For the folks who were at Jamberoo last Sunday, you are about to hear again some of what was preached last week on Evangelism.
I don’t normally do this but the lectionary reading this week adds more weight to last week’s sermon and readings.
Nevertheless, it reminds me of the joke about a new minister who preaches to the congregation and it impacts the people enough so that many remark to the minister how good it was. Next week, the minister preaches the same sermon. There were less positive comments this time, but many shrugged their shoulders and didn’t give it much more thought.
However, when the minister peached the same sermon for the third week in a row, he is encountered by angry congregants wanting to know why he has said the same thing a third time.
He replies, ‘It obviously didn’t impact on you the first two times, because nothing changed in how you acted!’.
The Epistle or letter of James, goes to great lengths to say that doing good should follow believing in God.
For, as he says, in Chapter 2, verse 19 – even devils believe in God.
Belief is about our self/for our self while ‘doing’, as a Christian, is essentially for others.
Otherwise we are simply reflecting ourselves as if we were constantly looking in a mirror (verse 23).
Thus, as it says in verse 22, ‘be doers of the word not just hearers of it.’
But how do we do the telling of the good news.
But let’s recap.
Three Sundays ago, the title of our sermon was Evangelism 101 and in that message we talked about the importance of sharing with one another the story of our faith. We also spent time thinking about the person who first walked across the room to give us the gift of the Good News to change our life. We focussed on the ‘why’ of evangelism. Why? Because we know that many people live far from God. Because God loves them as God loves us, God commands us (Matthew 28) to be ‘salt and light’ in bringing the good news so we can share a full relationship in eternity.
Today, through our three lectionary readings (from last week and one from this week) we are going to talk about the ‘how’ of evangelism.
We’ll call is – How to Evangelise 102’.
When we put on armour, we think about the protection if offers us, protection from what comes to or against us – arrows, cannon balls, shrapnel and bullets.
But armour also gives us the security to not just stand still and receive but to move forward and give or share (in the case of the good news).
Armour on a person who is in battle was initially made of thatch or hardened leather, later it was iron and steel and today it might be Kevlar and hard plastics.
But whatever it is made from armour is never perfect. There is always a chink or a weakness somewhere in the armour of the capabilities of it.
Years ago I worked with a number of profession counsellors as we attended to the needs of critically ‘at risk’ youth.
During that time two counsellors known to the group committed suicide. It was a salient lesson that the armour we put on in our own strength will always have a chink where grief and sadness gets in and potentially destroys us.
In Ephesians we are reminded that we are not putting on our earthly armour – we are putting on God’s full and flawless armour – see verses 11 and 13).
The belt of truth is God’s truth, the breast plate of righteousness is the righteousness of God, is the sword of God’s spirit, while the helmet of God’s salvation is through Jesus, his Son.
In this passage is the first hint on how to evangelise – it is to lean into God’s strength – not your own. Other pointers are encapsulated in verses 19-20 of this passage.
Pray, pray and pray.
Pray in preparation that God will give you the opportunities to tell the good news, pray that God will make you alter to the opportunities, pray that God will give you the words in those opportunities.
Pray that God will give you a spirit of boldness (fearlessness as it says in verse 20) rather than a spirit of timidity, when those opportunities arise. Prayer is an essential element in the ‘how’ of evangelism.
When it comes to the Gospel reading there are also some invaluable hints on how to evangelise but particularly in the pre-evangelism stage.
The passage is concerned with Jesus teaching about the meaning and significance of Holy Communion.
Many followers abandoned Jesus at this point, because they did not believe or understand the need to ‘consume’ Christ through his body. Jesus said that an earthly understanding of his purpose and nature will always fall short.
This is encapsulated in the words of verse 63, ‘It is the Spirit, not the flesh, which gives understanding.’ Jesus is talking of Communion as the Spiritual food.
The disciples stayed – for they put their trust in God’s leading – it’s what we do when we share the Good News.
The disciples didn’t understand the theology of transubstantiation, the Eucharist, eschatology or substitutionary sacrifice and atonement – they trusted this man Jesus, the Son of God – the Christ.
They were curious as to how this God works, while being spiritually hungry for more.
Our call to follow Jesus and evangelise for his name’s sake, like theirs, involves trust. It has no other prerequisite, and doesn’t need a biblical or theological scholar to undertake the work – just trust.
As Jesus is doing in verse 67 – when he asks the disciples if they want to stay or leave – he is giving an open invitation to us – then indicates that the Spirit will do the rest.
Also implied in this passage, is the need to develop meaningful relationships with those we meed – as Christ did.
They may not always be long but they won’t simply focus on discussions about the weather or the work-a-day world as we know it.
The epistle of James goes further when it comes to the ‘how’.
Verse 19 says ‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’
Don’t jump in where angels fear to tread’ – relationship building is about understanding the other person and how their story came to be.
Anger and judgementalism often sit side by side – be neither angry nor judgemental in your discussions.
One does not speak to the widows and orphans in their distress (verse 27) in a judgmental or angry way.
Always consider the person who is far from God in the same way, for they may be alone like a widow or orphan without God in their life.
Let’s get out there and develop relationships with those far from God.
Let’s discover the story of these folks while sharing yours and God’s story in your life.
Tell it well but keep it short so people become engaged rather than bored.
Offer grace, not judgement, let the Spirit lead and look for the Spirit’s openings.
I wonder if you could share your story of coming to be a Christ follower in 100 words or less.
That’s your task for morning tea!
Lord, we believe that you will provide for us. We look forward to the ways that you will surprise and amaze us with your faithfulness.
The lives that You will touch and the people in this room You will use to brighten dark spaces and lift sad hearts.
May we develop our passion for evangelism – fuelled by You, our Father, who with the same note of passion created us to be light to the world… colour to dullness… life to dead places… and love to lost faces.
Bless our work and our time. Guide our steps and our progress.
Grant us the power of Your Holy Spirit to work together because it’s impossible to see past our human stubbornness without you.