"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

12 Evangelistic Pointers from an Old Pro (Part 1 of 2)

The best mechanics fix what is broken.  The best mothers love their children.  And the best Christians speak the gospel.  Of course, we seek for our lives to form a clear picture of life in Christ, but we also know that truth, purposeful and direct, must issue from our lips if the people in our circles would understand, and hopefully come to taste, Christ's inimitable salvation.

To say that this is not always easy would be a fair (if completely obvious) statement.  To suggest that we could use all of the (solid) help we can get would be similarly axiomatic.  If I mention the name of Paul in this context, then we have only to throw our hands in the air and say, "Of course!"  This is not daring ground at all.  Of course Paul knows his work in the area of evangelism, and if we have any reliable record of that work, it is to be found in Scripture, where all is trustworthy and truthful. 

I would like to mine the 1 Thessalonians 2 for gems on how to evangelize.  A note first, though - this passage is not an instruction on evangelizing, but rather a recounting by Paul of his early days with the Thessalonians.  The context police tighten their grip on their clubs, but stay a moment - if Paul is commending the evangelistic work of himself and his fellows as blameless before the Thessalonians and before God (as indeed he is), then we may very safely extract some conclusions about good evangelism from his example. 

Here, then, are 12 pointers on evangelism from the great apostle.

1.  A knowing boldness.  "but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition." (v. 2) They had been abused cruelly and unjustly by certain of the Philippians for their gospel (Acts 16:22-24), and had no reason to expect different in Thessalonica, but this did nothing to blunt their zeal for their Lord's gospel.  God had brought them anguish in Philippi, but had also delivered them from it, and indeed had worked through those trials to spread His salvation still further (Acts. 16:25-31).   Evangelism must be bold, even in the light of danger and persecution.

2.  Pure exhortation.  "For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit;" (v. 3) Paul and his company urged the truth of salvation without a hint of moral compromise.  They did not fall prey to the ghosts of pragmatism or cowardliness, which strive to compel believers to water down their message, cloak that message in deception, or otherwise adjust its focus away from sin or Christ.  The gospel is not about wealth or happiness; it is about gracious salvation from sin and the perfect justice of a holy God. 

3.  God-honoring speech.  "but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts." (v. 4) This is a sobering verse, in a way - Paul and his comrades had been entrusted, by God, with His saving gospel.  What a weighty responsibility!  What an enormous blessing and task!  As Christians, are you and I any less entrusted with the gospel?  We too, then, must feel the enormity of our work, and must make it our urgent priority to please God in our speech.

4.  Honest speech.  "For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness—" (v. 5) A requisite feature of God-honoring speech is speech that is honest in its intentions.  It does not seek to soothe the ego of its audience, for God requires the most empty-handed humility imaginable from those seeking salvation.  It also does not have an undercurrent of greed - how can we cherish an undefiled compassion for a lost sinner, or how can we maintain the utmost priority upon gospel truth, if we are consumed with our own desires?

5.  Humble comportment.  "nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority." (v. 6) If Paul and his friends did not come to mollycoddle human pride, they certainly did not come to be congratulated and praised for their incredible work.  The fact that Paul speaks of apostolic authority here suggests that he refers to their conduct toward the new converts in Thessalonica, and this is a pleasing sort of observation to have - once the work of evangelism has happily given way to the work of discipleship, how do I conduct myself?  It is certainly not the time to seek regard for my heroic character, or my great love, or my profound wisdom, or my palpable leadership, lest I quench the zeal or distract the focus of my newfound brothers and sisters. 

6.  Gentle care.  "But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children." (v. 7) Again, the fledgling church is in view here, the product of Paul's evangelistic mission and the work of the Holy Spirit.  I include this one, as well as the last one, because they demonstrate that our work is not over - not remotely - when a person gets saved.  Evangelism cannot be our sole focus, but when the unspeakably joyous event of salvation comes to pass in a person's life, our lifelong work of nurturing discipleship, patient care, and selfless service begins.  We must approach evangelism with this truth in mind, lest God work His salvation and we are unprepared to lead this new believer onto a path of growth. 

[To be continued here]

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