"Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness...and that signs and wonders may be done..."
“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
A casual reading of the Gospels reveals that the apostle Peter was not exactly “Mr. Bold” when it came to his witness for Jesus. The Gospels record him both cursing and even denying that he knew the Lord.
The above description of Peter and John’s boldness was during their first arrest. After their second arrest, their first petition in prayer was, “Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…and that signs and wonders may be done…” (Acts 4:29). The text gives us two reasons for this newfound boldness; 1.) “…Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit...” (Acts 4:8) 2.) “…these men have been with Jesus…” (Acts 4:13).
How high does your boldness meter read when it comes to evangelism? Much has been published lately about the need for Christians to be sensitive, kind, tolerant, respectful and aware of the “felt needs” of unbelievers. We’ve replaced the word “preaching” with “sharing” and “proclaiming” with “dialog” and we’re encouraged to ask questions and not be so quick with answers. All of these cautions are well, good and needed but where is our boldness? Much is being said about Jesus being a need-meeter and not so much about him being a sin-forgiver. Selfish people don’t like being told to deny themselves and sinners resent the word repent. Hence, the need for boldness. Perhaps we need to cry out to God fervently, as did the apostles, to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we could speak with increasing boldness (Also, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt, as they did, to spend more time with Jesus!).
Marcus is a YWAM’er serving in North East India. Recently suffering from sickness he went to the hospital. While in the waiting room he prayed for one young child to be healed and he was. Then he prayed for another woman in the waiting area and she was healed as well. He then went to the attending receptionist and asked if he could make an announcement on the loudspeaker to the whole hospital that if anyone wanted to be healed they could come to the waiting room. Now that’s boldness!
Several months ago Marcus led a team of Nepali youth into a village near Darjeeling . He then advertised a meeting promising the power of God would show up! That evening a drug addict came to the meeting, came under God’s convicting power, repented and gave his life to the Lord. The next week when the team was delayed in coming to their scheduled meeting this one-week-old convert showed up with his friends. When they realized the team wasn’t coming, this new believer took his friends to the neighbor’s house to pray for a paralytic who was instantly healed. Others were converted and this former drug addict is now in Southern India going to a Bible school and training to become a pastor!
Marcia is a Brazilian YWAM’er working among indigenous tribes in the Amazon region. When she discovered, to her shock, that infanticide was being practiced among certain tribal groups on their handicapped children she stood up and became a voice for the voiceless. Marcia and her friends decided to take on the whole nation to protect the lives of these precious little ones. The story isn’t over and the fight is not finished but because of Marcia’s courage hundreds of children are alive today who would be otherwise without her God-inspired boldness.
In 2001 Argentina was in a major political crisis. A group of King’s Kids prayed. 40 of them marched directly to the Presidential Palace requesting a meeting with President. Amused Palace guards told the kids it was impossible as the President was meeting with the President of Panama. The kids continued to pray. Suddenly the doors opened and the President received all 40 kids into his office. One of them (a nine year old) said, “Mr. President, I am praying for you. If you repent of your sins and give your heart to Jesus, the Lord who loves you very much will forgive you…”. Another said, “Mr. President, God wants to remove the roots of bitterness that you have against your father, so that you can forgive him.” The President allowed the kids to pray for him for 20 minutes. The King’s Kids boldness and faith made a way for the Gospel to be proclaimed.
Boldness in the Bible is not a synonym for being obnoxious, pushy, or rude around non-Christians. Nor does it mean a lack of fear in evangelism. It simply refers to a supernatural injection of Spirit-led courage that overcomes the understandable fear that undertakes anyone who is attempting to rescue people from darkness into the Light. Let’s ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit while we spend more and more time with Jesus and “Come boldly before the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Our time of need comes when the fear of man, which is a trap (Prov. 29:25), holds us in its grip and we need the boldness to break through.
“…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power and he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
When I was growing up in an inner city environment, to be called a “do-gooder” was one of the biggest insults one could receive. It ranked just ahead of being put down as a “goodie-two-shoes”. Even Webster’s dictionary defines a “do-gooder” as an “earnest, usually impractical and often naive and ineffectual humanitarian or reformer”. Even the scholars don’t like the term!
From our above text, however, we see that a major preoccupation of Jesus was to "go around doing good”. We can also observe as we study God’s character that all of His attributes flow out of His intrinsic “good” nature. “…He did not leave us without witness in that he did good and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
Jesus told us that our light shines brightest when people see our good works (Matt. 5:16). In modern-day evangelism there is sometimes a tension between the “preachers” and the “doers”, but Jesus and the apostles had no such division in their outreach. Peter did a good deed for a man named Aeneas who had been paralyzed for eight years. After his healing, “all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Later in Joppa he raised Tabitha (who was herself a “do-gooder”) from the dead. The result: "This became known all over Joppa and “many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:32-42). They believed because they saw!
While the term do-gooder is not in vogue, the idea of practicing random deeds of kindness and senseless acts of beauty is something that even most non-believers see beneficial to society. In our case, as we seek to win people to Christ, and recognizing that it is the “...goodness of God that draws people to repentance” ( Rom. 2:4) we would do well to clothe our words with actions.
I recently received a letter from Bobby. I met him 10 years ago. He would fit anyone’s description of a “tough guy”. He was involved in high level drug dealing, violence and other vices. In my regular witnessing forays into downtown Honolulu , I would periodically run into him, buy him a burger, tell him about Jesus and do my best to win him to Christ. He would usually nod his head, give me a token “thanks, man” and run out the door to do some more "business".
One night I saw him running up the street with a terrified look in his eyes. Approaching me he said, “You gotta get me out of here!” We then ran down a street, up an alley and back to my car. In a scene reminiscent of a James Bond movie chase, I screeched away from the red light district in my car with his rivals in hot pursuit (seemed he had burned some fellows in a drug deal). When I noticed Bobby was laying flat on my back seat, lest he be in visual range of his pursuers, I suddenly got the urge to "step on it" and get outta there!
Somehow we got away and I preached at him till 3 AM while he chain smoked in my car parked outside of his house. When I left, as far as I could tell, he was no closer to Jesus.
A couple of years ago Bobby tracked me down by telephone and told me he had made things right with the law, gotten married, and was training for the ministry in Oregon . He thanked me for helping him escape a tough situation. We laughed over the phone and when I hung up I worshipped God, who in His mercy allowed me to be in a position to do a good deed.
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people..."
"...I have believed, therefore I have spoken. We also believe and therefore speak."
2 Corinthians 4:13
Eighteenth Century evangelist Charles Finney used a phrase called “unity of moral action” when referring to the heart/mouth connection or “unity” that the Bible writers spoke of. David prayed, “…give me an undivided heart…”, while Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and “A good tree…brings forth good fruit. A corrupt tree…brings forth corrupt fruit”. Paul said, “If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart…”.Finney a converted lawyer with a keen mind used simple deductive reasoning to tie together our beliefs with our actions, our heart with our words. Joy Dawson once bluntly observed that Jesus said to follow him and He would make us fishers of men. So if you are not fishing for men, you are not following Jesus!
Recently one of my very best friends and a fellow worker in YWAM for 27 years, Kevin Darrough, went to be with the Lord having died of cancer. Two hours before he died I had the opportunity to read some New Testament passages regarding eternal life, the resurrection body and the better city and better country that he was heading toward. A few hours later he was free from his cancer-ridden body and in the presence of Jesus.
My grieving subsided shortly after he died simply because I believed he was in heaven.
Solomon remarked that it was better to go to a funeral than to a party because, “…the living take it to heart.” (Ecc. 7:2) In other words, the death of a loved one is a wake-up call for us to consider our own mortality and for those of us who claim to believe in eternal life – to use an American expression – the rubber hits the road. Do we really believe in Heaven…in Hell…and that the gospel is the only way to eternal life? Do we really believe this stuff?
Ronnie was a 16 year old boy in Springfield , Oregon . Diagnosed with terminal cancer and facing imminent death, he felt led of the Lord to make “preparations”. He called my friend, Jeff Nicholson, the creator of Living Epistles tee shirts and ordered a special shirt for his funeral. When he passed away he left instructions with his parents to have an open casket and that he was to be arrayed in a shirt that proclaimed boldly on the front, “Don’t get caught dead (without Jesus!)” and made a short audio tape with him preaching the gospel message to all who came to view his body. He further made a request that his youth pastor would preach the gospel and give an altar call at his funeral. Scores of young people came to Jesus Christ.
One month ago, I lost another good friend, Pastor Kit Lauer from Maui who died of Leukemia. When his family asked me to speak at his Memorial Service I asked if they would like me to give an invitation to receive to Christ. They said, no need as Kit will give his own altar call. On a giant video screen with over 1,500 people watching, Kit challenged the people with a prerecorded appeal for those present to receive Jesus.
Life and death. Heaven and Hell. Truth and error. Do we really believe this stuff? Perhaps one of the reasons that we don’t share the gospel on a more regular basis is that we are unbelieving believers. It seems in vogue today to view such talk of heaven and hell as a sort of archaic, back-woods fundamentalism unworthy of 21st Century postmodern man. Oh beloved, we must beware of either new theologies that emphasize the here and the now at the expense of the eternal, as well as old heresies that either downplay or deny the clear teaching of the Bible regarding what’s at stake when people die. As the old hymn says,
“Rescue the perishing,
Care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.”
- Hymn written by Fanny Crosby
*** Dead without Jesus – a horrible thought
but Dead with Jesus – no such thing!!!
“It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God.”
2 Corinthians 5:11 – The Message
“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens ...he dialogued in the Synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the market place day by day with those who happened to be there.”
For years it has been my custom to train people in personal evangelism both in missionary training schools and local churches. Usually I have at least one time of personal application during the seminar in which we actually go out to tell people about Jesus. Often, in the middle of or after one of these sessions, an inquiring witnessing partner will say something like, “How did you know God wanted you to talk to that person?” or “How does the Holy Spirit lead you to witness?”. Even after all these years I still am a little uncomfortable with the question and usually shuffle my feet and say something like, “Golly…I don’t know…I guess I witness to whoever happens to be there!”.
I personally am committed to and strongly believe, as does YWAM and most churches I associate with, that we can hear God’s voice to direct us in evangelism. However, as we can see in the above text there is no mention of “supernatural” guidance when Paul was at Athens . He simply spoke in the market place with those “who happened to be there.” It seemed to be a rather random “chance” encounter.
Danny is a YWAM evangelist in Perth , Western Australia . One night earlier this year when leading a group of young people from a local church on an outreach they gathered together on the street for their feedback time. As different ones were sharing their experiences a small gathering of onlookers encompassed the team to see what was going on. Danny took this opportunity to publicly proclaim the gospel and give an altar call right on the street. A young man from England named Gino responded immediately to the invitation to receive the Lord. Danny pressed upon him the need for true repentance as well as genuine faith in Jesus. Gino counted the cost, surrendered his life to the Lord and said, “I have never felt anything like this in all my life!”
Did Danny “hear God’s voice” to preach the gospel at that moment? I suppose so but I also suppose it was much more “naturally supernatural” than we might think. Danny saw the crowd and responded by proclaiming the gospel to those “who happened to be there.” Gino happened to be there and gave his life to Christ.
Two weeks ago I received a three page handwritten letter from a man named Eugene . Although I didn’t remember the encounter, I had approached him the week before with a YWAM DTS student and gave him a tract while he was waiting for a bus. In the letter (small detail – I had put my address on the back of the tract!) he apologized for rejecting me and proceeded to pour out his heart regarding his lot in life. To make a long story short, I followed up on him and he gave his life to Jesus. Was I led by the Spirit in this “chance” encounter? Yes, but it is also true that he “happened to be there” at the bus stop.
In our zeal to be led by the Spirit we must be careful that we don’t super-spiritualize Divine Guidance. In the book of Acts we observe that Peter was saved from certain death once by a supernatural jailbreak led by an angel of God. Earlier he was sprung from prison because a respected Jewish rabbi “just happened” to put in a good word for him! Likewise, Paul was once released supernaturally from jail by an earthquake and a couple of years later was rescued because his nephew “just happened” to overhear a conversation about a plot to take Paul’s life. When the nephew alerted Paul he had a very “natural” response: he advised his nephew to alert the Roman authorities who provided 470 soldiers to protect him! Sometimes Paul’s guidance was supernatural (via visions, dreams, etc) and other times it was very practical (like running away from the bad guys lest he be killed!).
The Scripture promises us that “The steps of a good man (woman) are ordered by the Lord” (Ps. 37:23). Let’s keep our antennas up to hear that still small voice of God leading us to people in evangelism. Let’s also not forget, however, about the person who “just happens” to be sitting next to us on a plane, with us in a line (queue), or someone who “just happens” to be in ear shot when we have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Who knows what God has arranged by “chance”.
“I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends…”
(Luke 16:9 NLT)
It has been said that all of the resources that God gives us to serve him are summed up in three categories – Time, Talents and Treasures. When it comes to outreach, most evangelism training focuses on spending quality time and employing our spiritual gifts/talents to help persuade unbelievers to become Christians. I would like to focus on the third resource – our treasures.
It is obvious we should never resort to any form of evangelistic “bribery” when witnessing. Such manipulation is not only dishonest but tends to produce “rice Christians*” and, of course, if you bribe someone to get them in the Kingdom you most likely will have to keep bribing them to keep them in! Nevertheless, we should use any resources God has put at our disposal, including money, to “buy” some time to share Jesus and assist us in our spiritual fishing. ,p> R.K. Castillo, a YWAM evangelist and some friends were in prayer before an afternoon of street witnessing. The Lord spoke to them to give each of their witnessing teams $50.00 to use in their outreach to the inner city. R.K. and his partner encountered a young man holding a sign asking for money. First, they asked him if he had 10 minutes to talk. When he was about to say no, R.K. responded, “I’ll give you $5.00!”. The young man said, “How about $10.00?” R.K. responded, “I’ll give you $10.00 for 10 minutes”.
In the course of the conversation they noticed the young man had a crutch and had been having difficulties with his leg since an accident 18 years previously. They asked if they could pray for him. He consented and by the shocked and delighted look on his face they realized he had been healed and his pain was totally gone! His life was changed that day and they encouraged him to sell his crutches and use the money to buy some food. And it all started with $10.00!
My friend, Wayne Cordeiro, pastors a large church in Honolulu . One Sunday morning he shocked his congregation by giving a total of $50,000 divided up in envelopes to hundreds of his church members. He then gave a message on stewardship. He encouraged them to pray, take the money and use it to bless someone else. The next week many marvelous testimonies poured into the church office on how God had used the “worldly resources” of His people to make friends and win souls. One woman took the $20.00 she had received, bought ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies and took them to the homeless. Many people responded with gratefulness and a few were converted to Christ!
Perhaps this week you could “buy some time” with someone by taking a little money and asking God what you could do with it to “make friends by means of worldly resources” and see what God will do. Maybe you could take a friend to lunch, buy a neighborhood kid a toy, or take someone to a film that may have a Christian or moral theme. Then you could discuss it over a latte afterwards (which you would pay for, of course!). Perhaps the more daring among you could be like a friend of mine in LA, who along with his wife, bought some time with a local prostitute and took her out to a nice restaurant and told her about the love of Jesus.
Let’s use our time, talents and treasures for reaching out with the love of Jesus.
*a derogatory term referring to missionaries bribing people into conversion to Christ by means of free food and other enticements
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
In the above statement Jesus clearly indicates that one “soul” is of more value than all that encompasses the “whole world.” He reinforced this ultimate worth of one person in his three stories about the lost coin, prodigal son, and lost sheep in which the Shepherd rejoiced more over the one sheep who was found than the 99 who needed no finding. He added that even the angels throw a party over the “one sinner” who repents.
A few years ago at a worldwide gathering of evangelists in Amsterdam, Dr. Bill Bright (Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ), spoke on “The Evangelist’s Personal Witness”. He lamented that “It is a sad fact that a large percentage of Pastors and evangelists do not witness personally. As a result, they lose not only power with God and man but they fail to model for other Christians who are looking to them for an example of a Christ-like witness.” As an evangelist himself he declared, “…without a willingness to speak to individuals about Jesus, I would have very little credibility in speaking to the crowds.”
Dr. Bright has been responsible for more people hearing the Gospel than anyone in history through his Four Spiritual Laws tract (3 billion printed) and Jesus Film (6 billion individual viewings including repeats). Shortly before he died he issued a challenge for the “Billion-soul Mandate” in which he envisioned one billion people coming to Christ within this next generation. This has now morphed into the “Call2All”, an exciting, growing movement which is uniting various prayer initiatives with like-minded Great Commission Christians from a variety of nations and denominations. We are strategizing together to disciple the every (individuals) and the all (nations). Dr. Bright, whose vision encompassed the whole world, however, realized that the Call2All must begin with the call to the one.
A few months ago I participated in a “Call2All”, conference in which macro-strategies were discussed to reach the 1 billion Muslims, nearly 1 billion Hindus, 800 million “oral learners”, and other large blocks of people in the over 4,000 “omega zones” on the planet. Returning to the hotel after the first session and suffering a bit from spiritual indigestion, my wife and I stopped at the snack shop where I met Renaud the vendor there. I struck up a conversation with him revolving around my curiosity in the fact that his last name was Portuguese though he was from India . I gave him one of my gospel tracts and over the next 6 days visited him regularly on my way to and from the meetings. I explained the gospel message, contrasting it with his Hindu background and gave him more material to read. On the last day I was there I had the privilege of leading him to Christ and handing him over to a local person who was able to follow up on him and get him baptized.
Mother Teresa once said, “I never care for a crowd. I only care for the individual.” Statistics, visions and mottos have their place, but that place must never replace the love of Jesus that flows not just from nations to nations but person to person. Make it your goal this week to be genuinely interested in another person’s story so you can tell them your story and the greatest Story of all.
Let’s go to the “all” but lets begin with the “one”!
(With Apologies to Saint Francis)
An oft-quoted saying attributed to Francis of Assisi has been gaining steam as of late and has taken on almost equal authority with Scripture in regards to evangelism: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel - use words if necessary!”. I have even heard sermons where this is the main text followed by other pithy sayings like “Actions speak louder than words”, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, “I’d rather see a sermon any day than hear one”, “They’ve heard it before, now they need to see it”, and “Let’s just love them in”.
While Francis himself, I’m sure, did not intend any harm by his exhortation to “action evangelism”, it has, in my humble opinion, been taken out of context and used almost as an excuse not to use “words”. But, as with everything else in the Christian life, we must go back to Scripture and especially ask the question, “What did Jesus say?”
While, of course, Jesus did exhort us to let our light shine and to authenticate and demonstrate our faith by our lives he was not short on exhortations to open our mouths and proclaim the Gospel! The first thing Jesus did when he began his ministry was to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom and tell people to repent and believe the Good News (Mark 1:14-15). Once, when a man was overly concerned about domestic duties, Jesus told him to “let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God ” (Luke 9:60). When he sent his disciples out on a short term mission, the first thing he told them was to preach the Gospel (Matthew 10:7, Luke 9:2). A short perusal of the book of Acts shows us Philip (“…Philip opened his mouth…”), Peter (“…Peter opened his mouth…”), Paul (“…that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear…”) (Acts. 8:35, 10:34, 15:7) and others were into proclamation big time! Then, of course, there is Jesus’ last command centering on the Gospel message (Mark 16:15, see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Recently I was speaking to a pastor who had been experimenting with various types of “servant evangelism”. His church had set up free car washes in the neighborhood, passed out cold drinks on a hot day at a grocery store parking lot, cleaned up the garbage from the neighborhood, and sent their young people out to do good deeds for the elderly, etc. Several months passed and his elders evaluated the fruit of their ministry. They saw it made the members of the congregation feel good, certainly brought a lot of smiles to the recipients of the good works, and created a sense of camaraderie and community among the church members. However, when they asked the crucial question, “Has anyone actually been converted to Christ through our efforts?” The answer was a disappointing “zero”.
The pastor then went to the back room of the church, dug out some vintage “Four Spiritual Laws” tracts and sent his people out to those same venues with some basic training on intentional evangelism. The result? Many people came to Christ in one afternoon of witnessing and several joined his church and were baptized!
This, of course, is not to say that we should not demonstrate the Gospel and that sometimes we are to be a “silent witness”. However, when the Bible is examined, Church history is studied and contemporary evangelistic efforts are evaluated, one finds that effective New Testament Gospel witness is by both word and deed.
“Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the word of God.”
“As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue and on three Sabbath days he dialogued with them from the Scriptures explaining and giving evidence that Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ, he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.” (Acts 17:2-4)
Many people shy away from evangelism because they do not fancy themselves as “preachers”. In the above text only one of the six evangelism verbs parallels our modern English word “preach”. The text says that it was Paul’s custom (regular practice) to dialogue with people about the Gospel. To dialogue simply means to have a conversation with someone – a give and take – asking questions, listening and responding to the other person’s needs. He goes on to ‘explain’ and ‘give evidence’, ‘persuade’ people to come to Jesus and ‘join’ the Church. The one thing that all of these verbs demonstrate is verbal communication – that is, spoken words.
If we believe the Gospel has supernatural power in itself “…for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” Rom 1:16) then we will do our best to proclaim God’s Word whenever we can (“I have believed; therefore I have spoken…” [2 Cor 4:13]). Surveys tell us that 85% of all conversions to Christ are via the personal witness of a concerned Christian friend, relative or neighbor. Hence the need for personal evangelism.
When I met Jesus, being big on zeal and short on wisdom I used manipulation, bribe, threat and coercion to get my roommate Dave to say a sinner’s prayer and quickly drove him to the beach for baptism. I found, after he came up from the water, that all I had done that day was get a sinner wet! I had not taken sufficient time to allow God’s Words to take root in his heart and sprout up in convicting power and draw him to Christ. For the next eight years whenever Dave and I would get together whether watching a movie, going surfing, or just hanging out, I would look for opportunities to water the gospel seeds I had planted. Whether it was in relationships with girls, his drug and alcohol habits, his anger toward those that had hurt him, or how to find a decent job, I would apply God’s Word to the situation. Depending on the need of the moment I used various forms of dialogue, explaining, giving evidence and proclaiming, to eventually persuade him to surrender to Jesus and join the Church. Today he is a Sunday school teacher and following the Lord with all of his heart.
The Bible says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Prov 18:21) Most people are bombarded with death-giving words all the day long. May we be channels of life-giving words and “…be prepared in season and out of season…” (2 Tim 4:2). Isaiah spoke of having the “…tongue of a disciple, to give a Word in season to the weary…” (Isaiah 50:4). May we, as obedient disciples, along with David proclaim, “…my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer” (Ps 45:1).
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold
in baskets of silver.”
The title for this article is unabashedly stolen from my evangelist friend Ray Comfort and his book by that title. Ray has a philosophy about a missing link in modern evangelism and blames the Devil for blinding the rest of us to this “secret” with regards to evangelism.
While preaching in Christchurch , New Zealand almost everyday for nine years he noticed that a lot of his converts fell away after he had assured them of the promised blessings of happiness, forgiveness, peace and other benefits to the Gospel message. He than realized that much modern evangelism produced little long-lasting fruit - in some cases over 90% fell away.
Ray awakened to the simple fact that people will not appreciate the good news until they understand the bad news! His book points out that sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4) and that God uses that very law to show us our need for Jesus (Gal. 3:24). Regardless of a person’s background they need their conscience convicted, their Spirit awakened and their mind alerted to the fact that they have sinned against a Holy God and need His forgiveness. (“…our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction…” 1Thess. 1:5)
Ray, being a Kiwi, gives the illustration of the many millions of sheep that graze on the hillsides of New Zealand . He points out that sheep look very clean when seen in the summertime, grazing against the background of the parched, brown, dry New Zealand hillside. Those same sheep, however, look very dirty in the wintertime against the backdrop of the freshly fallen snow. The snow is God’s pure and holy law, which needs to be dropped in the background of potential “sheep” and to show them their “dirtiness” and their need for Christ.
Several months ago I gave an altar call at an evangelistic meeting in Maui . A rough looking man in his mid-thirties was among those who responded. When the meeting was over I hopped down from the platform and asked how I could pray for him. He collapsed on the floor at my feet and started sobbing like a baby. When I started to reach down to comfort him the Holy Spirit stopped me as if to say, “Let him cry. Let him weep. Let him see the reality of what his sins have done against my law, his family and himself.” After a few minutes he began to pour out his heart and confess his sins – adultery, stealing, lying, gambling, neglected his children, etc. God’s law had “wounded” him and it was now time for God’s gospel to heal him. He arose from his knees a new creation in Christ and now faithfully attends a church in Maui.
This use of the Law is not the exclusive domain of Ray Comfort, but was practiced by the Puritans (they called it “law-work”), Spurgeon, Wesley, Moody and Finney, and many other evangelists in history. Billy Graham has gone on record is recent years to lament that one of the things he would change in the early days of his ministry was to proclaim the cost of discipleship and God’s demands along with His promises. Let’s not be afraid to bring the bad news. A drowning man won’t reach for a life preserver until he believes he is in trouble. Let’s board our lifeboats and throw out the Lifeline!
There are many ways to share the Gospel and “law-work” is not the only way but it is certainly an arrow that should be in the quiver of anyone sharing the Good News.
Many people shy away from evangelism altogether because previous attempts at sharing the Gospel have made them feel like failures. A different perspective, however, may help us not to be so defeated, and actually motivate us to do more witnessing.
In any given witnessing situation only three things can happen. First, and of course this is the most preferable, a person sees their need for Christ, repents of their sins and gives their life to Jesus on the spot. This is definitely a Win. Secondly, a person may not be ready to accept the Lord, but patiently listens and gets somewhat of an understanding of what you are trying to say. A seed has been planted or watered in their heart and they are that much closer to receiving Jesus than before you encountered them. This is a Win also.
Thirdly, you may suffer varying degrees of rejection or persecution as a result of having shared the gospel with someone. While this may appear as a defeat, Jesus gave us a bit of a different perspective. He repeatedly told us that we are “blessed” when we are persecuted for the gospel’s sake (Mt. 5:10, Lk. 6:22). He said we were to “rejoice” and “leap for joy” when we were not only rejected, but despised, persecuted and called “evil” for His name’s sake. Paul told Timothy that “all those who lives Godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). This is in addition to the fact that we are becoming more like Christ who was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53). So from God’s perspective, when we suffer various negative responses to the gospel, it is also a Win.
Once, while leading an outreach into a gay and lesbian pride carnival in West Hollywood , California , my witnessing partner and myself were literally kicked out of the carnival so forcefully that we both had bruises on our hinder-most parts to prove it! Sitting on a curb outside the carnival, I (the leader of the outreach) felt like a failure and moped in self-pity because of the rejection of our message. It took my 18 year old witnessing partner to remind me that this experience was also a “Win” because of the promised blessings that come from God to those that are so persecuted.
This viewpoint flies in the face of our modern (mostly American) obsession with the supposed promised success and prosperity accompanying everything we do as Christians. Jesus, however, recognized that He was sending us as lambs in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). We are trying to persuade people to accept Jesus in a Christ rejecting world, tell sinners to repent who love their sin, and to tell selfish people to deny themselves who, outside of the grace of God, will reject Jesus every time. What will be our response? We would do well to follow the example of the early apostles who after they had been beaten and threatened, rejoiced “…that they were considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41) The next verse reports that “…every day in the temple and in every house they did not cease to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” How were they able to continue joyfully proclaiming the gospel in spite of such negative circumstances? They were following the One who taught them that whenever we witness it is a Win, Win, Win situation!
“The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Jeannie is a flight attendant on Delta Airlines. One afternoon after doing her duties on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco she was doing her customary final duty of standing by the door of the plane, greeting the customers and saying goodbye with a smile. A young Danish girl established eye contact with Jeannie, returned her smile and proceeded to go up the jetway. All of a sudden the girl turned around, came back to Jeannie and said, “If you are ever in Copenhagen please stop by and see me” and then she wrote down her address, telephone number and email address on a card and gave it to Jeannie.
A few months later, while Jeannie was on a stopover in Copenhagen , she found the card in her purse and called the Danish girl. After a couple of days of sightseeing and showing Jeannie around, the girl proceeded to give the gospel to her and led her to Christ.
It so happened that the Danish girl had been returning from her Discipleship Training School outreach from the Kona YWAM base and was on her way back to Scandinavia . The DTS graduate, being by her own admission an introvert, struggled with the “sudden impulse” that she had to go back and invite Jeannie to come and visit her. It was that sudden impulse, however, that led to Jeannie’s conversion. Jeannie told me this story herself when I recently visited her church in Vancouver, Washington.
I have a friend named Dave who is now a Pastor in Southern California . One day Dave recounted to me a story of a bizarre conversion during the Jesus Movement. Dave was driving down a street in Orange County and he distinctly had a sudden impulse to pull his car over to the side of the street. He felt like he was supposed to open a mailbox in front of a suburban track home, open the mailbox and yell into the mailbox that “Jesus loves you!”
Resisting such a seemingly crazy idea, he finally gave in – opened the mailbox and loudly proclaimed those words. Nothing happened. Bewildered he shuffled back to his car to get ready to leave. All of a sudden a man came bounding out of the house and stood by the mailbox, “Are you the one who said that Jesus loves me?” Dave said, “Yes. I felt like God told me to do that.” It so happens that the young man was considering suicide and was sitting in his house ready to take his life when he heard those words – “Jesus loves you!” He was converted, baptized and joined the Church.
Bill Hybels in his book “Just Walk Across the Room” points out that the average person walks about 10,000 steps per day. He then asks the question “What if 10 steps – just one-one thousandth of your daily average could impact eternity?” He then encourages us to follow those sudden impulses to walk across the room to befriend someone and tell them about Jesus.
Just as Philip obeyed the Lord to talk to the Ethiopian nobleman, so God can and will speak to us if we are simply tuned in to hear His voice. God loves the lost more then we do and as we obey sudden impulses led by the Spirit we will see more fruit in our personal evangelism. So go ahead, just get up, obey the impulse and walk across the room.
“After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia , concluding that God had called us to preach the Gospel to them” Acts 16:10
“But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened for me…” 1 Corinthians 16:9
The concept of “open doors” and putting out “fleeces” (Judges 6) has been much maligned in recent years as a way to receive guidance from God and rightfully so. We should not simply trust circumstances to guide us and must train our spiritual senses to hear God’s voice – especially in the area of evangelism (Heb. 5:14).
While circumstantial guidance may not be the highest it still is A way of God guiding us in order to share our faith. I have learned that when I find myself in circumstances, especially unusual ones, that may be considered otherwise an “interruption” I am usually on the lookout that this may be a God Thing. Once while driving down a freeway with my wife and kids in a rather decrepit, rusted-out YWAM vehicle, I shifted the car’s gears only to find that the gear shift actually broke off of its post and ended up in my hand! I quickly pulled over and the proceeded to go to the nearest telephone to call a tow truck driver, having wisely bought a AAA membership a few months before!
The grumpy tow truck driver showed up in a worse mood then I was because his day had been previously ruined by someone else as mine was by the broken gear shift.
On the ride back with my car in tow in the driver’s compartment of the truck I was able to grab a hold of myself and ask the driver if he had ever heard about Jesus. It ended up being a “God Thing” and he was converted to Christ.
A Pastor friend of mine was recently given a guest speaking assignment in another city. There were two possible routes he could go to reach his destination and because he enjoyed looking at the ocean he took the coast road. On the way to this church, by divine appointment, he ran into a few young men who were going in the same direction up the coast. He proceeded to give them a ride and to tell them about Jesus and led them to Christ. Even though he didn’t technically pray about which way to go he was led indeed by the Spirit. His desire to see the ocean was actually a “God thing”. He believes that God had put in his heart that desire, knowing that the Lord could use this circumstance for His glory.
Let’s keep our spiritual antennas up, looking for “God Things”.
The passing out of Gospel tracts as a means of evangelism seems to have fallen on hard times in recent years. Words like irrelevant and impersonal are just a few of the adjectives I have heard in my travels to describe the simple act of passing out a Gospel tract.
I have to admit, I am biased in favor of the passing out of Gospel tracts. One of the main reasons for this is that several years ago someone gave me a Gospel booklet while I was sitting on a beach in California and shortly thereafter was converted to Christ.
Many Christian leaders, including Hudson Taylor, George Whitefield, and modern day evangelists like Greg Laurie and Louis Palau attribute their conversion to someone initially giving them a tract.
While the above negative descriptions of tracts may apply in some situations, and if your experience has been that the passing out of tracts has not yielded much fruit, you may want to consider the fact that some people die in hospitals, but that doesn’t mean we should not make use of them when we need them!
My observation has been that if Gospel tracts appear to be irrelevant, and impersonal it may be a reflection of the person passing them out! While I have heard the rumors that Gospel tracts “don’t work”, I have been carrying them around with me and successfully passing them out for over 30 years. Of course, I have had many occasions when they “didn’t work”, but on the other hand, I have consistently seen many glorious opportunities to not only share the Gospel, but lead people to Christ because I had such a tool as my disposal. Once, while literally running down the street to drive a team of waiting YWAM’ers back home I passed out my 3 remaining tracts to 3 young men exiting a bar. Two weeks later one of them showed up at my church and was converted and baptized along with his family. It took me a total of 3 seconds to pass out those 3 tracts!
For years, I have carried on my belt a leather “tract pouch”. In it, I have a tiny New Testament, several different types of Gospel tracts, an “evangecube” and a small notepad for writing down phone numbers and addresses of people I’ve witnessed to for the purpose of follow-up. I find that sometimes my pouch gets in my way, is uncomfortable on airplanes, and looks a bit “old school”. However, the clumsiness that my tract-pouch affords me, along with the reminder that I am always prepared to give the Gospel, assists me in my sharing my faith when the Lord offers opportunities.
Here are some practical suggestions on how to get started: Got a problem with Gospel tracts? Think that they are impersonal etc? Then write your own and make sure it is not impersonal! Experiment with them by giving them to people that you do business with, strangers that you may meet on a bus or on an airplane, and monitor your own responses to people’s reaction to receiving the Gospel tract.
You will sometimes be rejected and may even, at times, feel “ashamed”. You must, however, keep in mind the words of the apostle, Paul, who declared emphatically that he was “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” (Rom. 1:16)
Passing out Gospel tracts is not the final answer to world evangelization. It is, however, one small tool that God could use to open up witnessing conversations and perhaps ongoing friendships with non-Christians. It’s not the only way to evangelize but it’s one way. Once, evangelist D.L. Moody was criticized for his Sunday school work on the streets of Chicago . He would give little boys a ride to Sunday school on his “missionary horse.” In response to the criticism, “I like the way I’m doing it better than the way you’re not doing it!” He did not listen to his critics and ended up winning a half million people but he started out just passing out a tract.
“Jesus told her, ‘Go call your husband and come back.’
‘I have no husband,’ she replied.
Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’”
Unfortunately in our modern day desire to honor Jesus and to glorify him as the Son of God, we also forget that he was also the Son of man. As a matter of fact, he referred to hims elf as the Son of man many more times than he referred to himself as the Son of God. The Creed tells us that he was “true God and true man”. With this understanding, when we read conversations like the one that Jesus had with the woman at the well, we mistakenly think he had some kind of divine download of information into his soul because he was God and had a direct pipeline to the Father. Scripture does not portray him this way. As a matter of fact, it indicates that Jesus was limited in manifesting some of His divine attributes while he was on the earth. (Mark 5:30, Phil. 2:6)
The implication in the above conversation is that as Jesus was conversing with the woman at the well, the Father gave Jesus what Paul the apostle later termed as a “word of knowledge”. (1 Corinthians 12:8) In other words, he was given “privileged information” that was necessary for that conversation at that time. When he spoke these words to her, she “perceived that he was a prophet” (4:19). Many people come to Christ in modern day evangelism because willing servants of God are willing to step out on faith and are willing to trust God for this type of privileged information about folks that t hey are witnessing to.
My son Daniel was leading worship at an Impact World Tour event in Fiji a while back. After the altar call was given and his worship assignment was over, he hopped down off of the platform and approached two young Hindu brothers who had come forward. When he realized they had not come up to be saved but just to inquire, he took them aside and began to speak to them. As he was listening (to them and the Holy Spirit) Daniel received specific words of knowledge about their parental upbringing, their desire to be soccer stars and the difficulties at home with getting along with their parents. When he pointed this out to them, their jaws dropped in amazement as they wondered where he got his information. Daniel simply said, “God spoke to me.”
He encouraged them to go home, think about it, count the cost and come back the next day if they were serious about following Christ. They went home, told their father that they wanted to convert from Hinduism to Christianity. God’s grace was upon the father not to reject them because of their decision. They c ame back the next night and came forward and gave their lives to Jesus.
Once, when John Wimber (the founder of The Vineyard Church Movement) was on an airplane he looked across the aisle at a man and began to converse with him. Suddenly the Holy Spirit dropped the words “adultery” and then a woman’s name into his mind and asked the man if this woman’s name meant anything to him. The man turned an ashen shade of white and asked John to go with him to the back of the plane to continue the conversation. When Wimber went back and told him that God had showed him that this man was committing adultery with this woman, the man realized that God was “calling his number” and he shortly thereafter repented and surrendered to the Lord.
While not being reckless while we are “practicing” listening to these words of knowledge, we should, nonetheless, step out in faith and trust God to give us privileged information about non-Believers so that we can walk in the supernatural power of God, as well as giving the words of eternal life.
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