Roger and Luke were sitting down for coffee to discuss ministry. Roger was a missionary overseas and Luke was a pastor. At one point during the conversation Luke asked Roger what he found most discouraging about his ministry.
His answer was surprising and revealing. Roger told him that the most discouraging aspect of ministry in his area is the other missionaries.
He went on to describe in detail how so many western churches send people to their area for mission work but in reality they are just on a vacation. They collect a check, get the benefits, and relax at the beach. Their engagement with the locals is minimal and when they do—they engage them with a critical spirit. These “missionaries” take up space at church and are really not ready to serve.
What is the problem here?
The apostle Paul seems like someone who took the initiative. If we could imagine Paul we would think of a guy who would parachute into a town and talk to everyone about Jesus before lunch. He was a guy who fearlessly and faithfully got it done.
We might be tempted to think that this was just how Paul was wired. After all, he was the guy who reminded Timothy not to fear men but to be bold with the truth.
But what if Paul wasn’t naturally bold? What if he was supernaturally bold? What if he knew that he was weak and as a result prayed for God’s help? What if Paul was just like us? Then we would be encouraged and instructed by his praying.
Have you ever wondered why evangelism seemed to come so naturally to you when you were first converted to Christ but then over time became increasingly difficult? This is the common experience of Christians. Rico Tice has some answers and help along this way. And Rico is apt to help us. He is a minister at All Souls Langham Place in London and the Founder of Christianity Explored Ministries. He has served as an evangelist who equips Christians for gospel ministry for decades.
In his book Honest Evangelism Rico intends to be honest with us. He shoots straight: we don’t like getting hit. He is saying “hit” metaphorically of course. His point is we don’t like the negative pinch that witnessing brings. It causes a strain on relationships, brings awkwardness with strangers, and it could even bring about more extreme unpleasant consequences. However, says Tice, most people don’t like the gospel. They don’t agree with what the Bible says. There are going to be strains on relationships. Therefore, if we are going to be faithful with the gospel we must be willing to cross, what Tice calls, “the painline”.
This sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it?
Exactly. Rico would say that now we are onto something.
“….whenever I tell someone the gospel message, and get hit (metaphorically speaking) there’s a temptation either stop saying anything, or to change what I’m saying. I know there’s a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the …
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10.27)
Have you ever been overcome with despair as you wonder how to get through to your friend who is presently a stubborn professing Christian? Have you looked into the eyes of an unbeliever and asked yourself how you might bring them to Christ? Have you wondered how you might appeal to them and somehow have them follow the Savior? If you are a pastor, have you sat in your study and wondered how you might help people to “get it”?
To one degree or another all believers have shared these thoughts. What happens next, however, is of vital importance. What do we do about it?
According to recent reports the fastest growing religion in the world is Islam. It is also leading the way in the western countries like the US. This presents a unique challenge for us a Christians; not only do we have a different religion but we have a very different culture to engage. As the Muslim population in our cities increase it is accompanied by the culture that envelopes Islam.
As Christians we are by in large pretty ignorant about Islam and its adherents. To make matters a bit more complex, many Christians are a bit unsettled by terrorist events and therefore increasingly xenophobic of their Muslim neighbors.
Acknowledging the xenophobia, cultural distance, and religious ignorance, John Klaassen aims to help Christians and whole churches understand more about he variety of Muslims living in the West, and to reach to them with the gospel. Klaassen is up for the task having served as a missionary and presently as Professor of Global Studies at Boyce College in KY.
In his short little book (100 pages), Engaging with Muslims I think Klaassen hits his mark. He helps us to better understand Muslims and then provides some basics for engaging them with the gospel.
He provides helpful intel on why and how to pursue a friendship with a Muslim. And then he walks you through how to not be a culturally insensitive American (I’m sure he was referring to Americans) when you spend time together. He provides practical social etiquette such as hand shaking, not eating …
How can I get better at evangelism? As a pastor I love this question. It comes from a heart that understands the priority of the great commission while also feeling the conviction for unfaithfulness to it. When I think through evangelism and the privileged responsibility to boast in Christ, there are two primary areas that I have had success focusing on: savoring Christ and slaying self.
We talk about what we love. Whatever has our heart also has our mouths. You might say, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”. Therefore, if we want to change the content of what we are saying we must fill our heart with something different. In other words, if we want to boast in Christ then we must find ourselves increasingly impressed with Christ!
Do you remember when you were a new Christian? Did anyone honestly have to tell you to tell others about Jesus? Of course not. It was a natural as breathing. Nobody could keep you quiet. Why is this? It is because your heart was filled with the joy of the new birth. The burden of sin was so freshly removed, the cross was so vividly in view, and the promises of God so freshly adorned your formerly hopeless mind. Evangelism was a reflex.
Faithful evangelism is so crucial to the health of a church. The gospel that is grasped is given away. Most Christians agree and even want to see this happen but often struggle with implementing it in their lives. In this post I want to provide a few practical, immediate things that you can do to foster more evangelistic faithfulness.
Grapple with the Great Commission. Read Matthew 28:18-20 again. Who is in the passage? Jesus and his disciples. What are the disciples to do? Make and train disciples. What do they train them on? Obedience to Jesus’ commands. Does this “Great Commission” fall in the category of a command from King Jesus? Yes. Are you going to obey Jesus?
Identify 3-4 people for encouragement and accountability. Think of a few people who you know from church that you know will pray for you, keep you accountable, and are bold enough to exhort you if you go into default chicken mode. Get together as friends (ideally 3-4 people) and identify unbelievers that you know, have contact with or would like to see come to Christ. Consider neighbors, coworkers, family members, people you see frequently, or even places where random people are that you can talk to (i.e. public transit). Write down the names, make a plan for gospel opportunities, and then pray for one another. Follow up periodically for encouragement and accountability. Consider what this looks like if it multiples: groups of 3-4 praying for and pursuing 9-12 people turns into 15-20 …
Recently I’ve been thinking about the power of the gospel. As I do, I’ve been critiquing my own heart, “Do I really believe this?”
Remember, apart from Christ, humanity is not afflicted with a case of the spiritual sniffles, but rather is spiritually dead, utterly unresponsive to the things of God. Ephesians reminds us of this vividly:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
So what are you, the evangelist, the Christian, to do? Talk to people about Jesus. The power is neither in you nor the sinner, but in the gospel!
Sometimes we may get caught in a bit of a trap of thinking about God simply in broad, non-precise terms. For example, we may think and pray about how God has saved us from our sins and promises to bring us to dwell with him forever.
This is a beautiful and infinitely glorious truth! But there is more.
As Christians when we think of God we think in Trinitarian terms. There is one God, one being that is God. At the same time, within the one being that is God there are distinct, coequal, coeternal persons. The distinct persons are: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. Jesus, the Son, lived and died for us, purchasing our redemption. The Holy Spirit was sent to apply what the Son has accomplished according to the what the Father has decreed. Look, you just went from a “Costco sample sized” prayer or theological thought to a 48 oz ribeye!
If you are attending The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando next week you may want to make plans to attend this panel discussion and Q & A on Evangelism that I will be sitting on.
I have found that when Christians make a point to talk about evangelism there is usually something that I can take away that is very helpful and immediately applicable. I would anticipate the same from this meeting. Plan to join Tim, Rebecca, Rico, and me from 8-8:55am in Wekiwa 3-5 on Wednesday April 15th.
There is more information available here.