OUT, October 27th 2019. Last Sunday after Trinity. Trinity 19.
1 Corinthians 9:11-23 and also Luke 10:25-37.
15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:15-16). OUT.
This month has been about UP, IN, OUT. Jesus We see from the Gospel these values are reflected in Jesus own life. Jesus spends a night in prayer before choosing the twelve apostles, he is in prayer at his baptism, and of course, Judas and the guards know where to find Jesus because the Mount of Olives as a place of regular prayer for Jesus. From this base of regular set aside time to prayer, Jesus said ”I only do what I see the Father doing” (John 5:19). He had an Upward focus – looking to his Heavenly Father.
He choose the twelve. They leave all to be with him. They keep company with him. He will make them into disciples but he shares life with them, a community is formed isn’t it? He chooses them and so believes in them. He continues to believe in them through all the stages they are at and go through.
Finally Jesus was about OUT. He never lost sight of the Father’s vision, why he was sent, he reached out to and brought the good news to a dark and damaged world. Jesus prayed to his father, he lived out his life among his disciples, but Jesus kept walking among the crowds -feeding, teaching, caring, healing – he did not wait for the spiritually needy to come to him, he went to them.
Jesus led an up, in, out life. 3 dimensions. And as followers, as we seek to follow in his footsteps, to walk in his dust, which leads into that 3 dimensional life. Hence as a church gathered, we want to be a church of 3 dimensions; but also as individual followers. Pause.
Our final dimension. OUT.
At All Saints we describe out as being about serving others outside of the church community and evangelism. In these minutes, we will mainly focus upon evangelism – the how and whys. Of the two evangelism is usually a topic or activity that doesn’t create much enthusiasm, but often more anxiety or concern.
But we begin with serving others, the second part to OUT as a bird has two wings. How to do it. Serving others is defined as we see in Luke 10 – ‘Loving our neighbour’ . OUT means serving and helping those in their place of need, as the Samaritan does. Serving others can be very simple. It can be helping those with whom life brings us into contact – whom we may or may not see again – like the injured man in the story. It can be serving those on our street where we live, or in our work place or college or university. It is about showing Christ’s love by action and words in a dark and damaged world. There are many ways, Christians are serving others. For some, there Christian faith has led them into areas of work to serve others. There are Christians assisting those in financial debt; those working across our world with NGOs as well as the Christian NGOs, such as TEAR, seeking to bring clean water, education, disease eradication. There are organisations like IJM whose lawyers and staff and working to end human trafficking and its various forms. I think of my friend Marianne, working to help women in Eastern Europe caught in sex trafficking. There are many other Christians who serve those outside the church community through the opportunities that come through their studies, work or where they live, those, as we said, life brings us into contact with. There are many ways to serve others, to do OUT.
And for a church, the Good Samaritan is a good model. In its location, what needs does this church come across. What resources does it have, to make a difference? All in the name of Christ.
These next two months a few people are going to be working on this topic – how can we as a church help those in need in our city – and feed that into our council as a possible approach for our church in 2020. If you have a heart for this topic, do speak to a warden or me…
I think though that part of OUT – serving others – usually doesn’t create anxiety or concern, compared to the other part – evangelism: talking to others about Jesus.
Let’s explore this. When we studied the stages of the first disciples, we saw how Jesus sent them out, to preach, to proclaim the good news and to do what they saw him doing – to imitate him. That wasn’t just the 12 however. In Luke 10, he sends another 72 out. (We read this just before our gospel). So it wasn’t only for the apostles to do. Then when he is about to ascend, Jesus commissions – the Great Commission – he says, ‘Go and Make disciples of all the nations.’ So as they have become disciples, imitators of him, they are go and make other disciples, who will in turn make other disciples. Disciples make disciples. A Commission – for all to be involved in. And its breadth. The whole world. Did this work out in practice?
Well you could say, as you read the opening chapters of Acts, it is the apostles who seem to do nearly all the evangelising. However, when you get to Acts 8, the great persecution by Saul begins and it says ”all except the apostles were scattered.” and what did they do? Luke says v4 – Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” The Greek actually says they were ‘evangelizing the word’. The word evangelism we need to remember comes from the word evangelion – means ‘good news’. Evangelism is the spreading of the evangelion – the gospel. It wasn’t just the ones who went into Samaria who evangelised. Acts 11, tells of believers who are persecuted but travel 640 km north, to Antioch – now in southern turkey. Two hours west of Aleppo by car. These believers had been persecuted, forced to leave their homes, and kin, and they arrive in Antioch, and what do they do… ”telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” Again the Greek word, ‘evangelising’ is used for the good news being shared with the Jews and Greeks. So if you are sharing the good news about Jesus, you are doing evangelism.
So it wasn’t the apostles – Peter, James John – the founding leaders – who did all the evangelism. All the disciples were involved. In fact it was a part of their discipleship – of what it meant to be a disciple. Jesus came to a dark and damaged world, to bring good news. He invited them to become imitators of him. That meant they too brought good news to others. And so commissioned them and us, through every decade, as we wait his return, to bring the good news to every part of this dark and damaged city, nation and world.
There are ministries of apostles, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher Paul teaches in Ephesians. There are people who are called and gifted to share the Christian faith – some are famous – Luis Palau, Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom. Others, anonymous, but who are gifted and called. However, while there are some called to be evangelists, we are all called to do the work of an evangelist – to be evangelising.
Having said all that. What is your definition of evangelism? And how do you feel about it? I think many of people have a range of anxieties about it usually, instead of enthusiasm. There can be a number of reasons.
1.Our cultures teach us, often, that faith is private, and so we should not share about it. But that is a little strange isn’t it. I mean why faith? There can be other beliefs that are deep and personal but we will talk about them – say parenting. You listen to parents share about their approaches and you see those who believe in their approach and will happily share it with others to convince others that this method is best. Maybe you have been a parenting evangelist or been evangelised?!
Or football. My good friend Dave, is a passionate Liverpool fan. I am a Man United fan. We’d talk about it. He was convinced Liverpool was the greatest club on earth, me, I would have to disagree. But did we try to persuade each other, talk with each other, feel we could challenge each other? Certainly. That is part of the fun of it. Yet if, for example, we feel we can chat about why Ajax is better than Feyenoord or vice versa, what stops us talking with someone who does not believe, about something – our faith – which is even more meaningful to us? There is something wrong about this view in our culture.
2. For some people it is a natural anxiety about how people will react among us when we talk about it. Will they act differently towards us, will it affect our friendship if we talk about our faith in Jesus?
3. Over 50 % of our nation totally does not believe in Christ, and less than 15% will be regularly coming to church. When we are in a minority, or feel we are, then it can feel hard to talk about our faith.
So culture says we shouldn’t, we wonder how people react and also we can be anxious, when we feel the odd ones out.
4. I guess also what can hit us, is that we feel totally unqualified. I mean. What do we do if they ask the difficult questions? Maybe we feel we do not know enough. Or feel pressure, what if we mess it up?
You know one of the passages that always encourage me on this. Paul – the man you think who has it sorted talking about Jesus and has a good track record – he asks the Ephesians church. ‘Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.’ Paul – pray that I will fearlessly – boldly… he could feel anxious talking about Jesus, he knew. The mighty man of God. He asked them to pray for courage. He wants to be clear. He is the man who wrote much of the NT, a theologian of theologians. What does he ask the Colosse Christians to pray for: ”Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.” Even he knew, he could say the wrong things, or not be clear, or mess it up. So he asks them to pray for him. I find this deeply encouraging. He asks for courage because he can be anxious or when the opportunity comes, not say anything; for clarity – so whatever he says, it is clear enough to be understood.
So how do I see evangelism.I find inspiring the definition by Archbiship William Temple, whom we quoted about coincidences and prayer. He said about evangelism:
”to evangelise is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through him, to accept him as their Saviour, and serve him as their King in the fellowship of his church.”
Another great preacher – CH Spurgeon – in the c19th said evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. All need to know the love and goodness and salvation through Christ. Beggars you could say. We all need God. Bread – the basic need of life, what sustains us. Hungry without it. We don’t share faith thinking we are better than others. We say – here is bread, that I have discovered…
Martin Luther, saw the ultimate love for your neighbour, was to tell them the good news of Jesus. If Jesus came for humanity’s deepest pain and problems, surely loving someone is telling them that good news at some point.
For me. What is this about? I became a Christian through a good friend. And for me, that is always the foundation for evangelism. Telling others – who are friends – about Jesus. It is about taking what is precious to me and wanting to share that with others. At times it has worked, many times not.
Yet I was encouraged years ago by Mark 4 – parable of the sower. Not all will respond Jesus says, but some will. Some will respond, but not all. At times it is seed sowing, later others water, and see growth. I remember when I was part of a missionary team in Budapest. One summer we worked with a church for 6 weeks – day in day out – sharing the gospel in creative ways, drama, preaching, sports evangelism, street work – late night work talking with teenagers or young adults on the streets. Full on. Other visiting teams were involved. We did everything. After all of this. Not one person was part of the church. Not one person came to a course. Very disappointing. A few years later, I was back in Budapest and talked to that pastor. He was still there. I chatted to him about those weeks. He said, yes, no one came. but what about the seeds which were sown? The growth we have not seen? But also he said – we could see it as no one came to faith in Jesus. But also he said, we can also see it as 6 weeks we served our community – as teenagers etc with nothing to do over the summer, had sports, other activities, good conversations with people…
What is God doing when we are talking with others? It may be different than what we expect? We may be in a place of seed sowing – perhaps the first or one of the first to share the faith. And we see nothing. We may be in a place where we are watering – adding to what it there – we see the shoot. Or we may be in a priviledged place where someone is ready to come to trust in Christ and we are the last step along the way… We could be anywhere in that spectrum…
When I was thinking about this. I remembered a friend, Claire. In my first months after becoming a Christian, I remember talking with Claire about Christianity. She knew about faith but didn’t believe. I remember being far too direct, far too blunt and I thought I had blew it. We remained good friends. Lost touch after uni. When I was in training in Durham, 4 years later, we actually got back into contact. Then she told me a story. She had become a Christian. What happened, she had no memory of that blunt or direct conversation; she had in the previous years had ended up working and became friends with a number of Christians and she remembered our friendship and my example at Keele , and that started her on another journey that led her to Christ. So you know. I thought I messed it all up. But examples of other believers was important for her as well as the words she was told. Seeds sown. Years later. Not through me she became a Christian. Through other life situations and friendships and I was blessed to hear her testimony and that gave me hope how this can happen with others.
A few practical steps?
1)Paul in Colossians, asks them to pray that the Lord would open a door so that they could share the good news message. A foundation of prayer. We invited us last year to pray for 5 non Christians regularly. We will share that prayer card again this week. These 5 can be people anywhere. But can there be someone on that list whom we meet often? Can we pray as Paul did the door would open and we’d be clear and bold to talk?
2)Secondly Paul words. ‘That some may be saved.’
His passion is for people to know Jesus. And I think, to be honest, maybe at times, for some of us, we need the Lord to do a deep work in our heart. We enjoy our relationship with the Lord but do we long that others could share that same enjoyment? Confession where, to be honest, we don’t have that passion and to pray it start to burn within us.
3)Paul, in 1 Cor 9 shares how he ‘becomes all things to all people’. He adapts and adjusts. For me, this has a number of meanings but in evangelism. Think about who you are talking to. Can you talk in a way they can understand. The words you use. Paul talks differently to the Jews as he does to the Gentiles – look at his different sermons in Acts.
4)And finally, don’t forget about the simple act of invitation. The ultimate aim, is to help someone to discover Jesus. Perhaps you can invite them to attend a service here with you – you say, I’m going along, would you like to come along?
Or to Alpha in January – a course which explains much about the Christian faith – to say, would you like to come along with me? I’d suggest that one of the things to pray about between now and Christmas, is there someone the Lord would like you to invite to come along with you to Alpha – they may say no, but if you have a person in mind, God would like you to make the invitation – the response is up to them and what the Lord is doing through your offer / invitation.
OUT. About serving others, and sharing the Good News about Jesus. In this dark and damaged world, nation and city.
A prayer. Shall we stand to pray this…
A prayer normally used on Pentecost but appropriate here. As you feel comfortable I’d like to invite you to pray this prayer with me….
‘Almighty God, on the day of Pentecost you sent Holy Spirit to your disciples, with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame filling them with joy and boldness to share the good news. By the power of the same Spirit strengthen us to witness to your truth, and draw everyone to the fire of your love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.