Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ category

Witnesses Not Stargazers

February 27, 2012

Tim Keller got me reading John Stott’s Commentary on Acts, and man I’m glad he did. This past week, I preached on the kingdom of God from Acts 1, and I was created encouraged and helped by the insight and commentary of Stott, especially on Christ’s ascension and the mandate to witness in the power of the Holy Spirit. Commenting on Acts 1:9-11, John Stott wrote:

“There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the ends of the earth. It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven which had received Jesus, but outwards in compassion to the lost world which needed him. It is the same for us. Curiosity about heaven and its occupants, speculation about prophecy and its fulfillment, and obsession with ‘time and seasons’ – these are aberrations which distract us from our God-given mission. Christ will come personally, visibly, and gloriously. Of that we have been assured. Other details can wait. Meanwhile, we have work to do in the power of the Spirit” (The Message of Acts, 51).

It is not for us to know the times and seasons the Father has fixed by His authority. But it is for us to know the power of the Spirit in testifying to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in word and deed. Those longing for the return of Christ are not those with prophecy charts in their hands but the gospel on their lips.

Jeff Vanderstelt on the Many Ways of Sharing Your Faith

February 3, 2012

One of the best training resources available via Soma Communities is learning the “story-formed way” (go here and here for downloadable resources).  In this video interview with Scott Thomas of Acts 29, Jeff Vanderstelt shares on the many ways of sharing the gospel, beginning with gospel fluency and confidence in the gospel’s work in your own life–past, present, and future.  This is really help and totally unlike the evangelism training I received years ago.  Check it out.

Gary Rohrmayer on Engaging in More Spiritual Conversations

January 31, 2012

Gary Rohrmayer has written a helpful little book (76 pages) called Spiritual Conversations: Creating and Sustaining Them without Being a Jerk. In it, he provides a lot of practical helps to engaging unbelievers and overcoming evangelistic entropy.  Below are five ideas for increasing spiritual conversations with people in your life (from chapter 7):

1.  Make It a Priority

It is important for mission ally minded followers of Jesus to think strategically about their conversations throughout the week. If you don’t plan it or make room for it, the likelihood is that it is not going to get done. . . . If leaders are going to be serious about connecting with people, they need to uncover at least 5 new contacts a day, equaling about 35 a week, which will lead to 3 “sit-downs” for a meaningful conversation.

2.  Pray for Opportunities

Include in your praying . . .
* that God draws them to Himself (John 6:44)
* that they seek to know God (Acts 17:27)
* that they believe the Scriptures (1 Thessalonians 1:4-7)
* that Satan is bound from blinding them to the truth (Matthew 13:19)
* that the Holy Spirit works in them (John 16:8-13)
* that God sends someone to lead them to Christ (Matthew 9:37-38)
* that they believe in Christ as Savior (John 5:24)
* that they turn from sin (Acts 17:30-31; Acts 3:19)
* that they confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10)
* that they yield all to follow Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15)
* that they take root and grow in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7

3.  Get Out and Into Your Community

Look at your calendar and see what fills your week. I encourage spiritual leaders to think about tithing their time to community service and interaction (about six hours a week). . . . Networking is more about join in than it is about just hanging out in coffee shops, bookstores, and restaurants.

4.  Establish Routines and Cultivate Relationships

Beyond the tithe of your time in your community I encourage leaders to establish routines and patterns so that you build a relational presence with business owners and servers. Think strategically about all your interactions and pray that you can be a redemptive influence within that social network. A couple of telltale signs of this are, “Do people know your name?” or “Do you know people’s names?”

5. Be Available to Those Around You

As pastors and leaders we need to be spiritually sensitive to those Divine opportunities where God can use us in His redemptive plan. . . . There are times when we need to push beyond weariness and busyness and allow God to interrupt our agendas and schedules.

Questions to consider:

* How many contacts does it take for you to get a meaningful sit-down with a person?
* When is the last time you asked God to open new doors of opportunity for you?
* If you were to tithe to community service and interaction what would your work week look like?
* What relational commitments are you making in your community?
* What places do you frequent in your community?
* How do you overcome spiritual insensitivity created by your weariness and busyness?


Steps to Sharing the Gospel with Your Family During Christmas

December 8, 2011

Since Crossway made it free for Kindle, I’ve been browsing through Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Your Family Members, Your Close Friends, and Others You Know Well.  This is an incredibly important topic as I have come to find it harder to share the gospel with family members as it is with an unknown person in my community.  I imagine this is true for most if not all Christians.

In the conclusion of his introductory chapter, Newman provides four steps for sharing the gospel with your family. I though they were very thoughtful and practical.  Check them out.

1.  If you don’t already have one, develop a system for prayer for your family.  Perhaps you can set aside a section in a prayer journal.

2.  Begin your prayers for your family with thanksgiving.  This may be more difficult for some people than others.  Regardless of your family’s well-being, thank God for the family you have and all the accompanying benefits you can identify.

3.  You may need to include prayers of confession as well–confession of your lack of love for your family, your idolatry of control in trying to change them, your reliance on your ability to convict them of their sin instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to do that, your coldheartedness, haughtiness, and self-righteousness, etc.  Ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light of truth on your darkness of sin.

4.  If you haven’t already done so, “come out of the closet” as a Christian to your family.  Pray for gentle words and a gracious demeanor mixed with bold confidence. . . . Aim for your announcement to be informational rather than evangelistic.  You can trust God to open evangelistic doors later.

#3 nailed me.

One thing I might add, especially if you have a large family: look for opportunities in the course of the day when it is not so hectic where you might be able to enjoy a sustained conversation with a family member who is not a Christian.  In a large group setting, conversations tend to stay on a superficial level, but if you can get alone with one or two family members for 10-15 minutes or longer, you will have a greater opportunity of magnetizing the conversation to the gospel and how Jesus has changed, and is changing your life.

The Gospel Alphabet: E is for Evangelism

October 2, 2011

A | B | C | D

In his book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, J.I. Packer has a chapter entitled “The Gospel as of First Importance.”  In that chapter, Packer discusses the pastoral and formational applications of the Gospel.  Many are familiar with the quote from Tim Keller that “the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life; it is the A through Z of the Christian life.”  Packer writes,

“In that spirit we offer the following ‘Gospel Alphabet’–twenty-six pastoral and formative reasons why the Gospel must retain primacy as the content of Christian education” (108).

This week, we come to the letter “E”.

E is for Evangelism

The Gospel is food for believers.  But it is also the only saving medicine for those who have not yet believed.  And we are compelled by the love of Christ to declare this Good News to all people.  St. Francis of Assissi told his friars not to preach unless they had permission to do so.  But, he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” Francis’s words have often been paraphrased along these lines: “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary.”  The fact is that words are necessary, every time.  We are always witnesses to the Gospel (Acts 1:8) and, as witnesses, we shall be called upon to testify.  When we are, we must be sure to get the message of the Gospel right for there are many counterfeit “Gospels” in the world.


Sow the Seed!

August 22, 2011

Last Thursday, I took my boys in the bike trailer to our local public library to read books together.  The library is one of those “third places” I’m realizing that can be a good way to meet people in my community.  Like neighborhood parks, the library provides opportunity for my kids to meet other kids, and for me to meet other young parents.  My hope has been to meet such families to share the gospel with them and invite them into our gospel community.

As I was reading to my boys, another boy showed up who seemed interested in the book, so I pulled up a chair and invited him.  His parents came afterward and started a conversation.  Within a few minutes of talking with the father of this child (Riley), he quickly realized where I was going.  How did he know this?  Because that was exactly where he was going, too!  The more I thought about it, the more I realized how rare it is to live in a city where 95% of the population are unchurched to have someone engage me with the gospel.

But then I thought about it in an even bigger picture.  How many people in my lifetime have ever engaged me in a conversation for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Jesus with me?  In my 32 years, I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened.  I mentioned this on Twitter and immediately had replies from people who said they have NEVER had someone engage them in conversation to share the gospel.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to informally poll my Google+ friends and ask them the same question.  30 people responded, and here are the results:


J.C. Ryle on a Sinner’s Prayer

August 3, 2011

One of my favorite devotional authors is J.C. Ryle, and I have often gone to his trilogy of books, namely Practical Religion, Old Paths, and The Upper Room for personal encouragement and rebuke.  In his chapter on prayer, Ryle addresses a sinner who has yet to come to Christ in repentance and faith. Consider his counsel:

When does the building of the Spirit really begin to appear in a man’s heart? It begins, so far as we can judge, when he first pours out his heart to God in prayer.

If you desire salvation, and want to know what to do, I advise you to go this very day to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first private place you can find, and earnestly and heartily entreat him in prayer to save your soul.

Tell him that you have heard that he receives sinners, and has said, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” Tell him that you are a poor vile sinner, and that you come to him on the faith of his own invitation. Tell him you put yourself wholly and entirely in his hands; that you feel vile and helpless, and hopeless in yourself: and that except he saves you, you have no hope of being saved at all. Beseech him to deliver you from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin. Beseech him to pardon you, and wash you in his own blood. Beseech him to give you a new heart, and plant the Holy Spirit in Your Soul. Beseech him to give you grace and faith and will and power to be his disciple and servant from this day forever. Oh, reader, go this very day, and tell these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really are in earnest about your soul.

Tell him in your own way, and your own words. If a doctor came to see you when sick you could tell him where you felt pain. If your soul feels its disease indeed, you can surely find something to tell Christ.

Doubt not his willingness to save you, because you are a sinner. It is Christ’s office to save sinners. He says himself, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

Wait not because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Waiting comes from the devil. just as you are, go to Christ. The worse you are, the more need you have to apply to him. You will never mend yourself by staying away.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you. Just as a mother understands the first lispings of her infant, so does the blessed Saviour understand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see a meaning in a groan.

Despair not because you do not get an answer immediately. While you are speaking, Jesus is listening. If he delays an answer, it is only for wise reasons, and to try if you are in earnest. The answer will surely come. Though it tarry, wait for it. It will surely come.

Oh, reader, if you have any desire to, be saved, remember the advice I have given you this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily, and you shall be saved.

I am one, like many of you, who have a strong reaction to the way sinners are counseled in praying the “sinner’s prayer.”  However, a reaction from the wrong-headed decisional regeneration should not lead us to counsel sinners away from praying!  In calling sinners to repent and believe, and to express that in prayer to God, I think J.C. Ryle’s counsel is a good one to follow.

Reaching the Lives of Those Who Have Wasted It

July 1, 2011

Eleven years ago, John Piper boldly proclaimed these words:

I was a college student then, about to embark on my life as someone called to proclaim the gospel Jesus Christ. Never had I imagined then that I would be living in the communities comprised of tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.

I live and minister 15 minutes from the place John Piper speaks (Punta Gorda, FL).  I have never been in an area that is more challenging to advance the gospel.  In a city of 165,000 people, I am told that we have less than 6,000 people who attend church on any given Sunday, meaning that roughly 5% of our city consider themselves a part of any church.

A large percentage of our city is comprised of retired people who have moved down from New England or states like Michigan or Pennsylvania.  They also bring with them their New England religion, or lack thereof.  They are a people whose hearts have been hardened through the years, jaded and disillusioned by nominal Christianity, and fortify their tragic lifestyle with gates, fences, and security systems.  They have everything this life could offer them, as Piper explains, and they will soon stand before God for a life they have wasted.

It is tempting to believe there is no hope for such people.  After all, how many old people are converted to Christ?  If they are “happy” with all that life offers them, why would they need sea shells, boats, golf courses, AND Jesus?  And all the obstacles that must be overcome to simply have access to these people . . . it seems virtually impossible.  YET, we do not have the luxury to think this way when it comes to the gospel.  We cannot live and act as though the power of the gospel is somehow incapable of overcoming the obstinate and rebellious ways of man.  We cannot surrender the Great Commission because we might have to go the extra mile or make a greater sacrifice in order to bring the gospel to those who think they don’t need it.

What a testimony it would be if God did a sovereign work among those who have realized they have wasted their lives?! What a testimony it would be if they came to treasure Jesus more than their retirement, more than their toys, more than their life of comfort and ease?  What if several became missionaries to their own people who lay aside their shell collection and instead spend their time sowing the good seed of the gospel?

Because Christ is risen, I am filled with hope for my city and Southwest Florida. Though I have very little in common with most of these people, I want to reach them with the gospel that they might treasure Jesus. I want their to be a video for Jesus’ fame that shows the lives of those who have wasted it who are now giving it away for the glory of God.  Yes, I want the tragedy of their lives to become a triumph of the gospel.

We Must Endeavor to Save Some

March 17, 2011

“If the kingdom is ever to come to our Lord–and come it will–it never will come through a few ministers, missionaries, or evangelists preaching the Gospel.  It must come through everyone one of you preaching it, in the shop and by the fireside, when walking abroad and when sitting in the chamber.  You must all of you be always endeavoring to “save some.” . . . Make this your resolve, every one of you, that if men perish they shall not perish for lack of your prayers, not for want of your earnest and loving instructions.  God give you grace, each one of you, to resolve by all means to save some, and then to carry out your resolution!”

~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, 248-49.

Necessary Evangelism

March 8, 2011

Is the call to evangelize the lost something that all Christians are expected to engage in?  This is a question that was recently raised to me.  I certainly don’t think it will look the same way with each person, but I do believe we are all called to witness for Christ and live evangelistic lives commending the gospel to others in word and deed.  As I reflected on this, four verses began to surface in my thinking about how Paul shows the necessity of evangelism:

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Romans 1:14-15

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Romans 9:2-3

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
1 Corinthians 9:16

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20

Meditating on these verses, I believe, will cause those who think evangelism is optional to consider otherwise.  Think with me on these verses just for a minute.


What Every Unbeliever Needs to Hear

February 6, 2011

Every unbeliever needs someone who will lovingly tell them the truth about a real God, a real hell . . . and real atonement found in the cross of Jesus Christ.

HT :: Trevin Wax

4 Evangelistic Motivations for Paul: The Prospect of Eternity

February 1, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently shared with my church family how we are to be working together with God on mission (2 Cor. 6:1).  In that message, I laid out four evangelistic motivations from 2 Cor. 5.  The first evangelistic motivation for Paul is the prospect of eternity.

The Prospect of Eternity

In the first nine verses of 2 Corinthians 5, Paul describes our earthly bodies as tents and compares them to a building “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  Just a few verses later, Paul talks about  being “home in the body” and “home with the Lord.”  Clearly, Paul has eternity in view, and compares this life as but a temporary matter compared to eternity with God in our heavenly dwelling.

What are the evangelistic implications of having the prospects of eternity before you?  How does that affect how you view people?  As we teach our children, God gave us souls that will never die, though this tent (earthly body) is destroyed.  At some point, the pegs will loosen, the violent storm of death with overtake this earthly tent.  What will happen then?  As a tentmaker himself, Paul knew well of the frailty and temporary nature of a tent.  Even as he worked in his trade, with each new tent, Paul no doubt had on his mind the lives of men and women around him who did not know God.

It is very easy to go through the day with little thought about eternity.  We are caught up in the moment, rarely ever with the ability to have a sustained reflection on how this day fits in the scheme of our lifetime, much less eternity.  But when we have the prospect of eternity in view, we look at people differently.  We don’t look at them and see rich or poor, black or white, friendly or mean.  We look at them as saved or lost, forgiven or condemned, adopted or rebels.  And when this happens, eternal realities invade our thoughts and motivations so that we are left with yearning and burden for the “tent city” (if I may use that illustration) soon facing the prevailing the winds of death.

So the first motivation of Paul as seen in 2 Cor. 5:1-9 is the prospect of eternity in light of our human frailty. People think they are invincible; God says they are but a breath.  People think their lives have no eternal consequence and therefore should live for the moment; Christians feel the weight of eternity and plead for their souls of those who cannot plead for themselves.  People want to have conversations that settle on the surface; Christians settle only for the gospel penetrating hearts to the very core of their being.  And this because God has told us that being home in this tent is not our final dwelling place.  We are pilgrims, ambassadors, citizens of another kingdom–a kingdom that is established in the hearts of men when the eternal truths of the gospel are embraced by those who have found eternal life in the death-defeating death of Jesus Christ.

Fellow believer, our conversations ought to be singed with the prospect of eternity.  If we have nothing weightier to say than what people hear on television or read in the papers, then we are only driving the stakes of their earthly tent into the very soil in which their body will lay in judgment.  It is a wake up call for us who face a world making their bed in the deception of their self-determination.  May we who long to be “at home with the Lord find our usefulness in working together with God in bringing sinners safely home by way of the cross.

Working Together with God

January 31, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a message entitled “Working Together with God.”  I have long enjoyed meditating on 2 Corinthians 5, but unfortunately, my reading typically ended with 2 Cor. 5:21.  It is the next verse that has arrested my thinking of late, and as you probably know, there were no chapter divisions originally in the biblical text.  The following verse reads:

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).

Is it not an awesome thing to think about–that God would somehow allow us to partner with him in working out his purposes of redemption as His ambassadors?!  I have had the privilege of working with some amazing people in my life, but everything changes in perspective when I realize that I have been called to join the one who works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11) and perfectly completes every good work He begins (Phil. 1:6).

As Christians, this unique lifetime privilege is sealed with the unfailing promise already fulfilled and purchased by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of that, Jesus does not simply leave us with a plan of salvation, but he provides us the power of salvation in the gospel (Rom. 1:16) which, when spoken, calls forth dead people to new life.  We have been given the protection and provision that God is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).  We have before us the perspective that Christ will build His church (Matt. 16:18), and nothing, absolutely nothing, can thwart the omnipotent voice of our Shepherd who calls out His own by name (John 10:27-28).

We are working with God in the most important, eternally significant thing in the whole world, and this work warrants not only the sweat of our brow but the sacrifice of our lives.  Apparently, it was a concern for Paul that the Corinthian believers would receive the grace of God in vain, and context leads us to believe that a principle way of determining this is through their participation (or lack thereof) in working with God as those entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation.  Paul was a great example that the grace he received was not useless:

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).

Unlike anything else, the gospel of God’s grace produces laborers who endure and persevere, not because of inner will-power or self-determination, but because they have operating within them the same power that raised Jesus from the dead bringing renewal and abiding hope.

In my message a couple of weeks ago, I discovered four evangelistic motivations in 2 Cor. 5 that help us not to receive the grace of God in vain but rather spur us onward in our “working together with God”.  In the coming days, I hope to share them with you as an encouragement in your efforts to make Christ known as one entrusted with the one message capable to raise the dead, change the world, and satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.

Have You Viewed “The Story”?

September 9, 2010

My friend Dr. George Robinson put me onto this back in February, and I am really encouraged to see it get a lot of traction in recent months.  The Story is a tool focused on the big picture of the Bible–Scripture’s metanarrative–the story of Scripture laid out in creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.  For a long time, gospel presentations were exclusively categorical and based on systematic theology (God, man, sin, Christ, response), such as in the Roman Road, Evangelism Explosion, and Four Spiritual Laws.  What are finding today, however, is that the starting point has changed with an ever-increasing disconnect between the church and post-Christian society.

I recall one time David Wells saying in a conference that we cannot start with John 3:16 in sharing the gospel today; instead, we must start with Genesis 1:1.  And that is what The Story does.  Taking the approach of biblical theology, The Story doesn’t just talk about God, sin, and Christ, but it helps answer the questions of why and how things came to be the way they are today.  A postmodern culture with fewer and fewer people understanding the nature of God and sin due to their pluralistic worldview need a new grid or framework through which the gospel can be rightly understood, and biblical theology through the story of redemptive history explains that.

That is why I am encouraged to see gospel literature like 2 Ways 2 Live and The Story come out in recent years.  They are helping to connect the story of the gospel to the stories of people’s lives by showing them the overarching story of God in Scripture.  Take a moment and read The Story for yourself and watch the video below where men like David Platt, Alvin Reid, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, Scott Thomas, Elliot Grudem, and George Robinson share why they are encouraged by this new evangelistic tool.

Cloaking Cowardice with Custom-Made Bushels

March 31, 2010

Don’t know who wrote this at Ligonier, but this is excellent:

Martin Luther declared that a new Christian must withdraw from the world for a season, but upon reaching spiritual maturity he must embrace the world as the theater of redemptive activity. His message was, “Away with the cowards who flee from the real world and cloak their cowardice with piety.”

Perhaps the greatest need for our day is the need to market Jesus Christ. The church must become expert in marketing, not in the slick Madison Avenue style but in an aggressive, yet dignified way. The marketplace is where we belong. It is where needy people are found. It is not enough for the church to hang a welcome sign on her door. We dare not wait for the world to come to us.

God never intended the Christian community to be a ghetto. The church is not a reservation. Yet the pervasive style of modern evangelicalism is that of a reservation or a ghetto. We can argue that it is the secularist agenda to put us there and keep us there. But such arguments won’t do. We are there because it is safe and comfortable to be there.

The secularist hates the light and is quite willing to offer us a bushel for it. Shame on us when we buy custom-made bushels and willingly place them over our candles. To hide the light or to restrict it to a reservation is to do violence to the gospel and to grieve the Holy Ghost.

Church-as-reservation, custom-made bushels, doing violence to the gospel, cloaking cowardice instead of embracing the world as God’s theater of redemptive activity–I think we can all respond with “Ouch!” and “Oh me!”  But seriously, this little devotional raises some huge issues in the life of the church as well as our personal lives that call for repentance and faith.  May God help us to never to hide from His mission in our man-made bushels while grieving the Holy Spirit!