Amplifying Evangelism—A Call to Share the Faith (26-3)

Amplifying Evangelism—A Call to Share the Faith
Ed Stetzer

I have been writing about evangelism a lot lately, and have asked others to do the same. That there is a pronounced lack of evangelist fervor in the West is self-evident to most. I am hopeful my new opportunity at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton will allow me in the years ahead to speak into many conversations about sharing our faith.

Yesterday the Washington Post ran my article, “Call yourself a Christian? Start talking about Jesus Christ.” Here’s an excerpt:

It’s essential to understand that, regardless of our personal comfort level, we are called to share our faith because Christianity is a missionary faith. Despite the change in our culture and the way our faith is regarded, Christians are commanded to tell people about Jesus. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus called fishermen as his first disciples and told them he would make them “fishers of men.”

His disciples are still called to be fishers of men.

Even in our multi-faith environment, this calling should not be offensive to those of other faiths or no faith at all. Evangelism does not mean coercion. We can and should respect each other and strive for tolerance across varying beliefs, but that does not require pretending those differences do not exist. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that Christianity should be propagated.

It isn’t necessary for every Christian to rent a stadium to proclaim the gospel to thousands. Most Christians can gain a hearing for the gospel while exchanging life stories at the coffee shop, taking a meal to a hurting family or standing for justice in an unjust world.

What evangelism requires is that when we care for a friend or speak out for a cause, we tell others that our faith is the reason. We tell them the good news that was told to us.
Evidence that our culture remains open to discussions about faith is seen in the fact that a major, secular media outlet published such an article. (And that there are already 205 comments as of this writing.)

The ongoing Amplifying Evangelism series on this blog highlights the basis for and examples of evangelistic by followers of Jesus. This week, Lon Allison related what he had learned about hospitality and evangelism from a trip to the Middle East.

First, people are people. Skin color and cultural diversity doesn’t mean there is nothing in common. In reality, the really important things are common to us all. In a TED talk in 1998, Billy Graham said that wherever he traveled he found that people are concerned about suffering, evil, and death. Those three commonalities aren’t the sum total, but are merely a few of the fears we share in common.

Second, the kind of hospitality evangelism we practiced won’t work nearly as well in our ‘individualistic’ culture, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. I’m going to have more coffee and iced tea ready this Spring and Summer in my neighborhood. I’m going to just drop by my neighbors’ houses more often. I’m asking God for conversations that last more than five minutes and the chance to share the common deep things of life a bit more.

And oh, how I long for courage and wisdom to gently and lovingly speak of my love for the living Jesus.

Kevin Harney suggests an easy approach churches can take: redirect existing inward-focused ministries to include people in the community.

Churches, by nature, are selfish. Because the church is made up of people, and people are fundamentally self-serving, the church ends up expending much of its time, money, and energy on those who are already part of the family of God.

I am not seeking to be critical or mean spirited, I am just reporting what I see and experience everywhere I travel and talk with church people. As a matter of fact, when I say this to church groups, and I do on a regular basis, they never push back! They realize that it is true.
Now, here is the good news: since most churches are very concerned about taking care of themselves, they have developed a lot of good ministries to serve those who are part of their particular congregation. Even small churches often have plenty going on in order to care for, serve, minister to, educate, and inspire their own constituents.

Some years ago, I began thinking about the amazing things that could happen if local churches would vector their time, creativity, resources, and ministries out into the community. I call this the “Two-Degree Rule.” The idea is that we would take the effective and plentiful things we do for ourselves and simply direct these same things out into our community.

Kim Reisman, Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism of the World Methodist Council, wrote about the role of love in evangelism.

The message to the church at Ephesus in John’s Revelation is significant in this context: “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance…But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:2, 4, HCSB).

First love is a powerful thing. Many people can vividly remember the first time they set eyes on the person who would become their spouse or their first date or first kiss. First love can take one’s breath away. The strongest marriages are those in which the partners remain in touch with the power of that first love, building on it and deepening it through time. What holds true with the emotional holds true with the spiritual as well; anyone who has experienced the enthusiasm and passion of a new believer can attest to that. New believers are hard to contain! The strongest believers are those who remain in touch with the power of their first love, building on it and deepening it through time.

In my work in evangelism, I have the opportunity to worship in many different contexts—traditional, contemporary, emergent; both the variety and the similarity are remarkable. Worship is meaningful at many levels: the praise, sacrifice, supplication, and intercession offered to God, the shared sacrament. An additional crucial but often overlooked aspect is the consistent opportunity worship affords to announce the story of faith through music, prayer, and the proclaimed word.

For believers, hearing the Story is an opportunity to remember their spiritual first love, to reinforce and deepen faith, to appropriate it to daily life. For the nonreligious visitor, hearing the Story is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work towards faith and a spiritual first love experience.

The above article, “Amplifying Evangelism—A Call to Share the Faith” was written by Ed Stetzer. The article was excerpted from www.christianitytoday.com web site. June 2016.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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