Summary: Evangelism sermon
Bread, Combines, & Coca-Cola, Oh My!
I know I’ve told some of you this joke before. What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Presbyterian? Someone who stands at the door and knocks but doesn’t say anything. They say Baptists are “running to the Lord”, while the Presbyterians are “walking, single file, decently and in order”.
When we speak of evangelism what thoughts run through your mind? It’s the pastor’s job? Street corner Bible thumpers? Door to door salesman type people? Pushy people who are trying to get us to see things their way or convert to their belief system? How about guilt for not saying enough about the Lord? People swarming down the aisle at a revival or other type “religious” rally? Or is it friends sharing the excitement of good news with each other? One of my favorite thoughts is this: “Evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find bread.”
Today is Evangelism Sunday. Yes. That’s right. Evangelism. Witnessing. Sharing your story. The thing that people say Presbyterians don’t do. The thing you yourselves say you can’t do. You say, “We’ll leave that evangelism stuff to the Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Pentecostals.”
Well, we’re going to look at evangelism and see if those statements are true. There are many barriers, real and perceived, to evangelizing. We’ll look at those, too.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One day while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box, and he had some workers throw it out. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket had been destroyed. The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction.
Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families, (Tynadale House Pub., Wheaton; 1998), 122.
The same thing can happen to us. We can get so busy doing churchy things that we forget our purpose, why we’re here. There are 5 specific purposes given to the church and each individual believer. They are:
WORSHIP (Enjoying God’s presence)
FELLOWSHIP (Joining God’s team)
DISCIPLESHIP (Growing in God’s grace)
MINISTRY (Serving in God’s world)
EVANGELISM (Sharing God’s good news)
Evangelism is a big word with a simple meaning. It literally means "to announce good news." Of course we have the best news of all to announce, that there’s forgiveness and reconciliation and healing in Jesus Christ.
Another barrier is fear. Here are some of the fears that have been mentioned to me:
- "I am afraid I might do more harm than good."
- "I don’t know what to say."
- "I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions."
- "I am afraid I might fail."
Another major barrier is resistance to change. The pastor one Sunday is preaching to his flock about evangelism. He’s trying to get them excited about sharing God with the lost. “We need this church to grow! We need to seek and save the lost! We need to reap the harvest!” And he went on and on. You can hear the frustration in his voice as he pleads with them to get involved and do something.
Then he finally asked them “Do you want the church to grow?” There was silence for about 1 min. that seemed like an eternity, then one of the men spoke up and said, "I want the church to grow, but I don’t want any more people." To that kind of attitude I would say, “Church is not a country club that we go to be comfortable in, but it is a hospital for those who are dying!”
But you know, I can relate to that sentiment some-what. I’ve often said that I wouldn’t want to serve a large church. I just like the family atmosphere of a small church and it feels more comfortable. Maybe you feel that way, too. Therein lies the problem. I said “I like”. It doesn’t really matter what I like or you like. Think about it. Do we REALLY mean it when we say in our Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”?
God wants people saved. That is His will. What is the most quoted verse in the Bible? Anybody? Right, John 3:16. What does it say? The next verse, John 3:17 says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. What is 750,000 miles long? It could wrap itself around the earth 30 times and it grows an additional 20 miles longer with each passing day? It is the line of people on earth who do not know Jesus. God wants those people saved.