EPISTLE LESSON: Ephesians 2:11-22
GOSPEL LESSSON: Mark 6:30-44
SERMON: “God Never Said . . .. Part 2 ”
Pastor Billy Strayhorn wrote,”Most people expect me and every other minister in the world to witness and do the”E" word thing. You’re sort of like secret agents. Most folks don’t expect you to talk about your faith or be involved in this whole evangelism deal.
“But you know what, you are exactly who Jesus would have chosen. Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors, and the everyday ordinary kinds of people. He didn’t have a single Pharisee, Sadduccee, Priest or Levite on his staff. It was all run by the laity.”
Preaching professor William Willimon said:”In baptism we are initiated, crowned, chosen, embraced, washed, adopted, gifted, reborn, killed, and thereby sent forth and redeemed. We are identified as one of God’s own, then assigned our place and our job within the kingdom of God.”
So why do we cringe and hide whenever the E-word gets mentioned in church meetings or in worship?
Because we have a lot of misconceptions about evangelism.
At the end of June I shared with you a message inspired by Scripture and Larry Moyer’s book, 21 Things God Never Said, in which I (hope I successfully) debunked the myth that if you can’t name the exact date and time, or at least the specific circumstances under which you became a Christian, then you’re not saved. God never said you had to know the exact date and time.
There are some other things God never said about faith and evangelism I want to share with you this morning.
Myth #1: “If you don’t tell others about Me, then you’re not a Christian.” Our favorite Bible verse, that one that just about everyone who has at least one verse of scripture memorized knows, John 3:16 says 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It does not say, whoever believes and tells others about him.” In none of the conversions recorded in the New Testament is telling others about Christ a condition of salvation.
That’s important, because if there’s a condition attached, it’s not a gift. As the Apostle Paul wrote,”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Telling others about Christ is not a requirement for salvation. It’s a requirement for discipleship. When Jesus, starting out in his earthly ministry, called those first disciples he urged them,”Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” When the disciples urged Jesus to send the people away because they were hungry and needed to go buy something to eat, Jesus could have sent them away, or he could have met their need in a variety of ways, but he said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat.” And when he gave the disciples his final instructions before ascending into heaven he told them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So don’t let anyone lay it on you that if you fail to tell others about Christ, you’re not a Christian. Just know that telling people about Christ is part of discipleship.
A side note on how we go about doing that:
Someone once said to me in the middle of a conversation about growing the church, “I don’t believe in shoving my beliefs down anyone else’s throat.”
Friends, I don’t believe in shoving my faith down anyone else’s throat either. Think of it this way: – I like chocolate cake. It looks good, smells good, tastes good, and from my family traditions it means birthday! Cake and presents! As much as I enjoy a good piece of chocolate cake, I wouldn’t want anyone to come and start forcing it into my mouth and down my throat – literally. If that’s the only way to get some, I’d rather do without. But offer it to me when I’m hungry, hand me a fork and let me taste each bite. God Never said “shove it down their throat.”
Myth #2 “If evangelism scares you then you don’t have a gift for evangelism.” Perhaps you’ve had the experience. The moment happens when it just seems like the right thing to do to talk about your faith, about what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. But your palms go sweaty, your breath grows short. You start to wonder what this person will think of you. You feel the fear and letting the moment pass, you let out a sigh of relief rather than speak of the gospel. You think, I love the Lord, but I just don’t have the gift of evangelism. It’s maybe possible you don’t have the gift of evangelism. But feeling fear at those opportune moments doesn’t necessarily prove that.
Consider this. You have heard me play the piano – just a couple of weeks ago right here in this sanctuary. I know I’m not Mozart or Van Cliburn. There are many more gifted pianists than I. But I can play – somewhat advanced arrangements – moderately well. Does it surprise you to know that it scares me every time I do it? Friends, I even get nervous about getting nervous. Seriously, from the moment I commit to play on a particular Sunday I think almost as much about how to get past the nerves as about playing the piece I’ve chosen. Does that mean I don’t have musical gifts?
The Apostle Paul wrote: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, . . . 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.” This great planter of churches was cognizant of his weaknesses and came in fear.
I’ve heard Billy Graham preach. I actually had the privilege of attending an evening of one of his crusades – ten or more years ago. When he gave the invitation for people to come forward, hundreds, thousands of people went forward in response to the words of doubtless the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century. Would it surprise you to know that he has stated that he has felt fear when sharing Christ one on one. I suspect he would agree that it is more difficult to speak one on one about Christ than to preach to a hundred or thousands of people. If it were true that feeling fear means one doesn’t have the gift of evangelism, then the fact that Billy Graham admits having felt fear when it came to talking about Christ means he didn’t really have the gift.
God never said that if you feel fear at the thought talking to someone about Christ that it means you don’t have the gift of evangelism.
Myth #3: Living a Christ-like life around non-Christians is enough. You really don’t need to use words.
Ghandi, the great spiritual leader of India was asked,”What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?” His answer: “Christians.” He was, of course, referring to people who professed Christ but didn’t act like it. Few things do more damage to spreading faith in Jesus Christ than people who claim to be Christians but whose lives belie their affirmation of faith. How can we take seriously someone who says forgiveness is one of the greatest blessings of Christian faith, but who refuses to forgive someone in his life? How can you take seriously someone who says,”You really need to go to church,” yet rarely goes herself.
But we’ve heard it said, live a good Christian life around non-Christians. If necessary, use words.” “You’re the only Bible some people will ever read.” “There’s no need to speak to unbelievers about their need for Christ. Just live the life around them, and they’ll come to the Savior.”
I could wish that were true. If only I could just life my day-to-day life, being kind, putting others before myself, receiving insults and ill treatment and manage not to return evil for evil and everyone around me would become Christians. If I could just be compassionate, prayerful, trusting in God and all those non-Christians would, just by seeing me, become believers. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
First of all, lots of people won’t even notice. Another group of people may notice, but won’t ask what is different for me. For whatever non-Christians who notice and ask (whether it’s 2% or 92%), words are not only important – they are essential. Did you receive your faith by noticing others’ behavior? Or did you somewhere along the line hear a sermon, attend a class, read a book or have a conversation with someone who explained to you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he gave up his place in heaven, took on human life and lived among us; that he not only gave us teaching and direction, healing and compassion, forgiveness and understanding, but he willingly and purposefully gave up his life, was crucified, dead and buried; that he rose again from the dead and is still alive today.
Yes, we need to live the life Christ calls us to live – to behave in Christ-following ways throughout the week at the office, on the golf course and in the church parking lot just as much as we do on Sunday morning in the sanctuary. But we also need the words.
How will they know if no one tells them. As the Ethiopian said to Philip when Philip asked him if he understood the scripture he was reading, “How can I,” he said,”unless someone explains it to me?”
I read some marketing statistics recently that noted that 97% of the world has heard of Coca Cola, which has only been around about 100 years.
72% of the world has seen a can of Coca Cola.
51% of the world has tasted a can of Coca Cola.
And the comment was made,”If God had given the task of world evangelization to the Coke company it would probably be done by now.”
God never said that salvation depends upon speaking and teaching about Christ. But discipleship does.
God never said that feeling fear in the moment you have an opportunity to talk about faith means you don’t have the gift of evangelism. From St. Paul to Rev. Billy Graham, even great evangelists feel fear.
And God never said that living a good Christian life is enough. Use your words.