TEXT: Acts 1:8
TOPIC: Building God’s Church at Center Point through Evangelism
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
June 25, 2006
8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8, NKJV
These are tremedously exciting days for us at First Baptist Church, Center Point. We are in the midst of concluding a series of messages I’ve entitled “Building God’s Church at Center Point.” Thus far we have talked about the Church Jesus Built and Building God’s Church at Center Point through prayer and through the Sunday School.
Today, I want to bring what I hope will be a challenging message to each of us entitled, “Building God’s Church at Center Point through Evangelism.”
This morning’s message is a reminder of our very first purpose statement: Evangelism. As a fellowship of caring Christians, we understand one of our responsibilities is to “witness to our community and the world around us of Christ’s love and His saving grace which leads to eternal life.”
What does it mean to evangelize? It means to take seriously our Lord’s command to the church as recorded in Acts 1:8. Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In fact our Lord so intended for us to take so seriously this command to evangelize that He gave it to us in four other places within the N.T. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-48 and John 20:21).
Now this is where the message changes from any other you have ever heard me preach on evangelism. You see I believe God is at work changing the way we as a church think about evangelism. God is at work changing the way I think about evangelism!
I know I could stand before you today and preach a passionate message about evangelism and almost all of you would give an intellectual amen. You would nod your heads in agreement, understanding that as Christians it is our obligation to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost. But the problem is not that we don’t believe it. We do believe it. The problem is that we don’t do it! Somewhere between the head and the
heart we lose our momentum. We know we should witness. We want to witness. But more often than not, we just don’t get the job done.
Please listen to me today church. I want to help you become an effective witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Today I am going to share with you six styles of evangelism, any one which you can use to share your faith. You see I realize that only 10% of the average church members have the spiritual gift of evangelism, but we are all called to be witnesses. I want to share with you how every member, not just the spiritually gifted, can effectively fulfill our church’s first purpose statement, Evangelism.
I wish I had preached this message long ago.
1. CONFRONTATIONAL EVANGELISM, (Sometimes called Intentional Evangelism)
In the second chapter of Acts we are given the facts about one of the greatest evangelistic harvests ever. You recall how on the day of Pentecost, a confrontational evangelist named Peter stood before all of Jerusalem, looked them in the eye and told the crowd, “You have crucified the Lord.” He challenged them to repent and to receive the Lord Jesus Christ right there and then. And many did. In fact 3000 were saved when God used a fiery confrontational, bold believer to share the good news!
Some of you have the natural ability to boldly proclaim the message of the gospel with whomever the Lord places on your heart. This is the kind of intentional, cold-call, knock-at-the-door approach that we have used so effectively at other churches and it has been a part of your evangelism strategy in the past. This approach uses programs like “The Roman Road,” E.E., CWT, One Day Soul-Winning Workshops, and Gospel Tracts.
We do this because this is your pastor’s most natural evangelistic giftedness. I have no problem asking anyone about their spiritual condition. In fact, I enjoy the challenge of presenting the gospel with the lost.
We do this also because this is the only style to which some people respond. Not everyone will be open to an in-your-face-kind of Christian witness. But many will. In fact, over the years I’ve discovered that about one out of every three do decide to receive Christ.
Please understand, I’m not talking about being obnoxious. I don’t even respond favorably to those who stand on the corner with a bullhorn blasting away at everyone who passes by.
This is the style of Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, or Darrell Robinson. Now don’t sigh if you think that’s not my style. There’s five others styles.
2. INTELLECTUAL EVANGELISM, (Apologetics)
There are many people who are not opposed to the gospel message but a simple message of faith like “you just have to believe,” isn’t enough for them. Quiet often these people have an intellectual hang-up they simply can’t get past. Or they simply don’t believe there’s enough evidence for believing in the reality of God, the truth of the bible, or the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These people are most often honest, intelligent, thoughtful and even spiritual individuals. They just need someone who can sit down and logically explain why they should accept Jesus as the one and only savior.
The Apostle Paul is the biblical model of an intellectual evangelist. Paul was a master at laying out a sound explanation of the central truths about God’s nature, our sin, and Christ’s solution.
In Acts 17 the Holy Spirit led Paul to the Greek philosophers in Athens. Beginning with an Athenian god and moving to the unknown god, Paul ingeniously argued for the reality of Jesus as this one true God. And some were saved that very day.
I believe that some people are just waiting for a caring, informed, and mature Christian who can help them answer some of life’s tough questions. When they do, they’re like a row of dominoes. Once the first one falls, then all the others follow.
Illustration of Mike and Renee’ Parker. In my church in NC, I met a young couple, unmarried and living together at the time, who needed just an apologetic witness. Mike had been shot and as a result paralyized. His father was shot by the same man and killed. While Mike certainly had struggles understanding why God would allow such a horrible thing to happen to him, it was Renee who really struggled the most. Her hopes for a family and a wonderful future with Mike had been completely altered.
It took several visits for me each time sharing the gospel but more often talking about the ethics of why bad things happen to good people. Eventually both Mike and Renee prayed to receive Christ in their home. Today, both of them are happily married and active in serving Christ. They just needed some questions answered.
There’s a third style of evangelism. Some will say, “I’m not a confrontation evangelist, and I’m not comfortable with the intellectual style,” then perhaps the third style of evangelism is more for you. It’s what I call the testimonial style of evangelism.
3. TESTIMONIAL EVANGELISM
Many people will not respond to a confrontational approach and they will not be comfortable with someone who argues the gospel from an intellectual standpoint. They just need something simple. They just need a simple story. “Tell me your story,” they will say.
They need to hear how you were going through life and then something happened and you heard about Jesus. You trusted Him as your savior and He’s made all the difference.
Do you recall the story of the blind man in John 9? He’d been blind since birth. As a result he was a beggar, begging for bread. Then one day Jesus came into his life, touched his eyes and he would never again be the same.
When the Pharisees questioned him as to how he received his sight and who it was that healed him, notice that the once-blind man doesn’t argue or confront, he just tells his story. He tells what he knows. “One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see.”
How many people are still blind in sin and waiting for you to share your story of how Jesus came by one day.
The testimonial approach is basically an unanswerable argument. No one can argue against what you know for certain. You know what happened to you.
I met John Bos in Louisville, Kentucky recently. John Bos was there 23 years ago when I first met Jesus. John Bos was the Music leader for E.J. Daniels, back then, and he still serves in that capacity after 34 years for Christ for the World Evangelistic Ministries in Orlando, Florida.
By the way, you don’t need a dramatic testimony in order for God to use your witness. You don’t have to have been a drug-addict, pornographer, ax-murderer-to-missionary kind of story, to be used effectively by God.
4. RELATIONAL EVANGELISM
How you heard about Matthew the tax-collector. After Jesus came by one day and called Matthew to follow him, Matthew wanted as many of his friends to meet Christ as well. So in Luke 5:29, he puts on a big banquet and invited all his friends to come and meet Jesus.
Matthew didn’t confront these friends, or seek to intellectually win them over. There’s not even any evidence that he even told them about what had happened to him. Those weren’t his styles.
Instead, he relied on the relationships he’d built with these men over the years and sought to further develop their friendships. He invited them over to his home. He spent time with them. He ate with them. He did all of this because he genuinely cared about them, and he wanted to influence them toward considering the claims of Christ.
More of you need to understand that God has strategically placed you where you are; in your community, at your job, to influence others, through significant relationships with others around you.
Illustration of getting to know several members of our church who I first met at the health spa. Penny has developed a real gift, I believe, for relational evangelism, as a teacher at her public school. We had so many who have come in from Glen Alpine Elementary that I was kidding with one last Sunday that we were going to open our own wing here just for Glen Alpine employees.
5. INVITATIONAL EVANGELISM
This fifth style is the one I love the most. I love it because everyone, and I mean everyone can be this kind of evangelist. It’s the invitational style and it could very well be the most effective.
First of all, do you remember the Samaritan Woman or the Woman at the well in John 4? Here’s an unlikely woman, who’s life is a mess. She’d been used up and taken advantage of all her life. No one would have anything to do with her. Until she met Jesus. You know the story. Once she came to grips with just who Jesus was, she ran excitedly back to her town and told everyone she met, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” And the Bible says, “many believed on Him (Jesus) because of the woman’s testimony.”
The number one reason people still give when asked, “Why did you come to church?” is still “because some friend invited me.”
On my death bed I will give thanks to God for a young high school girl who invited me to come with her to that crusade revival where I heard about Jesus for the first time.
A recent poll by researcher George Barna indicated “that about twenty-five percent of adults in the United States would go to church if a friend would just invite them.” Think about it! One on four of your friends would come to church if you would just extend to them a simple invitation.
That’s the idea behind our special days, like Friend Day, special Revival emphasis’s. Even our upcoming children’s Valentine Party is planned with that strategy in mind.
6. SERVANTHOOD EVANGELISM, (Service or ministry evangelism)
I hope you’ve found your style of evangelism by now, but if not, here’s one more. It’s called Servanthood Evangelism or ministry evangelism. This is the one style I most admire in others.
This is the style that some people have that God has just naturally gifted them to do. They enjoy serving others. They notice needs that others of us don’t see and they find joy in meeting that need, even if they don’t get a lot of credit for it.
They do things like working on someone’s car, cleaning a home, baking a cake or an entire meal. They mow the grass of a neighbor or lend a hand in any way they can. They’re just helpful people.
Their winsome personality helps them to build a relationship, or opens the door to answer the question, “Why are you so nice?” or “Why are you so compassionate?”
Like Dorcas in Acts 9:36, these ministry-oriented evangelists are “always doing good and helping the poor.”
You may not have the boldness of a Peter, or the knowledge of a Paul, but you may be a whiz at fixing appliances, or lending a helping hand. I hope you can see how God can use your talents to point people to Jesus.
Have you found your style? Can you confront the lost with the good news of Jesus’ love and salvation? Maybe you’re the type who can intellectual challenge and answer the tough questions of those who need an answer. Maybe you do better at establishing long-term relationships with those for whom you’re concerned.
Do you regularly share your testimony with others of how Jesus changed your life? Surely all of us can practice the invitational style of evangelism. Many have the gift of service. We have forgotten that Jesus said, “a cup of cold water given in His name,” is an act of ministry that He will bless.
Whatever your style, be certain to be yourself. And be certain to practice regularly sharing your faith.
Illustration of Bill Hybels coming across a unknown woman, rather simple, unimpressive, whom he found praying in his sanctuary one day. When he asked her what she was doing, she shared with him how she had made a commitment earlier in the year to pray for a row of chairs, and to try to fill that row with people who would come. She shared how she had seven people sitting in the chairs now, but that there was nine more chairs to fill. So she came there once or twice a week to pray for God to help her fill those chairs with friends.