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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 1, 1999
The Purpose of the Church – Evangelism
Some years ago I heard a story about a fellow who was starting a new job. Like any of us might be, he was quite nervous about it. He was going to be taking on new responsibilities and meeting new people and he wanted to make a good first impression. He and his wife prayed about it before he left that morning. When he got home his wife greeted him at the door and asked how things went. He said, "Great, I got along real well with the guys, and they never even found out that I am a Christian." (Now before you judge this guy, consider that there may have been a Christian at that job that never let him know that there was already a believer there).
Now I can relate a little to this story because I tend to be nervous about meeting new people, and while I love to talk about Christ (Diane says that once I get going it is hard to shut me up – is that the qualification for a preacher? He won’t shut up?), I have a hard time getting the conversation going. When I was in Australia some years ago with a group of pastors conducting conferences around that country, we were taking a one hour flight from Sydney up to Brisbane. I ended up seated on the aisle next to a man and a woman who obviously knew each other, so I was already odd man out. Of course everyone knows that Airline travel theology teaches that God sovereignly assigns your seat so that you may witness to the person seated next to you. I was wondering how I was going to accomplish this task plus catch up on some work that needed to be done before we got to Brisbane when I noticed that the man was dressed with a white shirt and a black tie. He was carrying a small brief case that had what looked like religious tracts in it along with what looked like one of those Jr. size Bibles that cult members carry. (Everyone knows that real Christians only carry large study Bibles like mine or Gideon Pocket testaments when traveling). I thought, "Great, I had hardly any sleep in 36 hours, I still have work to do, and we land in Brisbane in less than an hour, and I am seated next to either a J.W. or a Mormon, and I don’t feel like dealing with either of them." Things went well for the first half hour for the man talked quietly to the woman and left me alone. Then it happened. His conversation hit a lull, I happened to glance up from my reading – and it was time to acknowledge his existence. Turns out the fellow was a Gideon returning to Brisbane from a national conference in Sydney. We had a great time of fellowship for the duration of the flight. I sure wish his little lapel button had been on his right side where I could have seen it earlier.
Have you ever felt like that? Today we want to try to break away some of that fear of talking to others about Christ by taking a brief look at what Scripture has to say about Evangelism. One of the purposes of the church is to Communicate New Life in Christ. We are to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ so that others may hear and believe and be saved from their sins. This is incumbent in making disciples (Matt. 28:19-20) because it is the first step in getting someone to follow Jesus. They must know the good news about Him. Jesus commanded the church to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mk. 16:16). This is a foundational purpose of the church.
This morning we are going to be looking at the Nature of Evangelism, the Message of Evangelism, and the Challenge of Evangelism.
The Nature of Evangelism
What is the nature of evangelism? What does evangelism mean? Who performs evangelism and where does it take place?
Our word, "evangelism," is a transliteration of the Greek word group euaggelizw / euaggelion (euaggelidzo/euaggelion). We also get our word, "gospel," from this same word group. It is a compound word made up from a word meaning "good," and another meaning "message." So, to evangelize is to give someone a "good message" or "bring glad tidings." The word is translated exactly that way in a number of texts. In Luke 1:19, the angel announces to Zecharias that he will have a son named John by saying, "I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.’ A little farther down in Luke, the angels say to the Shepherds upon Jesus’ birth, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people…" In the text printed in today’s bulletin it speaks of those who bring "glad tidings of good things." – Rom. 10:15. Most often the word is used in Scripture in relation to good news from God concerning his plan for mankind, the gospel message. In fact, this association is so close, that the word is often translated as ‘preach the gospel." (Lk 9:6, Acts 14:7; Rom 1:15; etc.). So the meaning of "evangelism" is simply to "tell good news / glad tidings" to others. That should not seem too hard, for it is certainly a lot better than having to bring "bad tidings," but then again, the good news that God has for us is not necessarily what men would like to hear. We will speak more about that later.
Who is it that gives the good news and when and where do they give it?
One reason for looking at this question is that people are sometimes confused by Ephesians 4:11. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers." Some people get to thinking that since God has gifted some people to be evangelists, then ordinary Christians do not have to do much in evangelism. They think the evangelists are given to do the evangelism. But is that what the Scriptures say?
We have already seen that Angels give out good news (Lk 1:19; 2:10). Romans 10:15 and Hebrews 4:2 indicate that the prophets of the Old Testament were among those who gave out God’s good news. Add John the Baptist, who is considered to be the last of the prophets, to that list. Luke 3:18 says that John "preached the gospel to the people." Of course we would expect Jesus and the Apostles, including Paul, to be among our list, and they are. But what about Philip? Acts 6:5 indicates that Philip was one of the Seven, often referred to as the first Deacons. Later in Acts we find him preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian Eunuch and all the cities between Azotus and Caesarea that he passed through (Acts 8:35,40). Philip was so much involved in evangelism that he is referred to by Luke as "Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven" in Acts 21:8. But who else is this task of evangelism given to?
Over in Acts 11: 20 we find some referred to as simply being "from Cyprus and Cyrene" who are speaking to the Greeks and preaching the Lord Jesus. Acts 8:1-4 tells us a little more about these folks. "And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him [Stephen] to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And [some] devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul [began] ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. 4 Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." These men were just part of the many who had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire because of the persecution that had risen in Jerusalem following the martyrdom of Stephen. They were not any individuals gifted in particular as evangelists. They were just people who were part of the church forced to move to new areas, and they told the new people the met about Jesus.
You see, you do not have to be a specially gifted "evangelist" to evangelize. Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:5 to "do the work of an evangelist." The same is true for us. While there are those who are especially good at evangelism all of us are to be about the work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. The evangelists of Ephesians 4 are those especially gifted by God to train the people of the church in evangelism. They hold an office in the church just as the pastor/teacher does for the purpose of "equipping the saints for the work of the ministry."
The place and time that evangelism takes place is not important. The gospel has been proclaimed morning, noon and night along rivers, lakes and streams, in jungles, forests, woods, prairies, deserts, on the streets of cities and towns, and even in churches.
Now that we know that everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord as Savior is to proclaim the gospel, we need to make sure we know what that good news is.
The Message of Evangelism
First, be aware that there are other gospels. There are other messages that sound like "good news" that are in competition with the true message of God’s good news. Paul states this very strongly in Galatians 1:6-9. "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."
These are strong words, but necessary because of the importance of following the true gospel and not some perversion of it. There are too many cult groups around for us not to take the warning seriously. These groups range from outright denial of the Bible as the source of truth, to those that subtlety twist the Scriptures, perverting the truth into lies. What a tragedy there is for those who thought they were following Jesus to find out they were following an imitation gospel. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name; and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ and thin I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." That sound like it might fit some preachers on so called "Christian" TV and Radio. Make sure that you are following the true gospel, for it is a matter of your eternal destiny.
What then is the true gospel?
In Luke 3:2 we find John the Baptist in the area of the Jordan river, "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (vs 3). John is the one who is calling for the way of the Lord to be made ready (vs 4,5,6). John called sin what it was and removed any basis for self-righteousness. He called the people to repent (turn away) from sin in a manner that genuineness of the repentance could be visibly demonstrated by it proper fruit (vs 8,9). For the general population this would include sharing with others what they had (vs. 10,11). For tax gatherers it would be honesty (vs 12,13). Soldiers were to be content with their position and not use their power to take from others (vs 14). John’s message was based on the hope of the coming of the Messiah who would baptize those who repented with the Holy Spirit and judge those who did not.
Jesus also preached the message of "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17). Jesus’ message was the same as John’s, but he expanded more on the hope of Messiah and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
We can see Jesus’ gospel message in John 3. Starting at vs. 13.
1. Jesus was bringing a message directly from heaven, because He was descended from heaven (Vs. 13). And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, [even] the Son of Man.
2. God is loving toward man and desires to save him. Eternal life would be given to those who believe on Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. ( pistuew "pisteuo" : Believe = faith = trust). This was salvation by faith, not works. (V 14-17) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.
3. There is a judgement to come to those who do not believe (vs 18). "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
4. Actions reveal the heart (vs 19-21). 19 And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
That is the gospel according to Jesus. Some other elements of the good news found in the gospel of John include: *John 3:6 – it is the good news of being born by the Spirit (cf John 14:16f, 14:26; 16:13). * John 8: 36 – it is the good news of being freed from the bondage of sin. * John 11:25,26 – it is the good news with the hope of resurrection. *John 14:1-4 – it is the good news of a hope of a place in heaven. *John 14:6 – it is the good news of hope of being with the Father for eternity.
We talked about what a Christian is and believed a few weeks ago. Get the audio tape for more detail, but The Apostle Paul summarizes key elements of evangelism’s message in 1 Cor 15:1-4.
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1. Jesus is the Christ/Messiah (v. 3) (Messiah is Son of God/God incarnate)
2. We are sinful (v. 3)
3. Jesus paid the penalty of our sin (v.3)
4. Jesus was buried and raised to life third day (vs. 4)
Verse 17-20 states that if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
5. Resurrection confirms our hope of being free from bondage of sin (v. 17)
6. We have hope of resurrection (v. 20)
What is the gospel message? A General Summary includes:
Bad news : Man is sinful and deserves death (Rom 3:23, etc.)
Good News: Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and sin (I Cor 15)
Good News: Man can get a great package deal in Jesus (and it comes only as a package)
1. Have Jesus death appropriated to his account (Rm 3:21-26)
2. Have the bondage of personal sin broken (Rm 6:17,18)
3. Have the Holy Spirit living right inside you, changing you from the inside out. Outward righteousness exhibited because of an inward reality. (Jn 16:7-13)
4. Get a great place in eternity with Jesus (Jn 14:1-4)
Bad News: God is just & will judge those not obeying Christ (Jn 3:18)
The Challenge of Evangelism
A purpose of the church is to Communicate New Life in Christ to others. The challenge of evangelism is simply to be involved with in it. Note carefully what I said. The challenge of evangelism is simply to do it.
J.I. Packer defined evangelism well in his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, – "Evangelism is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that men may put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church."
First: This means that we must evangelize according to the moving of the Holy Spirit and in His power and not in our own scheming and fleshly strength. By scheming I am referring to those who try to win their opponent through point/counterpoint in debate. That is seeking to win an argument. That is not evangelism. We are seeking to win a person to Christ by speaking the truth in love. We may contend for the faith, but we are not contentious. Evangelizing in the power of the Holy Spirit means that we are praying for the salvation of individuals, we are walking in the Spirit ourselves, and we take advantage of every opportunity to turn a conversation to Christ and lovingly talk about Him. We do have to wait for perfect conditions, only take advantage of the opportunities presented.
Second, this means that we must be accurate with what we share. We must be careful to present the whole gospel before challenging someone to put their trust in Him. This may take several conversations over quite a period of time, or maybe everything comes together at once, but be sure to share the whole message of the gospel. I am not talking about every nuance of soteriology, the theology of salvation, but present the basic facts. I have talked with too many people that had Jesus sold to them as a great fire insurance policy or a great genie who would make their lives wonderful without problems. They were told that Jesus loved them and wanted them to have an abundant, wonderful life. But they were not told that the abundant life of John 10:10 is life in the Spirit and being in relationship with God with the result of receiving persecution from an unrighteous world (Jn 16:33). Too many people want and have been sold a false Christ who seeks to fulfill their temporal and worldly desires. To come to the true Jesus for salvation you must understand who He is, what He has done, and that He is your only eternal hope. The challenge of evangelism is to present the whole gospel which includes both the positive and the negative consequences.
"Evangelism is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that men may put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church."
That is the challenge of evangelism. We must leave the results in God’s hands. To quote Packer again, "the way to tell whether in fact you are evangelizing is not to ask whether conversions are known to have resulted from your witness. It is to ask whether you are faithfully making known the gospel message."
So it is that we go about telling others of the hope we have within us. To those who are down and out, there is a way out through Jesus Christ. To those caught up in drug and alcohol abuse, we tell them that they no longer have to avoid the difficulties of life by spacing out or getting drunk. With the hope that is found in Jesus Christ you can face life full on. To those with marital and other relational problems we share with them how to work through those problems by starting with getting their relationship right with God. To those suffering physically and those who are dying we share with them a hope that is beyond this world where suffering and death will be no more. To those who are lonely and hurting, we share with them a love that is unending.
I pray you will take up the challenge of evangelism and share the hope that is within you with others. I have had a couple of gospel tracts included with the bulletin today to help get you started.
If you are here today and have not yet given your life to Christ. Today is the day of salvation. We have an open invitation at this church. Please talk with myself or one of the church leaders after the service. Don’t leave this place until you have received God’s forgiveness for your sins and know the promise of eternal life belongs to you.
Sermon Study Sheets KIDS CORNER
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term "evangelism" or "good news" is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about what the gospel means to you.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Are you nervous when you meet new people? Do you feel self-conscious when you talk to someone you don’t know about Jesus? What does "evangelism" mean? Who is supposed to tell the good news of Jesus? Who were some of the people in the Bible that declared the gospel? What does the evangelist of Eph. 4:11 do? How many "gospels" are there? What is the true gospel according to John the Baptist (Luke 3)? According to Jesus (John 3)? According to the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15)? J.I Packer said, "Evangelism is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that men may put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church." Do you agree or disagree with that statement? What is your responsibility in evangelism? Are you responsible of the results? Do you know the gospel well enough to tell it to someone else?
Sermon Notes – 8/1/1999 a.m.
"The Purpose of the Church: Evangelism"
Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:16
The Nature of Evangelism
Angels – Luke 1:19
Prophets – Hebrews 4:2
John the Baptizer – Luke 3:18
Philip – Acts 6:5; 21:8
Christians – Acts 8:1-5; 11:20
Timothy – 2 Tim. 4:5
The Message of Evangelism
Other gospels – Galatians 1:6-9
The True Gospel
The Challenge of Evangelism
J.I. Packer in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, – "Evangelism is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that men may put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church."
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