Tag Archives: Evangelism

A Pattern of Faith

 

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-10

In the passage above, the believers in Thessalonica are being commended for their faith in responding to the word that was preached with power, the Spirit, and conviction (1:5a).  The theme of this section is that the consequences of their faith had reverberating effects locally, nationally, and internationally. Not only was their faith not kept in isolation, it wasn’t unique to them, rather it followed a pattern set down by Paul, Silas, and Timothy. By following the example set before them, they became a pattern in and of themselves for others to follow.  At its heart, this replicating effect of the gospel is the nature of discipleship.

Writing under divine inspiration, Paul begins his commendation of the Thessalonians by highlighting the fact of their imitation of him, his fellow gospel ministers, and more importantly, the Lord.  This pattern is alluded to in verse 5b, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake” where the character of the messengers validated the quality of the message.  The godly character displayed to the Thessalonians in the face of affliction over the course of the trio’s several month ministry served to establish a pattern of faith, obedience, and holiness for them to imitate and they did just that, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.”  The idea of imitation is literally to mimic, or to copy.  We might say they were gospel copycats of the pattern that was shown to them.  The foundation for this pattern of both Paul, his co-laborers, as well as the Thessalonians was the Lord Himself.  His obedience unto death blazes the trail and establishes the pattern for all those who would take His yoke upon them and learn from Him.  Practically, the Thessalonians were spiritually downstream of the men who had preached the gospel to them and patterned a life of godliness, but these men were themselves simply downstream of the Lord.  The headwaters for the pattern of faith, and faith itself, is The Founder and Perfecter of our faith, The Apostle and High Priest, The Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3; .  

This pattern of follow the leader is not unique to this letter, rather the Apostle Paul elsewhere makes a similar exhortation for believers to follow him, in so far as he is following Christ:

  • 1 Cor. 4:16
  • 1 Cor. 11:1
  • Eph. 5:1
  • 1 Thess. 2:14
  • Heb. 6:12           

Part of the pattern, specific to the Thessalonians, was the reception of the gospel with joy, in spite of the circumstances of affliction.  Certainly Paul, Silas, and Timothy provided an example for both gospel proclamation and gospel obedience, but in addition to that, they modeled how to live a God-honoring life in the face of persecution.  Recall that in Acts 17, the trio were in Thessalonica preaching the gospel, resulting in the conversion of a “great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.”  But this caused the Jews to be jealous and incite a riot, a riot which led to the incarceration of Jason and the exile of Paul and Silas to Berea.  It is therefore within reason that since one of their own, Jason, as well as Paul, Silas and Timothy, were persecuted for the Gospel, those who remained in Thessalonica who had embraced the message of the gospel, likewise had been afflicted by persecution.  This pattern of imitating the reception of the gospel with joy in the face of affliction is further emphasized in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, 

“For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.  For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews….”  

Often, in various ways, shapes, and forms, the gospel is accompanied by affliction (Acts 9:16, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”).  But the Thessalonians were more than just imitators, they were replicators, “so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  Expanding on this, in verse 8 we read

For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”

Not only did those who believed in Thessalonica become imitators of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, and our Lord, but they became examples themselves.  Their embrace of the gospel became a pattern for others. Additionally, the “word of the Lord” literally echoed or reverberated from them first locally, then nationally, then internationally.  In summation, this is the pattern of discipleship. Let’s review it for the sake of clarity.

The gospel was preached by our Lord, fulfilled by His coming, and ratified by His death, resurrection, and ascension.  Paul had heard of it first hand from our Lord. Presumably Silas and Timothy had heard it second hand, but all three were witnesses to its truthfulness.  More than that, they followed the pattern given them, whether from Christ directly as in Paul’s case, or from others who ministered the gospel to them. Further, they became examples for others to follow, in so far as they were following the example of Christ.  The Thessalonians likewise embraced Christ and began sharing His gospel through proclamation and their life that accompanied it. In turn, they became a pattern to those in Macedonia, Achaia, and beyond. This. Is. Discipleship. It is the pattern of faith that must be replicated if the gospel is to spread locally, in our own neighborhoods and cities, to nationally, and internationally.  It began with Christ, continued with 3 men, spread nationally, then internationally. This is how the whole world gets turned upside down (Acts 17:6).

 

Preaching the Resurrection

 

Recently, we’ve been working through the introduction of one of the longest (and in my opinion, more difficult) chapters in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15.  We’ve seen the foundational importance of the resurrection of Christ, not only in proving the bodily resurrection of believers, but foundational to the Gospel message altogether.  In this post, we’ll return to Acts, where we first began with a look at the background for Paul’s missionary journey to Corinth, this time to explore the significance of Christ’s resurrection as it pertains to the development and growth of the early church.

Written by Luke, Acts picks up where his Gospel left off, namely with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the opening verses we read,  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3

Later in this same chapter we find being a witness to Christ’s resurrection as a requirement for apostleship, Acts. 1:22.  In the latter half of the book, Christ’s resurrection becomes a major stumbling block to Jewish religious leaders and the reason for the Apostle Paul’s trial in Acts 24.

The centrality of the resurrection theme in Acts cannot be understated.  Not only is it prominent in the introduction, and boldly proclaimed  throughout the missionary journeys of Paul, but it takes a preeminent role in the sermons of Acts which largely connect the book of Acts thematically.  Alan Thompson notes,

“In Acts the resurrection is the climax of God’s saving purposes, and it is on the basis of the resurrection that the blessings of salvation may be offered.  The reason for this appears to be that in the resurrection of Jesus, the hoped-for resurrection age to come has arrived already, and it is because of the arrival of the age to come that the blessings of that age may now be received.” (Thompson, pg. 79)

In that book, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thompson provides a table of each of the evangelistic sermons from Acts and breaks down the components of each sermon.  Common among them is proclamation (preaching) of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Every single sermon, if we may call them that, delivered with evangelism in mind, i.e. to an audience of unbelievers contained the components of the Gospel outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, culminating with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Among those evangelistic sermons identified by Thompson are Acts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 – Peter; Acts 13, 17 – Paul.

With this intentional focus on evangelistic preaching in mind, we must ask a few questions by way of application.

How often do we hear evangelistic sermons?  My experience has been one of two options: 1. The sermon has an evangelistic appeal tacked onto the end 2. The sermon has no evangelism focus at all.

Second, are we to tailor our sermons in our Lord’s Day worship services towards evangelism?  If yes, then we run the risk of alienating the brethren who are there to worship and be edified.  If no, then where and when are these evangelistic sermons supposed to take place?

This of course is the dilemma of the modern worship service.  Should they be broad and attractional with an evangelistic focus or narrow and deeper for the edification of believers?

One thing is clear – the apostolic preaching of the resurrection was central to the growth of the early church.  It wasn’t an add-on and it wasn’t altogether neglected.

 

An affiliate link to Thompson’s book on Christianbook.com may be found below:

826285: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke"s Account of God"s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology) The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
By Alan J. Thompson

Come and Knock on Our Door

 

Recently, on a Christian mega-blog site that I check frequently, I found a link to an article in which a pastor discussed his philosophy of evangelism with door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnessess, though I suspect that his methods would be generalized to include Mormon’s and other cultish religions that proselytize in a similarly aggressive way.  Though the mega-blogger praised the methods, I do not know the author of the article personally, so I will not include his name and my discussion of his published methods are neither judgment upon him specifically or his motivation in how he presents his message.  But I would like to take issue with the content of his statements, their larger implications for evangelism, and as one who has had numerous “porch preaching” opportunities, suggest a more viable alternative.

In 1 Peter 3:15, the Apostle writes the following under divine inspiration of the Spirit, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”  Perhaps rightly, some have champion this verse as the banner for apologetics, due to the presence of the Greek word apologia [make a defense] from which we get the word apologetics.  If that application is warranted, then Peter also supplies the manner in which this defense of the faith is to be made, “with gentleness and respect”.

From the article that I referenced above, while being sensitive toward avoiding judgment of motives, it would appear that the author decided to take a more aggressive, direct approach.  In that post he states that he answered the door, Bible in hand, was given a Watchtower tract, and an invitation to an Easter celebration.  His response was to assert his own evangelical Christian beliefs, his vocation as a pastor, and his lifetime efforts toward undermining the false gospel that they proclaim.  He then expressed a biblical view of the Trinity, claimed his neighborhood as his own mission field, expressed their unwelcomeness on his mission field, and assured them that he would pray for their repentance of heresy and subsequent faith in Christ as they left his porch.  I’m loosely paraphrasing (moreso to avoid any word searches to bring up his article).

While there is nothing inherently wrong with his approach or content, it seems to have more of a “I don’t have time for this” tone and a “What can I say to tell them off in the most Gospel-centered way that I can.”  Again, I do not want to judge motives here, but the response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that he included is what really convicted me to write this post.  The author describes their response, as one would imagine, as one of incredulity and he indicates that this was likely due to the usual polite nod or name calling response that they normally receive.

Here I paused to ask a couple questions, namely: Was there enough Gospel in the message to convict the men of their heresy?  Maybe.  Do I think that this approach convinced the men to leave the neighborhood?  No.  Do I think it caused them to go to Scripture and find if they have rightly understood its meaning?  No

My experience has been that most people respond to these door-to-door [false] evangelists with a “You’re in a cult and going to hell” response, whether the person is a pastor or even a true Christian.  It’s probably something they’ve heard 100 times, though I’m sure it’s not something they get used to.

Having numerous porch and street encounters with not only Jehovah’s Witnesses, but Mormons, I too have received looks of incredulity.  In fact, the last 3 groups of JW’s and the last group of Mormons all responded in a similar way that this pastor is describing.  The look on their faces were shock and awe, not due to me or my ability to articulate Scripture, but in the truths of God’s Word that were unfolded before their unbelieving eyes.  In the multiple encounters with JW’s each took much longer than an hour and mostly approaching 2 hours as I labored through Old and New Testament passages to proclaim and defend the deity of Christ with “gentleness and respect” and answer their questions as they arose (though I would suggest being on the offensive, rather than defensive or they’ll wrap you up in their tangled web of Scripture gymnastics).

Their usual response is “This is not a typical conversation that we have with professing Christians.  Most cannot articulate their own beliefs, yet alone one that would cause us to rethink our beliefs.”  Again, please don’t judge my own motives, I’m not attempting to garner praise for myself, rather to assert that Christians should be bold in their defense of the Gospel, but should do so in a way that engages the unbeliever, whether pagan, JW, Mormon, Muslim, it doesn’t matter.

Furthermore, before my first encounter with the JW’s I read every passage I could find that asserted Christ’s deity from the Old and New Testaments.  Additionally, I familiarized myself with the general beliefs of JW’s so that I could be better prepared to make a defense, recognize their arguments, and cut them off with the Word of the all-holy-three-in-one God.  Was I better for it?  Of course, any time spent in Scripture laboring to understand Christ better is time well spent.  Were they given a direct Word of God defense to their beliefs?  Yes.  Do I think that they had enough Gospel message to convert them, it’s likely, but that is not my job, it’s the Holy Spirit’s.

In fact, after our encounter 1 group of young men have yet to return to their rotation on a particular street corner in town where the JW’s witness each week.  Another couple has repeatedly returned to my front porch where I’ve engaged time and again in a cordial defense of Christ’s deity being patient as with a young child who is hearing the Gospel for the first time.  In the case of the Mormon’s, they literally froze.  Not knowing what to say, not wanting to leave, but unsure where to go next.  It was almost as if they wanted me to rescue them out of this cult, but were unsure of how to proceed.  In this case, my heart was literally bursting in tears for these  young men that had probably grown up knowing nothing but the cult-like heresy of Mormonism.

Again, I do not want to judge this pastor’s motives from the article, but I would like to suggest that perhaps these door to door evangelism opportunities are gifts from God to

  1. Prepare us for always being ready to articulate and defend what we believe
  2. Give us opportunity to proclaim the name of Christ to unbelievers, when we wouldn’t have otherwise taken the initiative
  3. Familiarize ourselves with the false beliefs that are circulating our neighborhoods so that we can engage with them and better inform others whom they have contacted  (see the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill – Acts 17).

Finally, I would encourage you to listen to the videos of Tim Barnett I’ve posted here and adopt a similar strategy that he expresses, that of having your bible and select verses ready should JW’s or Mormons come and knock on your door (first 5 minutes of video #1).

“Always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you….but do so with gentleness and respect” and the name of God will be glorified in the presence of unbelievers because of it.

Grace and Peace