Have you ever wondered how you can share the Good News with the people you meet? If so, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 is a good teaching manual. Philip was leading a revival in Samaria that was leading multitudes of people to Christ. God called Philip from evangelizing the crowds to evangelizing to one person, but that one person-the eunuch-led to the spread of Christianity to the African continent. Philip must have wondered why God would take him out of a revival and place him in a desert, but he trusted God.
Evangelism is like that. Evangelism is a team effort that involves each and every member of the body of Christ, but it eventually comes down to a one on one encounter between a follower of Jesus and a person who is following his or her own way. We do not have to be a Billy Graham, or a Franklin Graham or a Will Graham and lead crusades in major cities and large stadiums throughout the world. We can do the same thing in our own communities with the people we meet every day.
We don’t know anything about the eunuch’s spiritual background other than the fact that he travelled 1,200 miles to Jerusalem. Jewish law would have excluded the eunuch from the temple. This is an example of the Gospel spreading to the Gentiles. The passage the eunuch read was the passage from Isaiah about the suffering servant. There is no better passage with which to introduce someone to Jesus.
The eunuch’s baptism confirms that baptism is for those who profess faith in Jesus. Immersion equals death to sin, coming up out of the water equals rising to a new life in Christ. The eunuch’s joy represents a new spiritual state.
Philip had to overcome a lot of barriers to get to the eunuch’s chariot, but the barriers did not matter to Philip. Barriers should not matter to us either. We must be willing to go, sit and spend time with people who want to get to know God. Differences in race, colour, creed or culture must not be barriers to our mission. We need to pour out our lives for their sake.
The only way to reach people for Christ is to preach Christ crucified, dead, buried and risen again. Clever stories or preaching methods or living our lives in front of lost people won’t do the job. We are called to make disciples. It requires our willingness to become a mentor for new believers. We have to take the goodness God has poured into our lives and pour that goodness into the lives of the lost.
This story is fast-paced and full of action. These might not be the first words we think of when we think of the word “church”, but the intention of the Book of Acts is to show us that the Spirit is alive and we are too. If we are alive in Christ, we will obey when the Spirit says to us, “Get up and go.” We must be prepared to seize each and every opportunity to proclaim the Good News, like I am when I’m given an opportunity to preach. If we are to discover God’s guidance for our lives, we have to be receptive to the Spirit, even if it does not fit into our plans, goals, prejudices, etc. Philip is a good example. He wanted to continue the revival in Samaria, but the Holy Spirit had other plans.
There are two issues in this reading-obedience, and preaching the Good News. As I mentioned earlier, the eunuch spread Christianity to Africa. In the case of Philip, he obeyed God’s call to meet with the eunuch at that particular time and in that particular place. The eternal life of someone who would play a key role in the worldwide expansion of Christianity was at stake.
All believers have direct access to God through faith and the Holy Spirit. All believers are able to understand the teachings of the Scriptures and gain the benefit God intends-namely, the ability to share the Gospel with others. Sometimes we wonder about the people and situations God has guided us to. That’s only natural, because we can’t see “the big picture” that God sees. Sometimes the people and situations are difficult for us, but they often lead to blessings. God uses anything he can to convince us to follow his directions. The key for us is to be prepared to follow him, and that preparation includes openness, prayer, Bible study and surrendering to God’s will. If we are prepared we will be ready when opportunities arise. For example, I was a lay minister for several years before I felt the call to preach. God used that time to prepare me through working with other team members and learning from them. As a result, I have had the opportunity to preach over 200 times in locations such as churches in my own Parish of South Queens, Hillsview Acres, here at Queens Manor and just recently at the United Churches in Liverpool and Bridgewater.
If we, like Moses, don’t know what to say, that’s okay because the Holy Spirit will tailor our message to the needs of the people we speak to. It’s like advertisers who tailor the message of their products to a particular audience. For example, you rarely see ads for fishing gear in fashion magazines!
We need to consider the needs, background and experience of our audience when we are called to share our faith. When we find out about our audience, our natural desire to help takes over. When that desire kicks in, we have to start where our audience is in relationship to Christ, and not where they should be. When we are nearing the end of our witnessing, we have to wait for signs of readiness and response. If that readiness indicates belief in the resurrection, the audience is ready to begin their new life in Christ. All of this is only possible if we are willing to talk about Jesus and if we are willing to go anywhere to share the Good News, just like I was prepared to share the Good News at the United Churches in Liverpool and Bridgewater, and just like I am prepared to go anywhere God wants me to go and preach. If we let God direct us where he wants us to go, he will give us the courage and the words. All we have to do is to step out in faith.