Summary: Boldness in ’evangelism’ comes through being filled with God’s Holy Spirit. That’s how we can be bold when sharing our faith with others.
I love getting into conversations where people ask me what I do. When I’m dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans the challenge for me is how to say what I do without it being a conversation stopper! It seems to me that there are a few jobs which can act as conversation stoppers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if traffic wardens, undertakers, tax collectors, internal auditors and Vicars are amongst the top ten. However, I usually answer with a smile and say, “I’m a Vicar and I love my job. It’s a great privilege to spend time with people, especially at some very important moments in their lives.”
When asked, the Christian evangelist J John approaches it like this: He was once at an airport talking to a lady who was chief executive of a clothing company. She asked him, “And what do you do?”
J John said, “Well …I work for a global enterprise. We’ve got outlets in nearly every country of the world! We run orphanages; we’ve got hospitals, hospices; we do marriage guidance counselling. We’ve got schools, colleges, universities and publishing companies. We look after people from birth to death and we deal in the area of behavioural alteration!” The lady said, “Wow!” J John, “I know. It’s amazing isn’t it?” She asked, “What’s it called?” He said, “It’s called Christianity!” It’s important to remember that we are part of something global; and something intergalactic because it includes all those who’ve gone before us.
What will you say when people ask you, “How did you spend your weekend? What did you do yesterday?” American church leader Jerry Shirley says that Jesus challenges us to be fishers of men, but we seem content to be keepers of the aquarium…we might be bold to talk about Jesus in church, but not out there! (Thanks to Jerry Shirley at Sermon Central for this)
In our Bible reading Peter and John were in a tough situation. However, a wonderful thing had just happened. A man who had been unable to walk since birth (Acts 3:2); a man who had been begging for money day after day for years had asked them for money (3:3). They had no money but gave the man what they had (3:6). The man received healing in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and he proceeded to walk, jump and praise God (3:8). A crowd gathered (3:11) and Peter and John proceeded to tell them that it was not by their own power that the man was now able to walk. They said that the man had been healed by faith in the name of Jesus. Peter said, “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given complete healing to [this man]” (3:16). A wonderful thing had just happened; but the crowd were joined by priests and the temple guard (4:1). When they heard that Peter and John were teaching the crowd about Jesus (4:2) Peter and John were seized and thrown into jail until the next day (4:3).
The priests must have thought, “That will shut them up. That will stop people listening to them!” How wrong could they be! As a result of the healing, but more importantly following on from the message about Jesus spoken by Peter, many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about 5,000 (4:4). This was another dramatic day in the early life of the church as hundreds of people believed in the message of Jesus.
In China’s prisons are many people who’ve been thrown into jail for teaching men and women about Jesus. The authorities believe that imprisoning Christian preachers will frighten others into keeping quiet about their faith; but the result over decades has been a massive growth in Christianity; and as for the prisons - the inmates get to hear plenty about Jesus!
You can imprison people but you can’t imprison the gospel. You can’t imprison the Good News of Jesus.
So Peter and John were thrown into prison, but next morning they were brought before the group that a few weeks earlier arrested Jesus; the Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law (Luke 22: 66) who demanded that Jesus be crucified (Luke 23: 13-23).
I used to be petrified of making ‘phone calls; so it seems funny that I should later spend 5 years doing ‘phone based mortgage arrears collecting (91 to 96)! I can remember being 16 or 17, picking up the phone, knowing that I needed to dial, not knowing what I would say when the phone got answered at the other end, panicking, and then eventually not even making the call at all. I think sometimes I am a bit like that when it comes to telling people about my faith in Jesus. I know I want to do it and I know I need to do it but I worry about what I will say, worry about the reaction I might get and then sometimes do nothing.