The Stewardship of Evangelism
Acts 2:46-47—So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
Without fail, I hear pastors express concern about their congregations not being evangelistic. Where do we start in nurturing them to overflow with the life and message of Jesus? Our Lead Pastor started with instruction that resulted in fullness of joy (John 15:11).
How often I have heard Ralph and Lou Sutera say, “When revival is the experience of the church, then evangelism will be the expression of the church.” Del Fehsenfeld said the same thing from a different direction: “Some believers wouldn’t wish their Christianity on their worst enemy.” In agreement, John Piper says, “People who prize Jesus praise Jesus.” He continues, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Nehemiah of old said to his workers, “. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). One of my favorite Sutera messages was entitled, “Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven.” The Psalmist in Psalm 85 queried, “Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”
Our stewardship should result in the saints enjoying the reality in Christ in such a way that they minister out of the overflow of a full heart. I realize that life is not always happy—happy—happy. But we are instructed to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16). An essential part of the witness of our lives in and out of the church is joy. I love to say that singing is not for those who have a voice but for those who have a song. We who serve or lead should not go very long without our song. Sheep feel secure with a joyful shepherd whose habit is only to be angry with the wolves. Paul related his heart to the problem-ridden church at Corinth. “Moreover I call God as witness against my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.” (II Corinthians 1:23-24). With God as witness Paul said:
1. I gave you time and space to repent.
2. I have no interest in domination.
3. I am a helper of our joy.
In this stewardship of evangelism, we are right to start with being helpers and models of joy. Countless times over these 50 years, I have had to find a place to retreat for awhile, and like David, encourage myself in the Lord.
Satan hates the spread of the gospel, and leadership that helps move people toward a joyful, bold witness of the gospel will often come under attack. In David’s case at Ziklag, the women and children had been taken captive, the city had been burned with fire, his army wept till they could weep no more, and some spoke of stoning David. Alone with God, David found encouragement and direction from God to win a great battle and recover all that the Amalekites had taken (I Samuel 30). Sometimes you will have to fight for your joy as well.
From the autobiography of George Mueller, we read from May 9, 1841, “It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost for more than 14 years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.
How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon me!”
People are more likely to follow a joyful leader.
In short, unified, glad, and single-hearted believers make the best evangelists. They seem to find favor with people, and doors seem to open for them. The Lord loves to add new babies to these joyful nurseries (Acts 2:46-47).
Don’t miss Jesus’ way of keeping people passionate for the harvest. Notice the progression of these familiar words, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:37-38). This is Christ’s way of making our church excellent at outreach. He first wants us, through prayer, to become occupied with the Lord of the harvest. When we do, He pours His life and passion for the shepherdless multitude into us. As we follow Him, He sends us forth into strategic places with sufficient power.
While there, we freely give away what He has freely given to us (Matthew 10:1-8). We never need to evangelize in our own limited strength. We can live by His life and be empowered by His passion for the harvest. The secret to keeping people reaching out is to keep them reaching up. Jesus is still “moved with compassion,” literally “sick to His stomach” over the multitudes. So He instructs us, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).
Without the life-giving Vine, the most enthusiastic branch will have a very short ministry. As stewards of evangelism, we need to encourage our branches to abide in the Vine, and lasting fruit will come (John 15:11).
Shepherds must minister to the hearts of the sheep so that their hearts will minister through their mouths and proclaim the good news of Jesus. Mark Dever says, “Evangelism, in other words, is not doing everything we can to get a person to make a decision for Jesus—attempting to force a spiritual birth. Furthermore, evangelism is not the same thing as sharing a personal testimony. It’s not the same thing as presenting a rational defense of faith. It’s not even doing works of charity, though all three of these things may accompany evangelism. Nor should evangelism be confused with the results of evangelism, as if to say we’ve only successfully evangelized when a conversion follows. No, evangelism is speaking words. It’s sharing news. It’s being faithful to God by presenting the good news—that Christ, by His death and resurrection has secured a way for a holy God and sinful people to be reconciled. God will produce true conversion when we present this good news. In short, evangelism is presenting the good news freely and trusting God to convert people. Salvation comes from the Lord.”
I have strongly felt that part of my stewardship at this point is to stay alert to local opportunities for evangelism and bring them to the attention of the congregation. I like to scout things out for them, knowing that prepared hearts will look on their own. Sometimes your approval or caution will encourage them to move out more freely. Here are some common ideas.
1. Teach them to build redemptive relationships with unbelievers.
2. Teach them to use their homes as gospel centers.
3. Give some training in how to give a clear gospel witness.
4. Cast a vision for outreach events where the gospel will be preached. Team evangelism lets even the timid have a part.
5. Teach them how to be alert to divine encounters where a Christian with a prepared heart encounters a lost one who has had God drawing his heart. This is a sweet experience which encourages alertness.
6. Introduce them to local ministries available and looking for volunteers (jail ministry, crisis pregnancy centers, rest homes recue missions, women’s shelters, mentoring programs in schools, etc.). Help them see things and reach out.
7. Ordain elders. Be ready to lay hands on the faithful and sent them forth.
A true reviving from the life of Christ should eventually move us out of our comfort zone into the multitudes with a full hearts and fervent message that Jesus paid it all.
According to Acts 2:42, the New Testament church believed the same truth (doctrine), they shared the same love (fellowship), they remembered the same gospel (breaking of bread), they were depending on the same source (prayer), and they were committed to the same cause, “To know Christ and make Him known.”