- Text: Ac. 11:19–26.
- Despite our emphasis on restoring New Testament Christianity, we are not nearly as evangelistic as our brothers and sisters in the New Testament. They “preached the Good News about Jesus everywhere they went” (Ac. 8:4 NLT).
- There are many reasons for this difference, but one is that we do not see evangelism as a part of “obeying the gospel.”
- It is appropriate that we conclude these studies with this particular lesson.
- Let’s look at “sharing the faith” as an essential part of our response to the gospel.
I. Evangelism as a Part of Discipleship
- We can’t truly “obey the gospel” without evangelizing — it is a part of discipleship. Cf. Mt. 28:18–20; 2 Tim. 2:2.
- “Tell everyone God’s message. Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed” (2 Tim. 4:2 ERV).
- If we define “obeying the gospel” as rightly responding to the good news, what response is more right than telling others about the good news?
- Our assignment: “save as many as you can.”
- Sharing the faith is not a burden, but a privilege (and it should be a joy) — a natural outgrowth of our discipleship.
- “Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jer. 20:9).
- When there is a “secret” we are truly excited about, we can’t wait to share it!
- Evangelism is one of the keys to faithfulness (congregationally as well as individually) — “Our faith grows by expression. If we want to keep our faith, we must share it” (Billy Graham).
II. What Our Motivation Should Be
- Just as godly sorrow brings us to Christ, it should be evangelistic sorrow (sorrow for the lost condition of those around us) that moves us to share the faith. Cf. Jesus in Mk. 6:34.
- There is no more powerful motive force than gratitude for grace — Mk. 5:18–20.
- “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
III. Remembering What Our Work Is
- Much of our discouragement in sharing our faith comes from forgetting what our work is: sowing the seed — Mt. 13:1–9,18–23; 1 Cor. 3:6.
- We are messengers — our task is delivering the message faithfully from sender to the intended recipients.
- Abilities and opportunities vary, but surely we will want to do something in evangelism — Rom. 12:4,5. Cf. Jas. 3:1.
- We should be able to explain to others what convinced us the gospel is true — we had our doubts; we can explain what overcame those doubts — 1 Pt. 3:15. Cf. 1 Thess. 1:8–10.
IV. A Few Recommendations
- Ideologically, we need to get out of our “filter bubble” and “echo chamber.”
- Nowadays, we have less and less (significant) communication with anyone except those we already agree with.
- We view nearly everything from a non-negotiable “us-vs-them” perspective.
- We are right; they are wrong. We are the good guys; they are the bad guys.
- We have no need to listen — they are the ones who need to change.
- “We” don’t even communicate directly with “them” — we only “listen” to them through the intermediary of sources we agree with, and we only “talk” to them by denouncing them to those we agree with.
- Our disengagement has damaged our evangelism — we don’t know (or deal with) anybody except “folks like us.”
- Culturally, we need to engage, empathize with, and understand those who do not share our background and culture.
- Distinctive cultures are beautiful — it will be a tragedy if those are ever lost.
- But if we’re serious about evangelism, we’re going to have to get out of our comfort zone and learn to speak the “language” of those who are lost — linguistically, to be sure, but also culturally.
- People will not allow us to influence them if they sense we are unwilling to be influenced by them.
- Listening must be something more than pretended — we must actually listen with a view to understanding and even learning.
- Evangelistically, we need to go where the lost are (rather than expecting them to come to us) — Ac. 8:4.
- We need to get out of our “zone defense.”
- Shame on us if we think, “People know where our church building is; if they want the gospel, they can come to our services and listen.” (And we need to be as active in local evangelism as we are in foreign evangelism.)
- We need to sow the seed of the kingdom everywhere, not just where it is easy — 2 Tim. 4:2. Cf. 1 Cor. 16:8,9.
- There is no more important part of obeying the gospel than sharing the gospel.
- For those forgiven, evangelism is not optional. If we bottle up our faith and keep quiet about it, as if we were ashamed, our faith will die.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save . . .
Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter, feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.
Fanny J. Crosby (1869)