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Summary: Using Paul’s example in Acts 17, a practical description of principles for us to get Christ’s message to people

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Trinity Baptist Church August 6, 2006

Winning Ways (series)

Characteristics of an Evangelistic Life

Acts 17:15-34

Most of you spend time with normal people. I often don’t. I have to spend time with people like pastors! I was sitting innocently with a group of Heartland pastors in Omaha a few months back, when one pastor started sharing his heart. What he said grabbed me and didn’t let go. He had concluded that the church in general; that their fellowship in particular, was simply not obedient to Jesus Christ about getting the gospel to people who need it.

He decided on a course of action. He preached messages on evangelism.

Then, the church offered a class on “how to share your faith“; he figured maybe four or five people would come; a couple of dozen people came, and not only learned, but began to put what they learned into practice! They and others actively began making contact with people who needed Christ. The amazing thing was, people actually began to come to Christ.

Jon took another step. He stood in front of the church one Sunday and admitted to the people, “I have not modeled evangelism for you.”

That’s where I am this morning. As one of your leaders, I have not modeled evangelism for you. I need growth in this area. God’s Word makes clear: we as believers need to be about this work -- this Christ-given, God-empowered -- work of getting Christ’s message to people.

The American Church has not taken seriously Paul’s word to Timothy. He told reluctant younger Timothy: do the work of an evangelist. It doesn’t need to be your gift, or your strength. He said, do the work. That’s not been our habit; it’s not been mine. I believe we, as part of American Church suffer in many ways because of it. I plan for growth in my life. I trust in the next weeks and months, there will be some growth for many of us.

There’s a seriousness to be developed about the gospel. Paul told Timothy, it’s a trust, a stewardship and a treasure. It’s to be passed on to others. That’s not often the reality in the U.S. Despite appearances, the American church is not growing and it’s not winning people to Christ. In the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, the U.S. population grew 13 percent, from 248 to 281 million. In that same timeframe, the American church managed slightly less than 1 percent. We’re not close to keeping up with the population in the US.

What happens as a result in the American Church? Most churches focus their ministry inward -- inside the four walls -- we aim at us -- the current members. We hold activities for ourselves, we teach and offer classes for ourselves, we disciple people already in the body, we enjoy each other’s fellowship.

And then we evaluate ministry by whether or not it meets our needs. And we’ve spawned a generation of consumer Christians who keep hopping and shopping looking for the most bang for their buck!

And so very rarely do we consider that the Church exists -- in reality -- for the benefit of people who don’t know Christ; it exists to build Christians up to reach out and do significant ministry. We rarely look to see whether women, men, girls and boys are coming to know Jesus Christ.

Healthy Christians and healthy congregations reach out. As a body we need to move out in evangelism. A number of us will spend some time this month strategizing about outreach which will touch the community. If you’d like to be part of that session and what it births, I’d love to talk to you.

As he moved around Asia and Europe, the apostle Paul encountered more than one culture which was a lot like ours. People were interested in spirituality, but didn’t have a clue about God. They loved intellectual pursuits but did some of the stupidest things you can imagine. They pontificated about love but were crassly and grossly immoral.

One such city was Athens. It stood as a center of culture but it was a cesspool of religious and intellectual hypocrisy. Paul spent time there and he did what he did everywhere. He pressed people with the claims of Jesus Christ. Let’s look at his approach and find some essential characteristics we can learn.

What would he tell us? Christian read the verses from Acts 17, describing Paul’s time in Athens. Let’s hear what Dr. Luke includes in this example.

First, undoubtedly he’d say,

1. Get a heart for lost people. (Acts 17:16-17, Matthew 9:36)

At this point in Acts 17, Paul’s been run out of two other cities. To keep the apostle healthy and alive and preaching, his friends have escorted him on to Athens. Verse 15 says he told the people who brought him to Athens to get word to Silas and Timothy to come as quickly as possible to him.

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