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Mark Mittleberg, the author of Building a Contagious Church, writes:
We all believe in it. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely believed in the Bible but didn’t believe in evangelism. When you embrace the truth of God’s Word, it’s pretty difficult to discount its call to reach lost people. It’s on our bulletins, in our hymns, and throughout our creeds. It’s posted on our marquees and peppered through our statements of faith. It’s emphasized in our theology books, praised in our seminaries, and encouraged in our pulpits. Most Christian leaders list it as one of their ministry’s top priorities. There’s little ambiguity or doubt that this is central to what we’re supposed to be about. The irony is that while many of us are in churches and denominations that have a rich heritage and strong reputation for evangelism, in many cases precious little is actually happening.” 1
I would agree with Mittleberg’s premise that reaching people for Christ is a major thrust of most Christian congregations. Whether or not that last statement, ‘precious little is actually happening,’ is true in our ministry I will leave for God to judge.
But if it is true in our case, why would it be true? In other words, why do you suppose that some Christians are hesitant to be a witness for Christ?
And yet Jesus was very clear: “You will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!
Notice as Jesus is about to leave them with His parting shot, His disciples are hoping He is going to leave them with something that will benefit their little-minded kingdoms. “Lord, before you go, just in case You forgot isn’t it time for You to establish Your Kingdom here on earth?”
Now, why would they say that? Oh, I don’t know, perhaps because He had earlier told them that some day they would sit at His right and left hand when He established His Kingdom? Yes, they were fancying themselves to be the Mitch McConnells and Nancy Pelosis of their day. In other words, they were still in this thing for themselves.
No boys; I’ve had a higher privilege than that to bless you with for in a few days from now I am going to send my Holy Spirit to you and when it happens you will be empowered to be My witnesses! What a blessing and honor and privilege that will be for you to point people to Me!
I know that in this series of messages, we have talked about how the power of the Holy Spirit is available to us to help us become more sanctified, that is holy, that is more like Jesus. For sure, it is the Spirit at work in us producing both the gifts and fruits. But please be aware that God’s Spirit equips us with spiritual gifts for ministry and enables us to bear the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace) not just for our sake, but for the purpose of being more effective witnesses. The power of the Holy Spirit was not given for our benefit, but to enable us to share Christ with others.
This shouldn’t surprise us as when Jesus taught His disciples about the Spirit, He said the role of the Holy Spirit would be to “bring Me glory” (John 16:13). The power of the Holy Spirit was given to make us witnesses!
By the way, I have said it before and I say it again the power of the Holy Spirit is not meant to motivate us to witness, the power of the Holy Spirit gets involved when we do witness! Obedience elicits the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey My commandments and I will ask the Father to send you the promise of the Holy Spirit.”
So what does it mean to be a ‘witness?’
Two things: word and deed; deeds and words. Let’s think about deeds first.
Part of our witness involves living the kind of lives that please Christ. I am not going to dwell on this as we have spent considerable time the last couple of months talking about becoming more like Christ. And although it is very true that living like Christ brings a great many blessings to our personal lives; (love, joy, peace), the greater blessing, as far as God is concerned, is that living Christ-like lives enhances our witness.
In His most famous sermon, Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give (what) glory to (who) your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
When we head to the Village Inn for today’s ‘Gather to Scatter’ project to help Suzanne, we will be collectively letting our light shine and that witness will in some way, that perhaps we will not even know, bring glory to our Father in heaven.
Sometimes we underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us to be witnesses in this way. When I walked into the Village Inn on Thursday morning and again Friday night, I believe I was being a witness for Christ. People know who we are and what we stand for and when they do our mere presence can be a witness.
When Gail and I bellied up to the bar on burger night at the Inn with Ken Jones and Karen two weeks ago this past Wednesday we were witnesses to God’s grace and therefore God was glorified.
By the way, speaking of Ken Jones, he was wholeheartedly sold out to our purpose of ‘Sharing God’s Grace with our Community.’ He never missed an opportunity to ‘Gather to Scatter.’ I can still see him at Joe’s house at the end of the line stacking wood. And with a paintbrush in hand applying paint to the wooden trains on both the circle and down at Point Park. And just three months ago with a rake in hand at the Fire Dept.
And of course, it was he and Karen who hatched the idea of today’s project. And so as we go to The Village Inn, let us work alongside one another remembering our brother who inspired us all to be witnesses for Christ.
Deeds and words.
Deeds can go a long way toward being a witness for Christ, but there is also a time to speak. How else will people know what our deeds stand for?
When we turn the page to Acts chapter 2 the power of the Spirit is given and the disciples are stirred up to speak. Peter’s sermon is highlighted and when he concludes many people give their lives to Christ and are adopted into the Church. The miracle of Pentecost was not in the sound of the wind, or the tongues of fire, but in the communication process that took place.
I read a highly recommended book this past week, appropriately titled, Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out. In the author posits that the time for gospel ‘presentations’ has passed. He claims that people are not receptive to presentations like the ever popular ‘Four Spiritual Laws,” or the ones I have taught ‘Do vs. Done’ and ‘The Bridge’ and/or the ‘Difference between Christianity and Religion’ – that these presentations resemble a sermon or other religious exercise.
Instead, he says that the best way to verbally witness about Christ is to bring Jesus into our ordinary everyday conversations in a natural way. He writes:
What if you could just talk about Jesus to others simply because you love Him and love them and you want to introduce them to Him? What if we spent less time giving people scripted evangelistic presentations and instead simply learned to introduce Jesus into the normal conversations we already have? 2
Sharing Christ conversationally makes sense when we remember three vital things people can tell about us in a conversation:
- People can tell if you care about them. They don’t care how much you know about God until they know how much you care about them.
- People can tell if you believe what you are talking. We will not convince every person we meet who does not know Jesus that they must believe in Him, but let them not doubt what we believe.
- People can tell if the hand of God is on your life. There is something very powerful about a simple, honest conversation about Jesus. Our lives and our lips testify to our faith. 3
If Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to us, He should come up in our conversations. Not forced, not structured, but simply because He is the biggest deal in our lives. 4
If you are interested in becoming a more faithful and effective witness for Christ, by learning how to naturally converse about Jesus I highly recommend this easily readable 110-page book.
And Reid counsels that when we do bring Jesus into our ordinary conversations in a normal and natural way without freaking out that we must be driven by the conviction that “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live!” 5
People without Christ are like dead men walking and they are in desperate need of someone like you or me to tell them about how Jesus brings new life!
I can still vividly recall a time when I was three and half years old attending a family reunion in Lima, Ohio. The reason I can still remember is when my parents weren’t watching as well as they should have been, I somehow stumbled into a cement swimming pool and went to the bottom in about 6 feet of water. And I can still remember the weird sensation of being submerged in the water and looking up and wondering whether anyone was going to notice that I had fallen in. And how my heart jumped when I saw my father appear at the edge of the pool and he dove in and grabbed me and hauled me out.
There are many people, some of them we know, who without Christ are sinking and they need someone to take the plunge for the purpose of rescuing them from sin and death; to offer them life through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
An atheist professor was teaching a college class and he told the class that he was going to prove that there is no risen Christ. He said, “Jesus, if you are real, I invite You to knock me off this platform to prove it. I’ll give you 15 minutes!”
Ten minutes went by. He kept taunting Jesus: “Here I am, come and get me; still waiting.”
When he got down to the last minute a 240 pound offensive tackle gets up out of his chair
rushes the podium, slams into the professor and sends him flying. The professor struggles to his feet obviously shaken and yells, “What’s the matter with you? Why did you do that?”
The football player replied, “Jesus must have been busy . . . so He sent me!”
I don’t know how busy Jesus is, but I do know this His great desire is to send us to others.
“As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.” In other words, as the Father sent me to seek and save those who are lost, so send I you to seek and save those who are lost.
The great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, was to have scheduled to preach in London. An elderly British pastor protested, “Why do we need this ‘Mr. Moody’? He’s uneducated and untrained; just who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, “No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody.”
May the same be said of us!
1 Mittleberg, Mark. Building a Contagious Church. [ © 2000 ] page 20.
2 Reid, Alvin, L. Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out. [Nashville, Tenn. B & H Academic, © 2017] page 40.
3 Ibid., page 49.
4 Ibid., page 50.
5 Ibid., page 35.