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As a church, we continue our reading through Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney, focusing on chapter six, Evangelism, this week. Dan Glosson, former Karis Church intern, wrote down his thoughts after reading this chapter. Dan and his wife, Lori, recently welcomed their daughter, Violet, into the family.
“Only the sheer rapture of being lost in worship of God is as exhilarating and intoxicating as telling someone about Jesus Christ.” - Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
When I first began working at Schilb Antiquarian, I spent many work days feeling nervous. I was learning to photograph rare books that sometimes date as far back as mid-to-late 15th century. Needless to say, 500-year-old books aren't usually in the best of condition, meaning I have to be very careful when handling them. Additionally, in order to help sell the item, I need to know what specifically to photograph despite not knowing French, Latin, German, or whatever language the text might be. To add another layer of complexity and anxiety, I rarely see the same book twice and each book can be radically different from another. So, I spent the first six months or so just trying not to break anything and hoping I was getting something right.
As time went on, I became familiar with certain time periods, authors, genres, types of binding, and such. Additionally, I grew more confident with how to handle each book and what photos I could take without damaging it. Today I am over a year removed from the early fear and anxiety of the “unknown.” With time, practice, and discipline, I am able to not only efficiently do my job, but I get to marvel at the incredible titles that we acquire. I’m rarely concerned with the method of photographing anymore. My primary focus is no longer on me and my fears, it’s on the contents of what I’m working with.
Over time, the more we share what Christ has done, the more confident we grow. We are able to speak and serve with a boldness that comes only from the Holy Spirit. We eventually stop fearing people and their reactions and instead start loving people and expecting God’s power.
PARTING WORDS AND A LASTING EXPECTATION
Jesus’ last words to His disciples are often referred to as “The Great Commission," where He said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
This commission is for all of us who place our faith in Jesus as our only hope of salvation from sin and death. Jesus very literally commands all believers, regardless of context, skill set, or personality type, to faithfully proclaim the message of the gospel.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
It is commonplace for nerves or anxiety to well up in our hearts and minds when we discuss evangelism. We do this for a myriad of reasons. I believe a few of the primary ones to be the following:
Fear: We don’t think we measure up. We fear the reaction of others. Our thoughts sound like, “I’m just going to screw it up;” “Every time I try to share my faith it just becomes awkward…;” or “I am afraid they won’t talk to me anymore…”
Unequipped: We don’t know what to say or who to say it to. We don’t really know how to articulate the gospel. Some of us would say, “I’m no good with words.”
Time: There are far too many responsibilities and relationships we need to manage, and, therefore, we don’t have time to prioritize evangelism on top of a plethora of other pressing needs.
We are called to be faithful with this life-giving message of hope. God supplies everything we need! He is sovereign over our life circumstances and relationships. He is our motivation, our courage, our wisdom, our comfort. Consider how He lovingly addresses our struggles and excuses:
LOCKED AND LOADED
1. God has given life to your dead heart and by His grace, through faith, He has saved you from sin and death (Ephesians 2:1-10). Not only that but He has promised to send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17; 15:26-27).
2. Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus calls Scripture the “Sword of the Spirit.” This means we are equipped when, with God’s help, we study, meditate and on memorize God’s Word.
3. “In whatever context the Lord places us to live our lives, He calls us to find ways to fulfill the Great Commission there, however limiting the context might be.” Dr. Whitney is speaking directly to the issue of time. Again he writes, “Notice in Colossians 4:5-6 the terminology indicating that disciplined thought and planning should go into evangelism: ‘Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.’”
Jesus is with you, Karis. He is faithful! Let’s strive together to be obedient to His loving expectation of us to hear, learn and teach the gospel.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What are your personal expectations as it relates to evangelism? How do you see yourself fulfilling the Great Commission?
2. Do you believe that God is with you? Do you trust Him to guide you as you seek to share the gospel with others? Why or why not?
3. What does serving and functioning in your Missional Community (MC) look like? In what ways has your MC impacted its region or area of emphasis? Ask God to build strong bonds in your MC as you collectively work to proclaim the gospel.
Are They Ripe for the Gospel? I’ll never forget something that James MacDonald said at an Acts 29 Quarterly last year. He said that we spend too much time in “green apple” evangelism. What did he mean? We have people we’ve befriended, that we want to become Christians, and we hang out with them, asking God to give us opportunities to share the gospel. We often do this for a very long time. Now, there’s certainly a place for that, right? Of course! But, MacDonald argues that those are often “green apples.” They’re not ripe. And all around us, there are people who are ripe, who want to hear about Jesus. And we miss them because we’re only hanging out with the ones who aren’t. And the red apples are usually not as cool or desirable as the green ones. Who around us are we missing who are ripe for the gospel? Jesus said the fields are ready for harvest. Let’s look and reap.