Series: Aggressive Evangelism
Get in Their Face
Luke 10:1-3, Acts 5:41-42
The entire world is convinced they have what they need to exist – and the people in our country seem to be convinced that somehow even if they die things will work out in the end if they have good intentions. The company Google has a motto; “Don’t be evil,” I think it is a good motto but their definition of evil and mine are quite a bit different and I guess I could just say, “Well they are a really big company with a lot of influence so I will just let them tell people what evil is.” That would be stupid because evil has a definition and has always tried to mask itself in something else. I have a responsibility to speak up and not back down when I know something is evil.
Not long ago President Obama in his attempt to energize his supporters said "I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face," Now his opponents took this as threat of violence or instigation, but the peaceful among his supporters took it as a call to be proactive in their politicking. If they wanted to convince people of their beliefs they would need to get right in front of those who were sitting on the fence and try to convince them to join their side.
Jesus Christ is much bigger and better than any political figure and his message of being the only son of God is much bigger priority than anything an organizer might say. From him is the message of eternal hope and earthly transformation – the real change agent is found through His ways and by his Holy Spirit. The God of heaven sent his first born to us, bringing that message to be face to face. He came to the world and delivered truth in human speech and human activity. He came to be right in front of our face.
The kingdom of God was not content to be pronounced from heaven, it was presented and illustrated on earth. And those who had been with Jesus during his ministry went to aggressively deliver the message too. I like the passage in Acts 5 after Peter and the apostles were told to stop preaching about Jesus and then were flogged, verse 41 says "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ." Who preaches so boldly after being beaten for it? People who aggressively believe they have the words of life that must be told to the world.
Getting in someone’s face is not a positive term – it usually refers to someone confronting you and aggressively attempting to intimidate you into doing what they want. That behavior might work with some but generally speaking it isn’t the best way to tell people about Jesus.
I. The Aggressive Way.
A. What exactly does it mean to be aggressively evangelistic?
1. We have all seen Christians who think evangelism is about standing on a street corner with a sign or about confronting people in public with their sinfulness. No doubt it is important the people know that they are sinful and need a savior – but it is hard to reconcile that way with how Jesus did it.
*And churches like the Westboro Baptist group who likes to hold protest signs at soldier’s funerals and hold signs on street corners that say “God hates gay people,” those behaviors do not help either because while there might be a few people convicted to examine the Bible looking to see if what they say is true, a majority just tune them out. Because if that is what it means to be a Christian they don't want anything to do with it. Who would want to be part of an organization that seems interest calling people out than actually wanting them to repent and belong to God? Their way becomes blight to evangelism and even gives people an excuse not to listen as they say “Well they are Christians and look at the hate they spew.” Being judgmental is not a good way to evangelize.
2. Yet this is how some interpret being aggressive in their evangelism; and why many Christians decide they don’t want to be part of it or they aren’t equipped to do it. That view of aggressive evangelism is disliked by most Christians and hated by people who need to hear about Christ.
3. But that isn’t exactly what I am talking about when I say aggressive evangelism. Because even though we see Biblical examples of God’s people going out into the world, their way was not the kind of attack mode behavior that has come to be equated with the word evangelism.
B. There is a difference between being aggressive and acting aggressive.
1. In Colossians 4:5 we are told to Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. The key to that verse is the moment the opportunity arises we take advantage of the moment to clearly deliver a message.
2. So for the next few weeks I want to focus on that mission which every person who belongs to Christ is to fulfill. What each of us needs to consider is how can what part each person can do to be more aggressive in their evangelism – and if we really love our neighbor we are going to tell them something which will give them hope and a future.
3. We are going to be looking at a section of scripture where Jesus sends out his disciples before he actually goes out to preach about the reason for his arrival.
Luke 10:1-3 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
*This is where it begins – the first time Jesus sends out his disciples as they are laying the ground work for when Jesus will arrive. People did not ask them to come; they went out and began telling people. But notice that he didn’t just send them out randomly, he sent them to places that he was going to eventually visit himself. It was familiar territory, like going to….
II. The People in Your Neighborhood.
A. One of the biggest tasks we are given is to love our neighbor.
*Whenever I hear that phrase ‘in your neighborhood’ I can’t help but think of Sesame Street. They would sing that sill song,
“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood? In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day”
1. Now if you walk around to the houses nearby where you live, singing that song you might get some positive feedback but it is likely you would get the wacky wagon called to take you away. The current structure of our neighborhoods do not make for a whole lot of interaction – particularly during the winter months.
*I see a trend with people – they drive home and pull in their garage, then get back in their car to drive somewhere with so members of their family to find something to eat, drive home back into the garage, then get up the next day to work – and if you are the typical suburban person you don’t have repeated interaction with your neighbors unless you actively go seek them out. Not a lot of the time the people we have regular contact with aren’t people we live real close to. Isn’t that strange? But we work with people from different parts of the city – even our church we have people from different areas, half of you live in the nearby neighborhood and half of you live outside of that neighborhood.
2. So when talking about the people in our neighborhood, that term should probably be changed to people in your atmosphere. The people who you see face to face on a regular basis, those who you are in their face in terms of personal contact.
3. When Jesus taught that the second great command was to love your neighbor as yourself, he was asked the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling the story of a man attacked and left for dead on the road and Samaritan who helped him. His definition of loving a neighbor was by the treatment of someone right in front of their face.
B. Jesus sent his disciples into the nearby places to set the stage for him to show up and do the real work.
1. This has always been the plan when it comes to the word evangelism: We are to set the stage for people to meet Jesus. Our task is not to fix people or to force them to believe everything we believe but instead to simply give them an introduction to what Jesus taught.
2. In order to do this we have to be right in front of their face in terms of our words and actions. And we also have to understand that Jesus is directing people into our life for that purpose as well – they are coming into our view because he is working to put us there.
*This is essentially what Paul is telling the Corinthian church when he teaches them the process of why Jesus not only died to save them from destruction but intended to use them as a sort of go-between. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
3. Don’t miss that last part – we became the righteousness of God for the purpose of being able to reach our neighbors with the truth of Christ and his ability to transform the outlook and life.
4. The point Paul was trying to bring to the reality was that even though the Christians in that church had numerous problems; it didn’t change the message of truth nor their responsibility to share that with the world.
*Now take a step back for a moment because before I go to the next part this morning you really have to acknowledge your level of commitment here. If you haven’t chosen to become a Christian then the concept of evangelism isn’t your responsibility or even something important. Most people can understand the reason churches exist and why following Jesus is a good idea because it means having standards and a higher purpose – you don’t have to be a Christian to know that. If you are a Christian and do not have a real desire to share your faith or even try to tell someone about your hope, you have a major problem. There is something not right in your whole belief system because according to Jesus the reason you are still here is for that purpose. And it also means you are okay with people going to Hell. It is just that simple – Jesus has made it so simple to belong to him and it isn’t complicated to point people in the right direction. That’s all we are supposed to do, and if we aren’t doing that then there is a major flaw in our life.
III. The Places in Your Day
A. I am giving you a heads up – you are going to be given an opportunity this week to speak to someone about your faith.
1. Sometime this week I am confident that you will have an opportunity to do some evangelism. You need to be looking for it and looking forward to it.
2. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel prepared to do it or if you have issues. Jesus sent out the 72 even though they had the same concerns. Let’s get our minds focused on that truth, and remember that we are looking for just one at a time. We must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us.
3. And as we study through this passage you are going to see where these groups of two are told to adjust and adapt to the circumstances each day and how at times they had to move on to new people because their message was rejected.
4. Their direction to be aggressive in their evangelism was more about being intentional in what they said and being positive that their message was true and important.
B. So we should make a decision together right now that you and I are going to be aggressive when the chance comes and that you are willing to make this a priority.
1. If you don’t know how to evangelize, be determined to learn how. Seriously, if something is important you then you learn how to do it or you keep trying until you get it completed. Instruction and encouragement are good, but it begins with you pursuing the subject. Just like you are called to pursue God and to follow Christ, being evangelistic is a way of life. Focus is needed, clear and concise – this is one of the reasons we get together on Sundays is to remind each other what our main purpose is.
2. Be present for the opportunities. Do not check out of your Christianity. Live it here, live it there, live it everywhere. You are going to be in their face all ready, don’t try to be more than you are – Let Jesus sell himself, be simple and humble and try not to interfere!
*This week in the book of Numbers we read about how the Israelites who were miraculously brought out of Egypt come to the edge of the promise land and send scouts into the area to report what they find. Of the 12 men who were sent 10 of them say “The people are too strong we can’t conquer this land!” The two, Joshua and Caleb say, “We can do it because God is with us.” The people fail to go in and conquer the land and many of them decide to gather a group together who will head back to the prison of Egypt. The story is depressing – that people would come to the brink of something brighter and greater yet choose to go back into the slavery. There is a world full of people who would rather be comfortable in their sin or return to the familiar yet destructive ways rather than try to live something that has a greater promise. We cannot let that stop us from speaking about what Jesus said about the things to come.
Remember this year we are focused on that ONE who is worth it, that one person. Be present when they are present. . One of the biggest reasons the disciples were so effective was because they weren’t thinking about themselves when they went out then and after Jesus died. THIS is our biggest obstacle today – we think entirely too much about ourselves – we struggle with self-esteem, selfishness, and self-interest. We must be clear; we are called to self-sacrifice for God’s truth. Life is more like a marathon than a sprint, some people will take your entire life to reach. If they aren’t worth it we won’t give to get them – be willing to be there and pay the cost it takes to reach them.
3. Be involved in long term thinking – Your view of life should always be long term. The choices you make today need to be though about in terms of eternity, and if you don’t see results now do not get discouraged – some are being beat up by life right now so that when they meet you later they will finally listen. Our call is to keep doing what is right so that we don’t ruin that opportunity to be God’s representative. Good decisions today will result in good stuff later.
4. Be confident in God’s power. The disciples going into those towns by two were inexperienced and unlearned men. They went because Jesus told them to. They went because it was important to Jesus. And we will see that it worked because God’s power was there with them.
1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Writing in Moody Monthly, Carl Armerding recounted his experience of watching a wildcat in a zoo. "As I stood there," he said, "an attendant entered the cage through a door on the opposite side. He had nothing in his hands but a broom. Carefully closing the door, he proceeded to sweep the floor of the cage." He observed that the worker had no weapon to ward off an attack by the beast. In fact, when he got to the corner of the cage where the wildcat was lying, he poked the animal with the broom. The wildcat hissed at him and then lay down in another corner of the enclosure. Armerding remarked to the attendant, "You certainly are a brave man." "No, I ain’t brave," he replied as he continued to sweep. "Well, then that cat must be tame." "No," came the reply, "he ain’t tame." "If you aren’t brave and the wildcat isn’t tame, then I can’t understand why he doesn’t attack you." Armerding said the man chuckled, then replied with an air of confidence, "Mister, he’s old--and he ain’t got no teeth." (Evie Megginson)
The point is that the enemy of God’s people is dangerous – but the message of Christ is how Satan is defeated and people are free. That is something worth telling and worth putting right in front of the face of people who feel trapped and hopeless. Are you going to do that? Are you going to aggressively take advantage of opportunities? We need to – time grows short every day.