I am excited about beginning our Lenten Study tonight with Dr. Hanna Steele’s book Living His Story. For tonight, please read the Introduction and Chapter 1 “The Greatest Story of All Time.”
Dr. Steele begins her book by reminding us that evangelism is simply about a story and an invitation. This story begins in the history and the stories of Jesus that we read about in the Bible, and particularly about the Resurrection. But this story, like all stories, is not something that we simply hear and understand, but a present reality into which we live and find our sense of belonging. Jesus is not simply a historical figure but an always present reality through whom we (should) see all of reality.
Evangelism is the act of simply inviting someone to participate in this story of the Risen Christ. It is an invitation to a new way of living and of seeing the world. It can be as simple as Philip inviting Nathanial to “come and see” (John 1:46) or being open to having a conversation (Acts 8:29) or simply being an example of Christ in the world (1 Thess. 1:7). Our problem is that we make evangelism too complicated, and like Moses (Ex.4), we create excuses to stay on the sidelines. In this first chapter, Steele addresses four of the primary excuses we offer.
Excuse #1: Evangelism is only for the Professionals:
The first excuse is that evangelism is only for the experts. Evangelists are men like Billy Graham or Michael Curry or those on television who pack in the audience. Dr. Steele asks us, however, to think about our own faith journey and who was influential in our lives. That person was probably not someone famous but someone close. Most likely it was someone very ordinary. As Steele points out, the entire first part of Acts is about how effective Peter was as an evangelist, but he was “an uneducated, common man” (Acts 4:13) not a trained scribe or Pharisee. Being an evangelist is not only for professional Christians (e.g., priests, preachers, and pastors) but for anyone who opens up their life or their mouth and speaks of Christ.
Excuse #2: Evangelism is Morally Suspect:
The second excuse is that evangelism is morally suspect. We live in a pluralistic society in which each individual is free to pursue their own understanding of the truth or religion. We have all encountered the street corner or television evangelist who try to berate and belittle others into accepting Christ – time to turn so you don’t burn. However, throughout the New Testament, evangelism is usually not about judgment and coercion, but simply about the sharing of an experience with Jesus and an invitation issued to others. Read about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Her entire village came to follow Jesus simply because of her witness not because of any coercion.
Excuse #3: Evangelism is Irrelevant:
The third excuse is that evangelism is irrelevant to people today. No one really cares about your invitation to church, and if we are drawn into a conversation, we fear we will not know the answers. If our faith is simply a set of theological propositions, then we are irrelevant to most people. However, if our faith is rooted in the very essentials of the gospel, then what we have to say is important to all people. These essentials are: (1) all of us are seen, known, and loved by the eternal God, (2) we are forgiven and our shame is taken away, and (3) we do not have to fear death for he has conquered death. This is why Christians of all denominations come back to John 3:16-17 as a sufficient summary of who we are.
Excuse #4: Evangelism is Hard Work:
Our final excuse, according to Dr. Steele, is that we feel that evangelism is hard work with very little success. It is easy to get discouraged, particularly when we put ourselves out there to extend an invitation that is summarily rejected. Dr. Steele reminds us, however, that evangelism is not meant to be a solitary activity. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7) and when we look at the salutations in Paul’s letters we see a great crowd of fellow witnesses that supported him (e.g. Rom. 12). Most importantly, however, Dr. Steele reminds us that it is Christ himself who is always with us in any evangelism that we undertake (Matt. 28:20).
Dr. Steele ends chapter 1 with the following three discussion questions:
1. Can you identify some of the fears or concerns that hold you back from evangelism?
2. In what ways is the good news of Jesus relevant to people in your local community?
3. What are the main characteristics of those who helped you on your journey to faith?
Think through these questions for this evening.
Dinner is at 6:30. The menu is lentil soup with a Mediterranean salad. Discussion about 7:15 ending with Compline. Hope to see you here.
If you cannot speak like angels,Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say He died for all.
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