Summary: How evangelism integrates into church life.
Let’s imagine that you have somehow come into possession of an important piece of information that affects every single person you know. Everyone in your neighborhood. Everyone in your family. Everyone you work with. Everyone you meet at the bank, or the grocery store, or the mall as you go through the day. What would you do? What if this were good news, very good news, the best news you had ever heard in your life? Not something that you could make money from, but something that would change people’s lives for the better. What would you do?You would start telling people, right? Of course you would! You wouldn’t want to keep it to yourself; you couldn’t keep it to yourself. First, you would call your family and your close friends and tell them. Then, you would tell your acquaintances, the people on your street, the people at the office. You’d send out an email to everyone in your address list. Maybe you’d call the television stations or the newspapers to get the word out. You would want to tell as many people as possible, by any means possible. That’s what you would do, for instance, if you found a cure for cancer, or a way to reverse the aging process, or a way to double your children’s IQ.
Last week, I traveled to a customer site for my work as a computer programmer. There were five of us in a conference room where they had set up some computer terminals. Our makeshift office was next to the cafeteria, and so during the course of the afternoon I walked over to get some coffee. I found the vending machine; it had coffee, and cappuccino, and espresso, and even vegetable soup. I looked for the place to put in the coins, and there was a little sign, "no coins required." That seemed a little odd, but I punched in my selection (cappuccino), and out popped the little cup, and a couple of seconds later, here came the cappuccino. It was free! Now, whether this was an employee benefit, or just a way to keep their people hopped up on caffeine all day, I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. Free coffee! So what do you think I did? I went back in the room and told everyone else. "Hey! The coffee in the vending machines is free! Go check it out!" I had such good news that I wanted to share it with everyone! That’s what you do when you have good news.
Now, let’s imagine a different scenario: you have some extremely important news, but you don’t tell anyone. You don’t send out emails; you don’t phone your brother-in-law; you don’t knock on your neighbors’ doors. You stay mum. You keep it to yourself. What would someone conclude from this kind of behavior? That it’s bad news. That you don’t want to tell people because you’re afraid of how they’ll react. That you don’t want to be the one to give them unpleasant or upsetting information.
With me so far? OK, here’s the question: Is the gospel of Jesus Christ good news or bad news? It’s good news, of course! It’s the best news of all! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has risen from the dead, and so can we! We can live forever. We can be forgiven of our sins, our slate wiped completely clean! We can have a relationship with the living God! And all we have to do is place our trust in Jesus Christ. What amazing news! But if that’s true, and it is, then why are we so reluctant to tell people? Why do we often behave as if the Good News were bad news? There are lots of reasons. One is our busy schedules. We get so caught up in the events of daily life, that it’s hard to keep our focus on the things that matter most. Evangelism takes a back seat to things like getting the kids to soccer practice and buying the groceries. But I think one of the main reasons we aren’t more active in sharing the faith is that we feel alone out there; we don’t feel supported and encouraged. We don’t have a sense of being part of a team effort. And sometimes, frankly, we just lack the tools. We feel awkward, we don’t know what to say. We’re afraid of making a mistake, of not being able to answer a question, of saying something foolish.
And so this morning, I’d like to address both of those concerns. First, we’ll look at what part the church plays in getting the word out. We need to understand that evangelism is not just an individual activity, but rather a shared responsibility of the whole faith community. And after that, I’m going to suggest a simple strategy to make you more effective as a bearer and sharer of the good news.