Sermon Passages: Jude 3, 12-23; Matthew 5:43-47; Mark 2:15-17
What is evangelism?
We established that being a disciple means living evangelistically, but what does evangelism look like? Here's two wrong approaches to evangelism.
- Solicitor: If evangelism is living like a solicitor, knocking on doors or walking around like a salesman trying to sell something, then you'll find that there's a problem. When people reject you, you're done. This is why you might say, "What if people reject me?" If you've got an established relationship, however, then they may reject something you say, but you've still got a relationship. You can keep coming back.
- Gospel Grenade: We might think evangelism takes place in events we throw as a church. We put on some kind of one-shot attraction, get people to come, and hope they "get saved" and come back on Sunday.
Instead of these approaches, let's learn something of the biblical evangelistic mindset by turning to Jude. Jude was Jesus' brother, and the way he speaks about the lost helps inform our disposition toward them.
First, Jude doesn't focus on moralism (Jude 12-13, 16). He doesn't lament "the way the world is going" or focus on criticizing society or "those people." Of course the world is bad. "You must remember," Jude says, scoffers are "following their ungodly passions . . . worldly people, devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 18-19).
Second, Jude's response to ungodly people is to "keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life" (Jude 21). His response to ungodliness around him isn't discontent, bitterness, and scoffing. In fact, those are attributes of the ungodly around him. Instead, his response is to notice that God is patient. God was patient with me, graciously giving me the time I needed to come to faith. He's doing the same for others, and I need to imitate that grace and mercy, living a life not of criticism but of mercy. It's hard to love that lazy person who isn't picking up their slack. It's hard tho show mercy to people of different political views. It's hard to show mercy to people who offend, cheat, or disagree with us. Nevertheless, God does, so we do.
C.S. Lewis had some insight on this (from The Weight of Glory):
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
You see, political parties, establishments, and today's trend will pass away, but the people you offend, cut down, and don't show mercy to are immortal beings. They will spend eternity somewhere. There's three ways we view people:
- Projects: We're either the mechanic or the coach. If we're a mechanic, we're trying to "fix people," and get frustrated when they don't change as quickly as we want them to or we find more problems than we thought. Or, if we see people as problems, we may just take detours to avoid them. The coach, however, comes alongside people to help them learn how to keep growing. He's concerned about them as people not as obstacles. Nobody doubts his commitment as he throws himself in diligently.
- Problems: Problems are to be avoided. People who are problems are nothing but a burden. Somebody needs to get rid of the problem because these people are making everything worse.
- Pawns: We don't have a problem with these people. We keep them around because they make us feel good about ourselves or we need them to accomplish some kind of goal.
Instead of having these perspectives, we see Jesus in Mark 2:15-17 eating with sinners. The Pharisees responded saying something like, "I can't believe he's hanging out with those people. They're wicked." The Pharisees saw sinners as a problem. Jesus, however, was a coach, or as he says, a doctor. He came alongside people, saw them as people, spent time with them, and developed a relationship. He showed them love. He says that he's come to help the lost, not those who think they've got no need of him. In one breath, he expresses love of sinners and criticism of Pharisees, saying, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).
Jude and Jesus challenge us to change our posture about people. We're to love and show mercy, not see them as projects, problems, or pawns. We bring good news to the lost, namely that God is overcoming darkness in our lives. We don't bring news of "the way the world is going" or good ideas that we think everybody should have.
Imagine people you would love to see in church. Picture their faces and think of their names. Now imagine those people you're trying not to think about. Do they think you love them? Do they think you value them? We challenge each person to have a list of the top five people they're praying for and seeking to pursue relationships with. You represent Christ. If their opinion of Christ was based on their opinion of you, do they think Christ is patient, kind, and loving? If they characterize Chris the way they characterize you, do they think Christ is "off doing his own thing with his own people" or do they think Christ wants to hang out with people that aren't like him and develop relationships?
What would a church look like if it were consumed by both our growth and the growth of the community around us?
Two types of churches: those who overemphasize discipleship at the expense of evangelism and vice versa “relevant” churches. Both criticize each other, saying, “You keep the saved rather than reach the lost” or “God called us to make disciples, not converts.” Jesus isn’t on either side and we’re not going to waste our time criticizing other churches. We need to be occupied with the good news we’re giving to the world. Is it possible to have a church where people are just as excited to take their next step in discipleship as to help another take their next step toward becoming a Christian? Is it possible for a church to be passionate about both discipleship and evangelism? Our vision is that we would see a disciple making movement here in Nelson county and as far as God allows.
How does my life and job fit into God’s big picture? Every Christian has the identity of a disciple maker. Also, discipleship isn’t about attaining an elite status of maturity but to take your next step. Everyone has a next step. Don’t focus on taking step 50. Just take your next step. Discipleship only happens in fruit-bearing relationships. These are our three discipleship paradigm shifts.
What does this have to do with reaching people far from God?
Mark 1:16-18. When Jesus first calls his disciples, he defines discipleship as being a fisher of men. His first introduction into making disciples is that every Christian is a disciple maker.
Ro 10:9-17. Who lead you to Christ? Your conversion was a compilation of the contribution of so many people and situations that God guided into your life. Many people had to obey Christ to contribute something to your eventual conversion. You can help others come one step closer to Christ. Each of us has a role in bringing someone else to Christ.
Evangelism happens in fruit-bearing relationships. It’s easier to hand out tracts or throw a one-time outreach event. This makes us feel good that we’ve obeyed and have fulfilled our responsibility. We can then retreat into safety and complacency again. Solicitors never get invited to barbecues. It’s easy to do something that takes little investment of our lives. Relationships require a larger commitment, committing our lives to other people. However, this starts not with going out to make new relationships. This starts with the relationships you already have. Redeem the relationships and communities you’re already a part of. You already have relationships with people in affinity groups, groups that have formed around a common interest or setting.
When you love people despite your differences, this attracts people to God. We expect our friends to be vulgar. As you invest in people and love them like no one ever has, they will come to trust you.
Two things are needed for this to work: Love & Explicit Faith. People won’t just notice that you’re nice then ask you why you’re different. You need to put your faith out there and make it explicit. If you don’t have love, you’re the person on the street corner with a megaphone blasting at people who think you’re crazy.
John 13:1-5. Jesus served his disciples and loved them even while knowing one would betray him and even while knowing he was king of the universe.
John 13:31-35. Jesus commands his disciples to love each other, and people will know you’re Christians because you love like Jesus. Love even when you know you’ll be betrayed or hurt by the people you love.
The new evangelism strategy takes place through love. People will come to the faith through our living 1 Corinthians 13.
What are you telling yourself so you can resist what the Bible is calling us to?