In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul includes evangelists among the list of those who God has given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Accordingly, I have designed my summer hours to work on Saturdays to make myself available for evangelism with members from my church (who work Monday to Friday). I have noticed that simply going out and spreading the Gospel is a significant encouragement for them. I thank God for placing me in a church that values the Gospel so much so that they would hire a summer evangelist. I also thank God for placing me among a fellowship of believers who are not only wanting but willing to grow in their faithfulness to spread the Gospel.
I am thankful for the fellowship of co-labouring in the Gospel with Jim S. and Nick M. this past Saturday. I strongly encourage this kind of fellowship. Due to busy schedules, these times will likely be sparse, but I highly recommend Christians to take time to fellowship this way (if at all possible). Such partnership does not have to be bus stop evangelism, but it ought to be centered in spreading the Gospel somewhere, somehow, to someone. I have noticed that many mature Christians in solid evangelical churches enjoy the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, prayer, singing, preaching, Bible studies and talk about spiritual things, etc. These are all great ways to fellowship and I highly recommend that all Christians enjoy these glorious means of grace (they are precious indeed). In addition to these forms of fellowship, there is the fellowship of co-labouring in the Gospel. This can occur as an organized fellowship (just as prayer meetings and Bible studies are usually at set times for that specific purpose) or it can just happen naturally when two Christians are out-and-about (i.e., Christians may naturally start talking about the Bible when they are together).
In Philippians, we learn about partnering in the Gospel through prayer, giving money/gifts and simply going and preaching the Gospel. In this post, I am specifically referring to the fellowship of spreading the Gospel with other workers (fellow believers). A quick overview of Acts 13-28 and the Pauline epistles reveals that Paul always seemed to have co-workers with him. Now, obviously our situation is different than Paul’s. Most of us are not traveling into different countries and starting new church plants. Most of us do not have the extensive training ministry that Paul had. Everyone’s situation is different. Who knows what this may look like in your context? Possibly it could mean two moms going to the park with their kids, praying for an opportunity to meet another person (and not just to chat about the weather). Or an older more mature mother could invite one of the younger ladies from the church to join her when she takes her kids to the park (or any place/event where she might meet people who have time to talk). Keep in mind that it is not only for pastors, evangelists and teachers to train. Matthew 28:19-20 carries with it an ongoing command for all disciples to be making disciples and teaching them “to observe all that I have commanded you” (even evangelism).
Now, I am not the apostle Paul (obviously!), nor can I offer his kind of training (not even close!), but by God’s grace, the Lord can use even me (and you too) to encourage and help train his church. By God’s grace, when people come out with me, they seem to be encouraged. I hope they also learn (or re-learn) something too, even if it is a small thing. This kind of encouragement and training inclines his people to faithfulness in evangelism. This kind of encouragement is invaluable for our churches, who are often discouraged and lacking faith in the power and will of God to save many in Canada! Indeed, encouragement is vital to the health of Christ’s church. I know that I need it, and I thank God that my c0-workers provide encouragement (and training) for me as well.
Jim joined me in the morning and Nick in the afternoon. I was encouraged by them, I learned from them, and I asked them to share about their experience of what it was like to go out with me. They were both glad to serve me (and hopefully you too) in taking the time to do this. I highly recommend that you read them. What you find below are some reflections by Jim S., followed by some remarks by Nick M. Lastly, Nick retells the story of a great conversation he had Saturday afternoon. I especially like his description of the Gospel as “reverse the curse.” I will put this approach in my evangelistic toolbox.
Reflections from Jim
Most of the times that I have shared the gospel has been with people that I had developed some kind of relationship with – coworkers, friends of friends, etc. In the last year, these opportunities have been very rare. This is largely because my coworkers are Christians at my new job. Cold evangelism has not been something that I have done much of (probably four times in my life) because of sinful fear, natural weakness, and simply not knowing how.
I think everyone agrees that starting is the hardest part. I’ve never had too much trouble sharing the gospel with someone who is ready and willing to hear it. Getting to that point with a stranger has seemed like an insurmountable chasm of social manoeuvring that I was not able to comprehend or attempt. Now, this is pretty close to what Paul says to start a conversation: “Hi. My name is Paul. I’m out talking to people about the gospel today. Do you have a minute to talk until your bus arrives?” There. Hardest part over. Chasm bridged. Of the four people that we tried to engage on Saturday, three said, “yes.” The usual follow-up question is, “do you have a religious background?” Now the presentation can be tailored to their beliefs. That was a huge benefit from our time out on Saturday: a system for getting people engaged.
I promised Paul that I would not talk about how great of an evangelist he is. However, another thing I found encouraging was how spectacular his gospel presentation was not. Listening to some people share the gospel can be like listening to a great musician and despairing of ever being of any possible use yourself. Watching Paul depend on the Lord and faithfully speak of Christ without any particular worldly eloquence demonstrated that this is not something that is required only of ultra-gifted Christians. It is something that I need to continue making an effort to incorporate into my own life and can expect to do successfully.
Reflections from Nick
At first I was very nervous. People in our culture can sometimes be very standoffish which makes it awkward to go up to a complete stranger and start a conversation. However, God gives grace. Most people will talk when you approach them in a friendly manner.
The Spirit really calmed my fears. I just thought about the work I was doing and the glory that it can bring to God. For me, it was a really exciting experience once we started speaking with people.
After we were finished I was full of joy. I told this to Paul and he said, “It’s the joy that comes from obeying our God!” This is very true. Although evangelism can be very scary, through the Spirit, the joys can overcome the fears. I’m glad I went witnessing on Saturday.
Nick preaches the Gospel – “a reverse of the curse”
While Paul was assisting a man with finding the appropriate bus stop I decided to go across the street and speak to a woman who was sitting on the step outside a church. The woman was listening to her MP3 player so as I approached her I made it obvious that I wanted to talk to her by making eye contact, reaching out to hand her a 10 commandments penny, and smiling. She took off her headphones and greeted me with a, “hello”. I introduced myself to her and told her what Paul and I were doing. I asked her if I could talk to her about Jesus and she agreed.
I began by asking if she knew anything about Christianity. She responded by saying, “Well, my parents are Christian; I am too, I think…” I said, “That’s great” and then asked her if she could tell me what Christianity was all about. She said, “It’s really about values; you know, as a Christian you value the things that the Bible says.” I said, “That’s great. Yes, the Bible tells God’s people what they ought to value; many of those things are different than the values of the world. However, the core of Christianity isn’t just about values; it’s about what God has done in and through Jesus Christ.” I asked another question, “When you look at the world around you do you think that there is something wrong?” She answered in the affirmative. I said, “There is tragedy all around us. There is suffering and death. We just heard on the news about Michael Jackson who lived a tragic life and died a tragic death!” She responded, “You’re right. Our world is messed up.” Then I asked, “So what do you think is wrong with our world? Why do you think our world is like this?” She said that she didn’t really know. I told her, “I want to tell you what the Bible says about our problem and what God has done to save us.”
So I explained, “From the beginning God originally created our world good. God made man to live in fellowship with himself, to enjoy his good creation and experience great blessing in God’s presence.” I asked, “Have you ever heard of Adam and Eve.” She laughed and said, “Yes!” “Well” I said, “God created Adam and Eve to live in fellowship with him but they rebelled against him. Because of this God cursed our world; this is why our world is the way it is; our sin caused it.” She seemed to be taking it in. I continued, “God did not desire to leave us in his curse. He called a man named Abraham and promised him that he would create a people who would experience his blessing instead of his curse.” I asked, “When Jesus came to earth do you know what his message was?” She said, “Jesus was all about teaching people to love one another. By doing this people can find life.” I responded, “Jesus did teach his followers to love one another. In fact, that was a very important part of his mission. But Jesus’ ministry was about something much more than just that. Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom of God.”
I asked, “Do you know what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God?” She said she didn’t so I explained, “The kingdom of God basically means ‘the reverse of the curse’. Although man deserves to be under God’s curse he sent Jesus to bring his blessing. Whenever Jesus healed someone, made the blind see, cast out demons, or raised the dead he was showing that his mission was to reverse the curse that had rightly fallen on us.” I asked, “Does this sound like good news?” She laughed and said, “Yes!” I told her that there was more, “One day Jesus is going to return to judge the living and the dead. He will come to defeat all evil once and for all. But this raises a problem for you and me. If the world was filled with people just like me and just like you would the world be a better place?” She thought about it for a second and then said no. “That’s right. We are evil. You are evil. And if Jesus is coming to judge all evil then we ourselves need to be done away with. We don’t deserve God’s blessing, we deserve his eternal curse in hell. But Jesus did something so that we could become a part of his kingdom. He went to the cross. He was our substitute. He entered into darkness so that we wouldn’t have to. He, even though he wasn’t a sinner, was treated like a sinner on our behalf. He bore the curse that we deserve so that we could go free and enter into his kingdom community. Jesus died as our ransom; then, Jesus rose from the dead. He broke the curse once and for all. The Bible says, “He loosed the pangs of death”. All this was done so that people just like us could experience God’s blessing instead of his curse; so that we could have fellowship with God, receive his Spirit, and have the hope of a world to come without any pain or sorrow.”
I handed her a bible and I told her to read the gospel of Mark. I told that God commands her to repent. I emphasized that this was not an option but that she needs to pledge her allegiance to Jesus so that she could be forgiven.