I'M A CHRISTIAN...NOW WHAT?
This is a paper that I wrote recently for an Evangelism class at Liberty University. It is based on a study from the book 'Evangelism Is' by Dave Early and David Wheeler ACADEMIC PRESS, NASHVILLE TENNESSEE 2010 chapters 15-18 and Appendix 3. I believe it can give us all much to think about.
The textbook summarizes evangelism in the early church quite nicely. It gives 5 main points of principle that set a foundation for us: (1) The early church maintained a constant presence in the communities they were called to serve. They actually met in the temple courts! Talk about bold! (2) They depended on the consuming power of the Holy Spirit, (much as our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church do today). (3) They maintained a consistent message regarding Jesus. They refused to back down no matter how they were intimidated. When thrown into prison they allowed God to do His work in evangelizing. (4) They possessed a ‘convicting boldness’. After all, the rulers had just murdered the Messiah who they had been looking for for 42 generations since the time of Abraham (Matt.1:17). The early believers did not back off from giving the Salvation/Gospel message regarding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. (5) Their courage was contagious. God uses miracles for one purpose only; to prove that He is the One and only true, living God. The original disciples used this to make God’s point. When people witnessed these things they came to realize that Jesus truly was the Messiah. The original disciples were not concerned with church numbers; they simply let God do His work and through multiplication rather than addition the message spread like wild fire.
Jesus approached evangelism without fear. He knew that He was the only way for both the Jews and the Gentiles to be redeemed of their sinful nature. Understandably, in the beginning, they were not comfortable evangelizing to the non-Jews. Eventually, after being taught by example, the disciples began to see things His way. Also, because of Jesus’ example they even overcame their prejudices against the Samaritans who were not considered to be ‘real Jews’.
My perspective on the modern church is as follows: I am blessed to have a pretty broad perspective regarding today’s church. Our Christian website, though small (currently 428 members) gives me a sampling view of the world-wide Body of Christ. About 90% of our members are part of the persecuted church (Rev. 2:8-11). At the threat of imprisonment and even death they quietly visit the site in order to download Scriptural resources and to smuggle huge chunks of the Bible. These friends epitomize the fervent nature of the early church. They come quietly and undetected to the site in order to download Scriptures (so as not to disclose their source of Scriptural resources to the local authorities who would ban the site in that region) and they faithfully form local house churches, in order to study God’s Word.
Sadly, what I have seen in the United States is more of a ‘seeker friendly’ church that is more interested in the ‘bottom line’ than caring about either evangelizing or being a ‘Philadelphia’ church (Rev. 3:10). I have a burden for the broken, homeless ones. I spent 3 years ministering to homeless people where I received a taste of their plight. I was homeless myself for about 3 months from July of 2009 through September of that same year. During that time I lived in and visited several Christian and non-Christian homeless shelters. I found the homeless population to be a rich mission field. Often our human pride requires us to be completely broken before we turn to the One who truly cares, God.
I saw my personal circumstances of homelessness as an opportunity to minister. In my own brokenness I developed a very close relationship with Father during that time. He taught me how to see people with His eyes instead of my own eyes, feel with His heart instead of my own hardened heart. He gave me many opportunities to plow the ground and plant seeds for others to water later. Sometimes I was able to be the one who watered and saw those little sprouts turn into healthy, fruit bearing trees. Two became Pastors who began outreach congregations in other states (multiplication principle). Others are living healthy, productive lives as Christians. They too have been blessed to see God heal the sick of spiritual, emotional and physical maladies. They have also been able to have a part in delivering others from alcohol and drug addictions. It all starts with teaching Jesus’ blood and getting to know God as a person who is our best friend and the ultimate wise, loving parent. My favorite words to hear after God uses me to deliver a miracle of healing is “Wow! How did you do that Mark?!” My favorite words to speak at those moments are “I didn’t do that, there is nothing special about me except that I know Jesus, would you like to know Him too?” If they or others around them say ‘yes’ then we begin a study in the Book of John. I am a staunch believer that God wants all believers to do what Jesus did and what He taught the early believers to do (Mark 16:17-18, John 14:12-13, Luke 9: 1-2, Matt. 10:7-8, 1 John 5:14-15, Acts 1:8).
Mostly what I see today in the United States is apathetic Pastors and congregations. Not all, but most, have the attitude of “Yeah, yeah, minister to the poor, yeah we get it but it just isn’t us”. I can often feel God’s tears as He grieves for the lack of love shown to His children.
In the interest of space I can only give one example out of dozens of what I call ‘anti-evangelism’: I know a man named Steve. He is a late middle aged man who, 20 years ago, was addicted to methamphetamine. He gives God all the glory for delivering him from this drug. Today he is a productive citizen living a clean life. He has all of the earmarks of a good Christian man but he has been ‘de-churched’ and refuses to fellowship in a church building. Here is the reason that he gives: About 5 years ago, after being clean for 15 years, he began worshiping at a local congregation. After a few weeks of attendance the Pastor called him and asked if Steve would meet him and some of the board members of the church for breakfast the next morning, their treat. Steve was elated! He felt that he had finally found a Christian family. He met with them at the restaurant as planned.
After they had finished eating, the Pastor announced to Steve; “We have found out that you were addicted to hard drugs a few years ago. I’m sorry Steve but the Bible teaches that we cannot fellowship with you, please do not return to church”. To say the least, Steve was devastated. This Pastor violated several Scriptural principles. Space does not allow me to go into that. The point is that, from my perspective, this ‘anti-evangelism’ is way too common but Father will have His way (Joel 2:28, Rev. 21:4).
Please do not get the idea that this discourages me, quite the opposite. God is working in Steve and untold millions of others to draw them to Him. Through prayer and patience many faithful Christian disciple/evangelists are gently working with Steve to encourage Steve and all other ‘de-churched’ people regarding the ways of Jesus rather than the legalistic and self-righteous ways that many modern day ‘Christian Pharisees’ view God’s work. No doubt, in time, God will get His work done in spite of this prideful phenomenon that seems to be so common right now. I read ahead, our team wins (Rev. 21:4)!