2 Timothy 4:5, pastors are called to do the work of evangelists.  So, you may think that evangelism is something that only a select few do, and that because it is not your gift, you don’t bother with it.

Consider these verses

The Bible is clear that we are all to “proclaim the gospel.”  In fact, this is the reason that God has called you to himself.  Look at 1 Pet 2:9, “but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Who is Peter speaking to here?  He is speaking to Christians undergoing persecution.  Notice he doesn’t say, “Some of you have been called to evangelize because you have that gift, or all those of you who have some kind of special Bible training proclaim the excellencies of him who called you.”  He says, we are all called to proclaim the excellencies of God in Christ.

Does evangelism have to take place from a pulpit?

This includes fisherman, teachers, accountants, homemakers, or any other category of person you can concieve of.  God calls all Christians to evangelism.  That proclamation isn’t necessarily from a pulpit either.  In fact, at the time this was written, I would venture to say that is virtually a gaurantee.   This proclamation happens as mothers raise their children, as a plant worker eats lunch with an unbelieving coworker, or as a Doctor offers consolation to someone suffering a terminal illness.

Isn’t this risky?

Are there risks in doing this?  Yes!  And, I don’t want to belittle the ever-growing risks of faithfull evangelism.  Risk itself is not a new developement in the lives of Christians though.  Remember Peter’s audience faced sporadic, but severe persecutions for proclaiming the faith.  All of the Disciples suffered immensly and most were martyred for the faith.  In Acts 4 we find a similar situation.  There, the dispersed Christians flee for their lives while proclaiming the gospel.  The point is that risky evangelism is the only true kind of evangelism.  That is one of the costs of true discipleship.  Another way of saying that is, Christians, this is what you were created and recreated to do.

September 24, 2008

Evangelism Mythbuster #1

Filed under: Evangelism — Joshua @ 1:08 am
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George Whitfield, the famous preacher of the First Great Awakening of the 1700s, is considered by most to be one of the greatest evangelists this world has ever known.  Why?  Probably the same reason this artist has him donning a halo.  Some estimated that Whitfield preached to 80,000 people at one time.  Ben Franklin, a contemporary of Whitfield, heard of Whitfield’s greatness with skepticism.  He was no Christian but wanted to see. He said, “It seemed as if the whole world were growing religious.  He estimated that Whitfield could preach to 30,000 people and have them hear his voice.  As far as I know, Franklin never trusted in Jesus for salvation, but he did become a friend of Whitfield of whom he said, “he is a good man and I love him.”  I don’t know about you, but it is encouraging for me to know that despite the sheer magnitude of Whitfield’s ministry, even he had those whom he did not see come to Christ.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not reveling in the fact that Franklin didn’t come to Christ (as far as I know).  The thought is actually terrifying!  I do feel that I can relate to the fact that even Whitfield had his disappointments that he had to lift up to God.

Defining our terms
What is evangelism though?   Historically, this hasn’t always been so clear, though we don’t have space here to pursue some of the past and present attempts to reinvent the term.  The word evangelism comes from the Greek word  gospel, or “good news.”  So, to evangelize is literally to “proclaim the gospel.”  It is not so hard to see that “good news” is central to being an Evangelist.  According to the Bible, the “good news” climaxes in Jesus Christ, who claimed in John 14:6 to be, “the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him.”  To be honest, I am no George Whitfield, and teaching on the topic of evangelism is intimidating, because I believe all of us feel that we fall short of being faithful in this area, including me.  It is for this reason that I think it is critical that we consider the question: Who is going to tell the truth (to follow Will Metzger’s helpful work)?

Myth Busters

I think that many of us are prevented from evangelism because of certain myths that we buy into concerning this God-given, glorious, attribute.  That’s right attribute!  I think that it is so natural to being a Christian that is actually a property of the new birth given to all true believers.  We reflect God’s image of speaking to his greatness.  I plan on following the method of a show Cari and I love to watch, myth-busters.  On this show, two scientists test commonly held myths to see if they are actually true.  For instance, they had an episode on sharks where they dealt with the myth of sharks seeking out human prey.  So, they took their friend Harry out into shark infested waters and dropped him in and started a timer to see if the sharks would eat him.  I am just kidding.  You’ll be happy to know that Sharks don’t hunt humans.  Sometimes they simply mistake humans for wounded animals.  I let you trust that one.  I want to topically apply some common beliefs I believe Satan uses to stifle Evangelism and bust them with what the Bible actually says concerning these myths. I believe that biblical evangelism begins with God and flows with joy out of the heart of Christians.  So, this will be the first myth of the series of evangelism myth busters.

1. Evangelism begins with us.  In reality, Evangelism begins with God!
2 Cor 5:18-20 tells us that it is God that is reconciling men to himself.   God is the great reconciler.  In John 10, we are told that Christ is looking for his lost sheep and that he will retrieve all of them.  And remember, it is God who sent his Son, the living Word that he might save us.  God is the first mover and great Evangelist.  He is the substance of the gospel that we trust in and the one acting on our behalf.  And, he has given his Spirit to us to point both us and others to Christ.  Notice, when the Spirit is poured out in Acts, they immediately speak the gospel of what God has done, this is the point of the Spirit–to point to Christ.  This is the reason we have been given the Spirit.  So, God is reconciling men to himself.  Therefore, when we evangelize, we aren’t actually doing anything new or alone.  God has been working on the salvation of all who believe since before the world began in setting aside his Son, Christ, to die for our sins.  More than that, he is still working, reconciling men to himself.  And, Christians are called to join him in this grand venture in which he has been involved since before time began.  I trust that he will succeed.  And, my life finds its greatness significance when I take part in something that is infinitely greater than myself, and nothing exceeds the the greatness of proclaiming the goodness of a great God and thus taking part in the ushering in of his kingdom!

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