Summary: Building God’s Church through Evangelism (Bob Russel - When God Build’s a Church)
There was once a good, church going barber. His minister gave a rousing sermon on Evangelism and sharing the faith. The barber was so moved that he signed up for a special soul winner’s class. He spent weeks in that class. There he memorized scriptures and took notes and practiced drawing diagrams that would help him share his faith.
The day finally came. The barber prayed that God would bring someone to his barber shop who needed to hear his well rehearsed story of salvation.
As he finished his prayer a big burly biker, covered in tattoos and wearing leather and chains came into the shop. The biker announced that he had lost a bet and as a result he now wanted the barber to shave off his beard.
The barber knew this was an answer to prayer, but he was more than a little nervous about what might happen. How would the biker take it? Would he listen? Would he get angry? The barber kept thinking about what to say as he covered the biker’s beard with lather.
Then, as he the barber was sharpening his razor on his strop, he finally worked up the courage. With the razor in his hand he nervously blurted out, “Sir, are you prepared to die?”
This is the tenth and last sermon in our series on “Building God’s Church” which has been based on Bob Russell’s book “When God Builds a Church.” I think that this series has provided us with a number of important things to consider as the church seeks a new minister. I’ve enjoyed doing the series, though I admit that I’m ready for it to be over.
This week’s topic is evangelism. Bob Russell’s church has the same roots as ours, but our two groups have gone in separate directions. When I started this series, I mentioned that there would be two areas where those differences would really show up. The first was in the area of what constitutes truth and how we respond to different ideas and perspectives. The second issue where our denomination is different than his is in our understanding of evangelism.
As I said, we come from exactly the same roots. One hundred and seventy years ago, when this congregation was begun, we were one group. Back then, we were very evangelistic. In fact, we were so evangelistic that we were more likely to refer to our professional clergy as evangelists than as pastors. Yet, over the years, our groups have diverged and many in our midst hear words like evangelical and evangelistic as negative terms. What changed? And more importantly, what should our view of evangelism be?
Part of the problem is simply embarrassment over clumsy attempts at sharing the gospel. We all have images of turn-or-burn evangelists and hellfire and damnation preachers who seem more intent on collecting scalps than saving souls. Bad evangelism has turned us away from any sort of evangelism at all. In reality, Evangelism should be more like “one beggar telling another where he found bread.” In a few minutes I’ll talk for a bit about how people share their faith more effectively.
I think that the most basic reason why we don’t share our faith more often is that too many of us simply do not believe that there is any real reason why we must share our faith. I would guess that most mainline Protestants, including most members of our own denomination, either do not believe in hell or do not believe that faith in Jesus the Christ is necessary for salvation.
I need to confess that I was tempted to skirt this issue or to find an easy way out. I could make a case, actually a very good case, that people in our society need Christ just for the change that a belief in Christ offers in their every day lives. People in our society are so estranged, so hurting, and so adrift without a rudder that a belief in Christ brings tremendous benefits for the here and now.
Consider this actual quote from the advice columnist Anne Landers:
I’ve learned plenty, including most importantly what Leo Rostea had in mind when he said, “Each of us is a little lonely, deep inside and longs to be understood.”
I have learned how it is with the stumbling tortured people in this world who have nobody to talk to. The fact that the column has been so successful underscores, for me at least, the central tragedy of our society. The disconnectedness, the insecurity, the fear - that bedevils, cripples, and paralyses so many of us. I have learned that financial success, academic achievement, and social or political status open no doors to peace of mind or inner security. We are all wanderers, like sheep, on this planet