Thursday, August 14, 2014

Evangelism is Not My Gift

There is a remarkable movement regarding evangelism. I believe a huge harvest is coming and God is preparing His people to put the sickle to the field of souls. The movement in evangelism is emerging through the loss and failure old evangelism paradigms. One of the hardest of these to jettison is the ill-conceived concept of the "gift of evangelism."

I believe that the lists of spiritual gifts in the Scriptures are not exhaustive (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4). In other words, it is conceivable that God has additional gifts, not listed in the New Testament, that He gives to the body to be encouraged and built up (1 Corinthians 12:7). There is one gift found on many Christian spiritual gift inventories that I would like to see removed. In fact, I do not believe that this gift has ever existed. It is not listed in the Bible and I do not believe God ever intended it to be a gift. He intended it to be the standard for every believer. 

What is the gift that I do not believe exists? Evangelism! If I’m right, its a good thing it doesn’t exist because most people don’t want it anyway. When I speak about evangelism, I often have people tell me why they don’t have the gift of evangelism. They basically let themselves “off the hook” when it comes to all things evangelism. People are startled when I agree with them that they do not have the gift of evangelism. I’m often asked how I know that one person or another does not have the gift of evangelism. My response is that they don’t have that gift because no one has that gift; it does not exist.

Simply put, Jesus tells His followers to go about their daily lives while making disciples--which includes sharing the good news of Christ. Jesus also told us that He gives the Holy Spirit to every believer. One of the express purposes for giving us the Holy Spirit is so we have His power to be effective witnesses (evangelism) about who Jesus Christ is (Acts 1:8). We also know Jesus told His disciples to “not worry” about what to say or how to respond when the opportunity to talk about Him arises. We are not to worry because we will be given the exact right words at the exact right time so we can experience success every time (Matthew 10:16-20). In other words, everyone is to be an evangelizer. With Jesus giving us the words to say, will be successful every time; we will accomplish His purpose in every encounter.  

In Acts 4:29-31 we encounter the story of a prayer meeting in Luke’s account of the early years of the church. Two of Jesus’ apostles, James and John, had just been released from jail for “evangelizing” and healing.  They immediately joined other believers to give thanks to God for their release. What they prayed for is quite astounding and the results are even more stunning. Here a portion of their prayer to God:

“29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30 (NASB)

All of the believers in this prayer meeting were begging God for the ability to “…speak His word with all confidence…”. One may surmise that these saints were praying for the gift of evangelism. I believe they were simply asking God to help them live out what He had already commanded and promised them (Mark 13:11 cf Matthew 28:20). What is God’s response to this type of prayer and faith?

“31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31 (NASB)

One of the results of being filled with the Spirit in the books of Acts is stated over and over again: they spoke the Word of God with boldness (see this study on a related topic). If one aspect of being filled with the Spirit is speaking the Gospel with boldness, then being bold in sharing the Gospel (evangelism) is available for everyone and should not be considered a spiritual gift.

If you don’t believe that you have the gift of evangelism you are right.  You are, however, an Evangelizer! There is a gifted Evangelist given to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12). I will discuss this topic in my next post.

What do you think about the gift of evangelism after reading this article? How can we encourage believers to trust the promises Jesus gives us regarding evangelism instead of looking to others to be bold for us? When everyone believes and understands they are sent by Jesus to be evangelizers, more people will hear the truth and know the love of Jesus. To believe otherwise is a ploy of the enemy to silence the mighty army of God. I believe we are deluded by the enemy when we believe we are not capable of sharing the gospel powerfully. When we gain a biblical understanding of evangelism, more in the world will come to put their faith in Jesus!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

An Ingenius Idea!

An Ingenious Idea!

Making disciples is an intimate and difficult process. It takes love, commitment and time to walk alongside another person in order for Christ to be formed in them. Paul likens disciple making to the pains of childbirth (Gal. 4:19). I watched my wife give birth to our three children. I can tell you it looks like a lot of pain. She would tell you it feels worse than it looks! This may be a reason why many people are not engaged in disciple making.

Disciple making, like pregnancy and childbirth, is full of painful experiences and deep joy. When my wife was newly pregnant, we both were excited. Seeing the “+” on the pregnancy test always brings joy. The joy of the “+” quickly turns to physical discomforts of stomach aches, tiredness and clothes that no longer fit. As things progress in the pregnancy more back rubs are needed, more sleep is needed and more gymnastics are required to get out of a chair. Then the labor pains come. I could tell my wife was in pain during a contraction when she had to stop everything until the contraction ended. In my wife’s case, all of her deliveries required her to be induced which caused an increase in pain. But when the child was born, the amount of joy she and I felt was amazing.

Jesus’ last words to His closest friends instructed them to disciple all the nations throughout their lives. Jesus set the perfect example of what this looks like as He poured His life into His closest friends over a three year period. As we read stories of Christ’s interaction with these twelve friends, we can see lots of time spent together, lots of intimacy and lots of pain. Jesus was often frustrated with these tax collectors and fishermen as He modeled a life fully dependent upon the Father (Matthew 16:9, 17:17). Jesus often had to explain what was was taking place (John 9:1-5) and re-explain what He was talking about (Mark 4:34). When Jesus was being crucified, the only male disciple said to be present was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26-27). Jesus knew the pain of discipling, and yet, when He rose from the dead, He appeared to these close friends and gave them instructions (commanded them) to disciple, following the example He set for them (Matthew 28:16-20).

When one considers the investment of time and the inherent pain it takes to see Christ formed in people (Galatians 4:19) it isn’t hard to imagine why many choose not be engaged in this important process. Discipling is, however, a process in which every believer is required to be engaged (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18 & Acts 1:4-8). Jesus does not mince His words.

When Jesus instructed his eleven closest friends to disciple all nations (Matthew 28:19), He shared with them an ingenious method to accomplish this task. They were to befriend others and instruct them to obey all of the commands that Jesus had instructed them to follow. This obviously included the command to disciple as well. This genius concept meant that Jesus expected every person, who became His follower, to pour their lives into others so they could also be a disciple and repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2). This is not optional for any believer. 

One of the ways that I use to help others become like Jesus is through a Life Transformation Group (LTG). This simple tool requires a group of two or three people to do three things together: read lots of Scripture, confess sin to each other and pray for people to come to Jesus. This process creates the opportunity for LTGs to reproduce. If we engage in this type of disciple making, we will become more intimate with these friends than we can imagine and it will be contagious. We will be transformed in ways that will increase our faith dramatically.

Recently in my LTG we were repeatedly reading the book of Acts, chapters 1-6. One of my LTG partners mentioned he was intrigued by a particular word in Acts 1:2. In this passage, the Scriptures reported that Jesus gave “orders” to His eleven close friends. He was startled by the word “orders” in the New American Standard Version of the Bible. I was intrigued as well and immediately sought out what the “orders” were to which Luke (the author of the Book of Acts) was referring. As I looked into the original language of Acts 1:1-2, I noticed that the word for “orders” (enteilamenos) is actually singular. This means Luke was referring to the single command of the great commission which is to go and proclaim the gospel, making disciples of Jesus (cf Acts 1:2 with Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8).

That Jesus gave “orders” to His followers seems strong and may even sound a little abrasive. It caused me to ask the question, “How important is it to Jesus that His followers be making disciples?” The fact that Jesus “ordered” his followers should cause each of us to wrestle with this question: “Am I obeying Jesus by intentionally making disciples and instructing and teaching those disciples to do the same.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are believers ignoring this most holy “order” by Jesus? If so, why? Does it mean that some feel a lack of competence in accomplishing this task? Why is that and how can it be changed? Whatever our answers to these questions, we must  begin or continue to take responsibility to teach people to follow and obey these “orders” from Jesus. If we do, it will make a difference in our world. It really is an ingenious idea!