Tag Archives: Evangelism

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

 

 

 

 

Witnessing to the Witnesses

 

Given several of the recent posts here on evangelizing the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I found these two videos to be extremely helpful and succinct.   In them, you see Tim Barnett, who has been recently added to the Stand to Reason team, giving a clear overview of the Scriptural evidences and defenses for conversations with the JW, specifically as it relates to Jesus Christ. He’ll discuss several of the passages I’ve included recently as well; if you want to read more about them just search Jehovah’s Witness in the search box at the top.