July 4, 2014, 1:00 PM

I preaching on the eight and final essential on Sunday.  It is on sharing the Faith and discipleship.  You can never get too far from this topis.  It is the heart of who we are as God's people!  A couple of years ago, I preached a series on Evangelism.  The first sermon in that series was called, "The Great Omission."  In it, I offered some practical words on the topic that I won't try to repeat on Sunday.  I offer it here for your reaquaintance, and I'll try to break new ground this weekend.

New Hope Presbyterian Church
October 7, 2012.
The Great Omission
Matthew 28:16-20
Evangelism 101
Sermon #1 of 7

I am going to be speaking on the topic of evangelism this morning.  This is a subject that strikes fear in the hearts of all good Presbyterians.  Perhaps that is too mild a way to describe it?  Maybe I should use the words queasy or horrified?  For the most part, we believe in living and letting others live.  Being helpful, neighborly.  Being friendly.  But certainly not being pushy about making other people believe what we believe.

When I was a first year student at Liberty -- then Liberty Baptist College, I was introduced to this concept of evangelism.  There were stories that had become the stuff of legend, like the Liberty preacher boys going on a death defying mission to the Lynchburg College library and stuffing most of the books with gospel tracts.  We had a mandatory class in evangelism where we would go to what were called telephone evangelism courses with the Rev. J.O. Grooms.  He would cold call bars and pool halls and witness to Jesus right there over the phone in front of the entire class.  I remember a short term mission trip to Guatemala a few years ago, and going into the most impoverished village that I have ever laid eyes on -- going into dirty, smelly shanties and listening quite incredulously as my eager partners walked these baffled people through the "plan of salvation."

Evangelism evokes the imagery of smug Christians button-holing people.  Forcing them to mouth the right words to get into heaven.  Turn or burn.  Fly or fry.  Holy Ghost or roast.  In some churches, you aren't really a Christian unless you are willing to get out there and boldly share the gospel with strangers!

The word evangelism comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον.  This word does not mean "pushy" or "over-bearing."   In the New Testament, εὐαγγέλιον is translated in English as the gospel, or the good news or glad tidings.  So, when we do evangelism, we are simply sharing or testifying about God's good news.  The gospel is the good news that God has finally come in Jesus Christ.  The good news is that God has brought in the dawn of the long-promised Kingdom of God.  The good news is that God has announced peace and reconciliation in his Son.  The beginning of all things being made new.  To evangelize is to announce this news.  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." (Isa. 52:7 ESV).

Evangelism is not defined by a particular method.  Evangelism is not an end-justifies-the-means proposition.  Evangelism is not a threat -- either to you or some poor, unfortunate sap who happens to come on your come-to-Jesus-radar.

Evangelism is a way of life.  Evangelism is a way of viewing life.  Evangelism is a way of explaining life.  Evangelism is a way of providing meaning to a crazy world.

Evangelism comes by word of mouth.  Evangelism is communicated by the genuineness of a changed life.  Evangelism happens when there is compelling evidence of a humble, forgiving, gracious life.   Evangelism is effective when God takes an insignificant word or action and uses them to transform a once-cold heart, miraculously.

Our text from Matthew this morning contains what is known as the "Great Commission."  The last words of Jesus to his disciples just before he returns to his Father's right side.  It is both a charge and a promise.  Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mt. 28:18-20 ESV).

Jesus commands that his disciples go out into the world and make disciples from every nation.  This is good news for the entire world.  How do you fulfill this command to make disciples?  You do it by baptizing those who hear and embrace the good news and then teaching them God's words and ways.  The promise is that this entire process from beginning to end belongs to God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore.... God brings in the harvest, you need only be willing to be the vessel for that transaction.  In word, in deed, in attitude, in self-sacrifice, in unconditional love, in loving the unlovable, in going the extra mile, in a humble life, in giving our hearts to God in worship.  All of those things count as evangelism!

In the next six weeks, we will be looking at various passages that speak of evangelism.  We will try to unpack these activities that I have identified as evangelism.  But before I close, I do want to share a few comments that I hope will be an encouragement to you as you go from here and wrestle with what it means for you personally to adopt a life of evangelism.

From Thom Rainer, "Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians." ("Seven Common Comments Non-Christians Make About Christians" by Thom S. Rainer, Christian Post Guest Columnist, September 15, 2012.)

2.  I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian. "I'm really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs.  I wish I could find a Christian that would be willing to spend some time with me."

3.  I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian. "The Bible really fascinates me, but I don't want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it.  I would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks."

5.  I wish I could learn to be a better husband, wife, dad, mom, etc., from a Christian. "My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time.  My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together.  I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me."

7.  I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church.  "I really would like to visit a church, but I'm not particularly comfortable going by myself.  What is weird is that I am 32-years old, and I've never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life."

As a congregation, let us make sure that the Great Commission doesn't become the Great Omission!

You have heard a Word from the Lord.  Go and do likewise.   Amen 


07-26-2014 at 8:49 AM
Bill Rhone
I am ashamed to say that I just saw that you added this comment box. I will now start contributing comments .
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