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Leave Everything and Go Wherever

Traveling Bone

Abraham is a prime example of someone whom God asked to leave everything and go wherever. In Genesis 12:1, we read,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1b)

Leave Everything

God asks Abraham to leave behind all he has ever known – his idol worship, his family, his inheritance, his safety, and his culture. We may not see this as a big deal because we live in a transient society. A lot of us leave home and strike out on our own. But as one commentator says,

“To leave home and to break ancestral bonds was to expect of ancient men almost the impossible.” [1]

Go Wherever

On top of asking Abraham to leave everything behind, God also asks him to follow Him wherever He leads. It is one thing to leave behind what you have knowing something better awaits. Think about all those immigrating to the United States. Many of them leave behind everything they have ever known for what they believe to be a better life in the States.

Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes for a moment. Imagine God asking you to leave your home for a place you know nothing about. You don’t know what kind of life you will lead there, if it will be safe, or if you will have an opportunity to provide for your family. Thinking about it like that, we see just how tough of a decision Abraham had to make.

Jesus’ Disciples Should Leave Everything and Go Wherever

Abraham, however, isn’t the only one God asks to leave everything and go wherever. He also asks us – Jesus’ disciples – to do the same.

A couple of years ago my friend John (not his real name) and his wife left family, friends, and all that is familiar to them to move halfway across the world to live in Africa as missionaries. While they were willing to answer God’s call, they didn’t have a complete picture of what was in store for them. They didn’t know they would move several times, suffer several illnesses, or be robbed and extorted for money on multiple occasions, nor did they know the extent of the heartache they would experience. Even though they were in the dark about these things, they went anyways. As far as I know, they don’t regret answering God’s call, and they aren’t planning to come home.

While God certainly asks missionaries to pick up their life, leave everything, and go wherever, His call on His disciple’s lives doesn’t end there. In other words,

God doesn’t just ask missionaries to leave everything and go wherever, He asks us all to give up everything and go wherever He leads.

Sure, God may not ask most of us to move halfway around the world, but He does ask us to give up our life – our will, our desires, our wants, our safety, our family, all that is comfortable to us – and go wherever He leads.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you ready to answer God’s call to give up everything and go wherever He leads?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon: God’s Reclamation Project

[1] Von Rad, Genesis, 161 via Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Genesis, 151.

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4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism – Part 4

Stumbling Block

In my last post, I explored our idea of the evangelistic process and how we can naturally talk to others about Christ.

Today we continue exploring what keeps us from modeling Paul’s activity in Athens — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism and How to Remove Them

(4) Our Idea of Bringing People to Christ 

Often times we believe winning someone to Christ is something we have to do on our own in a one-off-full-on gospel presentation on foreign soil like someone’s front yard, the mall, or the movies. Thinking that way will often keep us from sharing the gospel because after all we don’t want to mess it up. We don’t want to lose the sale, or be the reason why someone didn’t come to Jesus.

But here is the thing:

Saving others is not our responsibility. It is God’s.

God is the One who changes people’s hearts, so that they desire a relationship with Jesus, not us. Our responsibility is only to share the message to the best of our ability.

Conclusion

So those are a few stumbling blocks to everyday evangelism and how we might remove them so that we can engage people everyday with the gospel.

All of them take a little effort and intentionality, but the effort is worth it, not only because it will change people’s lives, but it is something we are called to do. We are called to be disciples who are make disciples.

So let’s be that. Let’s be disciples who make disciples. Let’s all see it as our responsibility to daily reach out to those in the community with the purpose of building relationships and spreading the gospel. If we do that, then everyday evangelism will happen, and we will make an impact in our communities and cities for Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. How does knowing that God is the One who saves free you up to share the gospel more often?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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On Whose Approval Matters

Quotes

Those who are servants of Christ, those who are entrusted with the secret things of God, do not see themselves winning popularity contest – not even within the church’s borders. That is what Paul means when he says,

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court” (1 Corinthians 4:3)

There is only one Person whose “Well done!” on the last day means anything. In comparison, the approval or disapproval of the church means nothing.

Question for Reflection

  1. Who do you try to please – Christ or Man?

Resources

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry97.

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On the Primary Responsibility of Christian Leaders

Quotes

All valid Christian leadership, however varied its style, however wise its use of sociological findings, however diverse its functions, must begin with this fundamental recognition:

Christian leaders have been entrusted with the gospel, the secret things of God that have been hidden in ages past but that are now proclaimed, by their ministry, to men and women everywhere…and all their service turns on making that gospel known and encouraging the people of God, by word, example, and discipline, to live it out.

Question for Reflection

  1. Pastor, do you recognize the immense calling God has placed on your life?

Resources

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry96-97.

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4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism – Part 3

Stumbling Block

In my last post, I explored our idea of Christian growth and how to free up our schedule to meet non-Christians.

Today we continue exploring what keeps us from modeling Paul’s activity in Athens — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism and How to Remove Them

(3) Our Idea of the Evangelistic Process 

At one extreme we may believe evangelism only happens during the Sunday Service. Those who believe that often think: If I can just get my non-believing friends to church, they will hear the gospel.

Thinking that way, however, severely hinders everyday evangelism because it leads us to believe that evangelism can only happen once a week by someone we believe to be a professional. As well as it is not true.

Jesus commissioned all of us to make disciples, not just the Pastor.

Or at another extreme we might believe evangelism only happens when we lead someone through a full on gospel presentation — something like The Romans Road or Two Ways to Live. None of which are bad. I actually think they can be helpful.

While helpful, these presentations can be hindrance if we believe they are the only way to share the gospel, or feel we have not shared the gospel unless we have walked someone through the entire presentation.

When we start thinking like that, we get into what I like to refer to as “checklist evangelism” — talking to someone about the gospel becomes more about us getting through the checklist than actually having a conversation.

When we are focused on our checklist rather than the person, our conversation becomes insensitive and awkward. Talking about the gospel, however, shouldn’t be insensitive, it shouldn’t be awkward.

It should be just as natural for us to talk about the gospel or what Jesus is doing in our life as it is for us to talk about the weather or our favorite sports team.

So instead of working off a checklist, we have to find ways to include Jesus in our conversation. If you are wondering how to naturally include Jesus in your conversation, let me recommend a good book for you. It is entitled Questioning Evangelism by Michael Newman

Question for Reflection

  1. What hindrances do you see regarding the evangelistic process you have used or even been taught in the past?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism – Part 2

Stumbling Block

In my last post, I explored ways we can build relationships with non-believers and then engage them with the gospel.

Today we continue exploring what keeps us from modeling Paul’s activity in Athens — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism and How to Remove Them

(2) Our Idea of Christian Growth 

It’s a common idea in the church community to equate growing in our knowledge of the Bible with Christian growth. Growing as a Christian, however, doesn’t just mean growing in biblical knowledge. It is that, but also much more. It involves us growing in our love for God and others. As well as it involves us growing in our ability and desire to serve others and spread the gospel.

Since we often equate Christian growth with growth in biblical knowledge, we fill our schedules with church events, Bible studies, and meetings with other Christians.

While those things are good and necessary, they can hinder everyday evangelism. You see, if we are always meeting with Christians, we aren’t going to have the relational capacity to meet non-believers, nor are we going to have the time.

Don’t Load Your Schedule with Church Activities 

So one way to make some time is not to load our schedules with church activities. I, and the other teachers and leaders at my church, put a lot of effort into the things we do every week. As much as I want all these things to be well attended, I would rather a member say no to some of them so they will have time to hang out with a non-believer and build the gospel into their lives.

So if our schedule is so full of church activities that we don’t have time to meet any non-believers, or minister to them, then we need to pull back a little bit.

Being a disciple isn’t just about attending church, being a disciple is instead about making disciples.

Making disciples is what God has called us to do. If we have the opportunity to make disciples, then we need to take the opportunity given and skip the church activity.

Now, I have to be careful here because I don’t want to give you the impression I am advocating anyone quit attending church altogether, nor for you to start skipping church events so you can sit home in your recliner. We need to be involved in our churches. We need each other. We need Christian community. We need to learn God’s Word, so we shouldn’t completely blow church off. However, we shouldn’t let church activities consume our life so much so that we don’t have time to engage non-believers, build relationships, and speak the truth of the gospel into their lives.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you agree that too much church can hinder us from making disciples?
  2. How do you find the balance between church activities and making disciples?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism – Part 1

Stumbling Block

In my last post, I talked about the need for us to model Paul’s method of evangelism in Athens — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

But often we don’t do what Paul models for us. We don’t engage people where they are on a daily basis. Why? Why don’t we do that? Well, let me offer you:

4 Stumbling Blocks to Everyday Evangelism and How to Remove Them

(1) We Don’t Have Relationships with Non-Believers 

As Christians it is easy to focus our entire lives around the church. So much so that everyone we know either goes to our church or another church in town. When you only have relationships with Christians, however, it is hard to engage the lost on a consistent basis because you don’t know anyone who is lost. Everyone you know already believes in Jesus as their Savior.

So one stumbling block to everyday evangelism is not knowing enough lost people, which means we need to build some relationships. I would encourage you to start building relationships with non-believers because I believe:

Relationships are the key to being able to spread the gospel consistently.

You are more likely to talk with a friend about Jesus than a complete stranger. Think about it, how many of you are actually going to approach a random stranger on the street or go knock on a door. Unless someone makes you do it, most of you are probably not going to. So if we are going to do everyday evangelism, we need to look for people to build relationships with.

Plus, I believe relationship evangelism is more effective. Research tells us that 43% of people come to Christ through a friend or co-worker. I believe it. At the last Conference I attended, the host took a poll as to how people came to Christ. The largest part of the 7 or 8 thousand in attendance said they came to Christ because someone they knew told them about Jesus.

Now I am not saying street evangelism or evangelistic events aren’t effective. People get saved through those avenues everyday. The most effective way, however, seems to be through relational evangelism. So we need to focus on building relationships with folks.

You Have the Time to Build Relationships with Non-believers

You may not think you have the opportunities to do that given your schedule or life stage. But you do. You have the opportunity in the things you already are involved in each and every week. Think about about.

(1) Extracurricular Activities

Most of you have kids or grandkids who are involved in sports or some other extracurricular activity. These activities are an excellent opportunity for you to build relationship with other parents or grandparents. You already have something in common — your child plays on the same team or participates in the same activity — so the hard part is already over. Now, you just have to work on getting to know the other parents a little better.

(2) Work

Another place you have an opportunity to meet non-believers and build relationships with them is at work. This is one thing I miss about working in the secular world — the ease with which I could build relationships with my co-workers who weren’t believers and then speak into their lives.

One way I got to know my co-workers well was by going to lunch with them. Now I didn’t do that everyday. Eating out is expensive, but I did go out with them every now and again. I would encourage you to do the same.

If lunch doesn’t work for you, invite a person in the office over for dinner, to watch the game, go golfing, hunting, or whatever else it is that you do.

(3) Neighbors and Re-Connect with Old Friends

Still another way to meet and build relationships with non-believers is your neighborhood, or for you to reconnect with your non-Christian friends from school.

Cookouts are a great way to meet your neighbors or reconnect with your old high school buddies. Invite them over one Saturday afternoon and just hang out, get to know them, or find out what they have been up to, in the case of those you haven’t seen in a while.

(4) Shift the Setting You Do Things In

Often times as Christians, we like to do things in Christian settings. We play sports in a Christian league, drink coffee at a Christian coffee shop, look for books in a Christian book store, or hold Bible studies at the church instead of out in the community.

However, if you isolate yourself and live in a Christian bubble, you aren’t going to meet any non-Christians. Instead of isolating yourself, find a way to do the things you normally do out among non-believers.

For me this means spending some of my day working from the coffee shop. I could spend my day in the comfort of my study, but I don’t. Instead I spend most of my afternoons at Starbucks.

Through the years I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of people, to build relationships with them, and to speak the gospel into their lives. I am not even aggressive at getting to know others. I just go, do my work and every so often God places someone in my path that I don’t know, we become friends, and we end up talking about Jesus every now and again.

Another example is our church’s Friday Morning Men’s Bible Study. We have that at IHOP every Friday at 6:30am. The reason we do that is so we can have breakfast and coffee together, but also so we can be a witness for Jesus in our community.

So there are a number of ways to build relationships with folks, we just have to do it.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you build relationships with non-believers?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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