Morning. My name is David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Continuing our “Evangelism is not a Swear Word” series.
If u weren’t here last week for my explanation of the name of this series, we are calling it that because for most people Evangelism (which is talking about God to other people) brings up negative emotions
Fear, anxiety, guilt, etc.
And we are trying to reshape the paradigm of what evangelism should really be
Last week we talked not only about the importance of evangelism, but we spent some time discussing how the dominating paradigm for evangelism for the last 50 years (stranger evangelism) is not all that helpful.
And here’s the deal: It’s not even about how INeffective stranger evangelism is: It’s more about how incredibly MORE EFFECTIVE relational evangelism is.
Or, talking about God to your friends and family…whatever you want to call it.
Because even if you’re not gifted to talk to strangers, sure God could use you, and He sometimes does… all of us should have people around us that we can talk to about God
But before we get to the talking part (which we will focus heavily upon NEXT week), two things have to come first.
ONE) Need to have non-Christians around you.
TWO) Your lifestyle needs to be at least a dim reflection of Jesus Christ
PEOPLE AROUND YOU
If indeed the main paradigm (not the only, but the main) paradigm of evangelism we should work out of is one of talking to people who are already around us about God, that PRESUMES that you have people around you to talk about God to.
And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common for that to be increasingly untrue for Christians.
This has always ebbed and flowed through Christian history, but Christians tend to quite often get stuck in this mode of separation.
It’s what the Amish got wrong about Christianity.
And yes, I just said the Amish were wrong.
They’re not going to watch this on video, so it doesn’t matter.
But following Jesus, at its core, is about helping other people follow Jesus.
And you can’t do that, if you have secluded yourself from other people
BUT…there is a lot of teaching in the church that talks about don’t be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor), and a lot of that teaching is good.
You should never be in a place where you are more influenced by unbelievers than believers.
It’s really like a teeter-totter. A balancing act.
Pretend this stage is a teeter totter.
And this end symbolizes spending almost all your time with people who don’t follow Jesus
And this end symbolizes spending almost all your time with just Christians
See, people get nervous (and rightfully so) about spending too much time with non-believers because if they spend too much time, they might tip, and start walking away from God.
But what I’m saying is that we ought ALSO to be aware of the other extreme.
If you start spending all your time with just Christians, eventually the teeter totter will tip, and all of a sudden you are unable (because you don’t any non-Christians) to carry out the single-most important calling of your life as a Christian
And THAT’s a MAJOR problem!
And yet, I don’t think the church in America as a whole is that concerned about that particular side of the teeter totter
We’re so overly concerned about protecting our children and secluding ourselves.
Somehow the goal of Christianty has become to 1) protect ourselves and our rights and 2) to be informed and educated.
We send our kids to Christian schools, and Christian colleges, and they know a lot about Jesus, but they graduate at 22 and don’t know a single non-Christian
And I ask you, what’s the point of knowing so much about Jesus if you don’t know anyone to tell it to?
And I’m not AT ALL saying going to a Christian school is bad, we even have a partnership with Bethel University.
But if that’s what God’s calling you to do, than you better figure out another avenue to get yourself or help your kids get around some non-Christians
Because, and this unfortunately has becoming shocking, our number one calling in life is not to be well informed, it’s to spread the good news of Jesus Christ
There’s a church in our church planting network (out of Grace Fellowship) called the River Church (used to meet in MOA).
They’ve been doing a thing for a quite some time now where everyone in their church has what’s called a FAB FIVE.
Their fab five is Five people in their lives that don’t know Jesus AND have the capability of coming to their church.
(so it can’t be grandma Ethel from Oklahoma)
And they pray for these five people all the time.
And the more I think about it, that’s incredibly challenging for some people.
Let me just ask you. Do you have five people in your life that don’t know Jesus that you could invite to Renovation Church sometime in the future?
Some of you are like, I have 50.
And I would guess that maybe others are scratching their heads.
And I would suggest you also let it mess with your heart as well.
If you have two or three. That’s awesome. Start applying what talking about in this message for those people.
But start praying for more.
Pray that God would bring more non-believers to be a part of your life.
Because this church is not about seclusion. Our core value…the thing that drives us, is reaching people.
And pray that God would bring more people into your life that you could help influence for Jesus Christ.
That’s a bold prayer that I believe he will gladly answer.
And as God puts more people in your life, or perhaps they are already there, our calling is to let God show his love through us.
To let his love show through our actions. Through our lifestyle.
We are, in effect, ambassadors for Christ.
If you were the American ambassador for a random country (give me a country), you would be the representative for America in that country.
And if you were a random person in _____ who happened to know the ambassador, you’d probably think most Americans were like that person.
We do the same thing.
Did you ever have a foreign exchange student come to your school in high school?
Maybe from Germany or China or something?
We can’t help it, but we stereotype. And we just assume that most Chinese people are probably just like that person.
Oh, they’re short, so most people in China are short.
Ever heard of Yao Ming? Did you know the world’s tallest man in Chinese?
But it doesn’t matter what the facts are, the sad reality is people stereotype off of the “ambassadors” they have.
And the reality is: You, whether you like or not, are an ambassador, a representative of Christ to the people around you.
(2 Corinthians 5:20) – NIV
20We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
But not every ambassador does a good job right.
Or not every person is who you would pick or want to be your representative
There was a study done once where they asked Muslims in mid. East to describe what a Christians in America were like.
And many of the people in the study just gave characteristics they knew from Hollywood movies
Christians are pretty violent, they swear a lot, they have sex out of marriage a lot etc.
Because for them, they equated American = Christian (just as we often equate Iraqi = Muslim). And for them, the actors of Hollywood are unfortunately acting as ambassadors for Christ.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone got together all of your non-believing friends (co-workers, neighbors, etc.), “Who are the Christians you know?”
Would they write your name down?
And if they wrote your name down, what would they say “Christians are like?” What would they say your life is like?
Because, as an ambassador, How YOU live impacts their impression of God.
In fact, for some people, you are possibly the only person they know that really KNOWS Jesus Christ
Our actions lay the foundation for any sort of conversation we’ll ever have in evangelism.
Whether that’s as simple as saying, “God is good.” Or “I’ll pray for you” or “You should come to my church, we’re starting a new series next week” or even “Do you know why Jesus died?”
The foundation, the runway for any conversation that you may have someday is indeed your actions. The way you live your life.
CALLED TO SHINE
And the Bible speaks often of how important our actions are first.
We are, in effect, called to shine with our lifestyle
(Philippians 2:14-15) – NIV
4Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
The idea is that when people are lost in the dark, they are attracted to the light.
We have to be the light.
Jesus covered this in his sermon on the mount…we spent a whole message on this during the fall
(Matthew 5:14-16) - NIV
14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Each one of us is a light bulb, if you want the light inside of us (which is God) to get through, that means cleaning up some of the garbage in our lives.
One of the things I think we miss a lot in the topic of evangelism is how much of a process it is.
Again, I think that’s because we’ve been influenced by the dominant paradigm of the last 50 years, which was not only everybody go talk to strangers, but every body should go through the steps and at the end “say a prayer.”
And again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. People come to Christ like that.
One of the strongest Christians I know came to Christ at the Berkley when someone from Campus Crusade approached her and just started talking about Jesus
But for most people, that’s not their story
In our Alpha group this summer (a group we did where we studied the basics of Christianity), majority of people were newer believers, and one night I asked, “How many of you know the date in which you became a Christian?”
And out of ten people, how many do you think raised their hand?
Zero. Including me.
And even if people do have a date (which some of you do), it’s still usually just that date was the culmination of a long process.
But what’s happened is that the “church” has become overly focused on just results, so we when we talk evangelism we just talk about what would you say to someone on how to accept Christ?
Well, that’s great, but what if they’re not there yet?
It’s kind of like practicing to make sure you say the perfect wedding vows when you’re not even dating anyone yet!
SO much, SOOO much of evangelism is paving the path on the way to eventually have a conversation.
And believe you me the conversation usually has to come somehow, but the conversation is the very tip of the iceberg.
Talking is a small percentage of evangelism, the rest is in who you are and how you act.
Because if you’re going to talk, it’s nice to have something to back it up.
For instance, what if you were at home, doorbell rings, (man looks shappy, bad car), “Sir/Mam, I’d like to tell you how you could be rich like me!”
You’d probably shut the door in his face.
Because we are a people of impressions. We make so many of our decisions based on what we can see.
So you could be trained all you want about how to lead someone through the 4 steps of accepting Salvation, but if your life doesn’t look like you’ve been with Jesus, than your presentation probably is going to fall quite flat.
And just a quick side note: Please don’t let this intimate you.
I’ve seen WAY too many Christians get too intimated by this.
They feel like, I’m just not where I need to be in my faith to ever say anything to anyone or invite them to church or anything like that.
Actually no. What’s happening there is people are confusing two issues.
The one is what we just talked about: Your actions really, really matter. And get serious about living for Christ.
But two: What is Christianity really all about?
It’s the fact that we’re all messed up people who weren’t good enough, but Jesus died for us anyway.
So it’s never been about you being good enough first of all.
Spend your time talking about how Jesus died for a messed up person like you… not talking about how good of a person you are because you’re a Christian…that’s not all that helpful.
So, we should all talk, we should all share…but it’s the road to getting there, that’s SOO important.
PAVING THE ROAD
So if it is all about that road leading up to having a conversation or inviting someone to church or wherever, how to you better pave that road??
The Bible again, gives great advice for this…as it should
(Colossians 4:5-6) – NLT
5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
We are called to make the most of every opportunity that we have around unbelievers.
It’s to literally treat every conversation, every time you’re together with an unbeliever as if it has eternal implications. Because it does.
Paul elaborates on this a little bit more in 1 Corinthians
(1 Corinthians 9:19-23) – NLT
19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
I believe this is the foundational passage on the Process of Evangelism in the Bible.
Paul said he tries to find “common ground with everyone.”
Meaning, if you have a friend/neighbor that you kind know…don’t just say hi to them…find ways to invest in their lives.
They love football? Invite them over for a Vikings game
Neighbor that loves going on a walk? Offer to come along
Co-workers that love food in the morning? Bring donuts! Maybe they like going out for lunch. Offer to take them all to Culver’s!
If your non-Christian friend loves to read, join their book club
If they’re passionate about raising money for cancer research, donate heavily to their cause…join their relay for life team
If they love martial arts, sign-up for their kung-fu class
Do what it takes to find common ground where you can be in their lives DISPLAYING the LOVE of Christ!
There’s obviously a limit though…
If your friend does cocaine, it’s not like you can be like “sniff” “it’s for Jesus”
FIND COMMON GROUND. Invest in relationships.
Investing in relationships with non-believers has an eternal impact that is so much more worthy of your time than the vast majority of things we give our time to
Being a good Christian evangelist is really not all that different from teenage dating.
Awkward and lacking in so many ways, one of the ways it’s not lacking is its zeal to be with the other person
The guy likes basketball. The girl responds with. I LOVE basketball… let’s watch every game.
The girl likes opera. The guy responds with… Opera is wonderful. I love watching women break glass.
And it’s only when couples are later married that they have conversations like, “I thought you liked basketball!”
But it’s a good model for us.
Be intentional about finding ways to hang out with unbelievers.
And it works vice versa as well.
Don’t just go to where these people are in their lives. Bring them into yours.
Let them see how your family operates. Let them see the love of Christ in your family. Invite them over for dinner for once instead of just your normal Christian friends.
Invite an unbeliever along to hang out with 3 of your other Christian friends.
Let them be surrounded by what true life really looks like, and often the more lights shining, the better.
We’ve seen this somewhat with our House Groups model even.
It’s been neat to watch people who are just starting on the road towards Christ be propelled towards Him as they get surrounded by people who actually love and care for them.
So what can you do?
How can God use you in this…because I believe He can!
Are there people in your life that you could be investing into? Who are they? Do you have at least five people?
Do you need to praying for people to walk into your life? Or start looking for them?
And remember, bringing people to knowledge that Jesus Christ died for them, loves them, and wants to forgive them is a process. It just simply takes time.
And it’s so much more than just knowing the theology behind it
Let’s take some time to pray this morning that God would use our lives as a witness for Him.
I’m going to actually just give you some time to pray this morning.
Put people in your life.
A passion for those people.
That they would see your love and start walking further down the road towards accepting the grace of Jesus Christ.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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