- There is a story of a conversation between Jesus and Gabriel which is purely fictional, but illustrates a good point…
After Jesus ascended to heaven, the angel Gabriel approached Him and said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.” “I did,” He said.
“And,” continued Gabriel, “do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?”
“Oh no,” said Jesus,”not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know
Gabriel was perplexed. “Them what have you done, to let everyone know about your love for them?”
Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about Me. Those who are told will in turn tell still other people about Me, and My story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of mankind will have heard about My life and what I have done.”
Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He knew well what poor stuff men were made of. “But what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? What if way down in the twentieth century, people just don’t tell others about you? Haven’t you made any other plans?” And Jesus answered, “I haven’t made any other plans. I’m counting on them.”
2. Twenty one centuries later . . . Jesus still has no other plan!
a. He counted on His early disciples and they delivered
b. He’s counting on you and me; have we done as well?
3. Before we succumb to another “guilt trip,” I want to consider some reasons why we may appear “ineffective” when our efforts are compared to the apostles
a. My purpose is not to excuse ourselves
b. But we need to understand some of the forces or influences which have clearly hindered our effectiveness
I TOO MANY PEOPLE
A. WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE WE COME FACE TO FACE WITH MORE PEOPLE THAN WE CAN EASILY RELATE TO…
1. A casual stroll down the street or through a store brings us face to face with dozens of people every minute.
2. Every day we come in contact with more people than we can possibly relate to in meaningful ways
B. THIS FACT CAN EASILY RESULT IN CRIPPLING OUR ABILITY TO RELATE TO PEOPLE…
1. Since we cannot possible recognize or relate to EVERY one, we are tempted to relate to NO one!
2. Before long, we begin to adopt an attitude of “isolation”
3. Eventually, we lose the ability to effectively carry on meaningful relationships
C. THIS CAN HAVE AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON EVANGELISM…
1. For a meaningful friendship is one of the most successful means of providing an avenue for the gospel (which is the point of this study)
2. But many Christians, caught up in the attitude of “isolationism”. . .
a. Often do not have any significant contacts with non-Christians
b. Are therefore unable to relate to others in a “redemptive” manner
II. LIFE IS TOO FAST AND COMPLICATED
A. DESPITE INVENTIONS TO SAVE TIME, WE ARE BUSIER THAN EVER. . .
- Jobs change, people move
- Congestion grows, traffic jams
- Telephones and cell phones ring constantly, TV drones on and on
- We are held captive by schedules and the demands of others
- We find ourselves unable to slow down our world. . .
B. LIVING SUCH HECTIC LIVES. . .
- It is easy for one to feel there is simply no room to add the “business of evangelism”
- One may feel that to do so many even be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”
- So evangelism of any sort is often left out
III. EXPOSURE TO LIMITED EVANGELISM OPTIONS
A. EVEN WHEN WE WANT TO DO SOMETHING, WE ARE OFTEN GIVEN LIMITED “OPTIONS”
- Such as just inviting people to services
- Or going around the neighborhood, knocking on the doors of complete strangers
- Or learning how to teach home Bible studies
B. THIS IS NOT TO SAY THAT SUCH METHODS HAVE NOT WORKED OR WILL NOT WORK FOR SOME. . .
- These options DO work for some Christians, but not all are suited for these particular approaches
- These options DO reach some non-believers, but some are repelled by them.
C. BUT THERE CAN BE LONG-LASTING EFFECTS WHEN THESE ARE THE ONLY OPTIONS GIVEN. . .
- Those not suited for these approaches can get easily discouraged as they try and find themselves failing to be something they are not
- E.g., not everyone is designed to be a teacher – Romans 12: 4-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 29; James 3: 1
- So unless other options are shown to be available, many quit making ANY evangelistic effort!
IV. MISUNDERSTANDING “SEPARATION”
A. MANY CHRISTIANS MISUNDERSTAND THE PRINCIPLE OF “SEPARATION”. . .
- We ARE to be “separate” from the word – cf. 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18
- But this does not mean “isolation” – cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9 -13
- Yet I fear that many Christians tend to isolate themselves from the world in the name of “separation”
- There IS a way to “influence people without losing your influence!”
B. REMEMBER THE PRINCIPLE OF BEING “THE SALT OF THE EARTH”. . .
- Salt must get out of the container and mix with food to be effective
- Without engaging in sin, we can still have contact with the sinner. . .
a. As did Jesus – Matthew 9: 10-13; 11:19
b. And so did Paul – 1 Corinthians 9: 20-23
V. THE CREDIBILITY GAP
A. IN SOME CASES, THERE IS AN IMBALANCE BETWEEN WHAT SOME CALLED THE VERBALIZATION” AND THE “INCARNATION” OF THE GOSPEL . . .
- i.e., the lifestyle of the Christian is inconsistent with the message being presented
- When this happens, people are likely to think: “What you ARE speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are SAYING.”
- In this way, a “credibility gap” is formed
B. TO OVERCOME THIS “CREDIBILITY GAP” . . .
- Christians must BE “good news” before they can SHARE THE GOOD NEWS
- We must be sure to live out the gospel in our lives before preaching it to others – cf. Ezra 7:10; 1 Peter 3: 1-2
C. TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY. . .
- When love is seen, the message is heard
- Conversely, when love is not seen, the message is not taken seriously
- “The best argument for Christianity is Christians; their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.”
NOTE: The basic outline for this lesson was adapted heavily from “Lifestyle Evangelism” , by Joseph Aldrich.