Summary: I would like to thank Pastor Jerry Shirley for sharing this series on Acts. It has been a blessing as well as a great help. I have used these for our church, as I spend my days caring for my dying father.

Effective Evangelism Acts 15:36-16:5

Many churches, today have become more of a parking lot with programs and fellowships being the main focus. I don’t believe God has a problem with the programs and fellowships, as long as they aren’t the main focus of the church. The church should be the place where we learn to be the people God desires us to be but it should, more than anything, be the launching pad for the people of God to do what He put us here to do.

The Apostle Paul always had to be doing something. He had to be preaching or witnessing or discipling or visiting.

The truth is he could have settled down comfortably in the church at Antioch, but he didn’t. The problem was that there were more people who needed to be reached and unlike many today, Paul didn’t view the church as a parking lot, but as a launching pad!

If we are to be the people of God who become obedient to the command of Jesus, in Acts chapter 1: 8 we must have a heart for evangelism.

This morning I want to begin looking at three essentials for effective evangelism.

So the first thing we must have if we are to experience effective evangelism is...

1. The Right Passion.

When people, today, are passionate about something we say they are driven.

What drives you or what are you passionate about? Some have a passion for money…some for fame.

Paul’s passion was, as our passion should be, reaching the lost.

Listen to what Paul said in [1Co 9:16 NIV] “For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled (obligated, required or duty-bound) to preach. Woe (grief, affliction, misery) to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

Some people will only serve, if they can be in the limelight or the bell of the ball BUT Paul does not have some “hero complex.” He’s not riding in on his big white horse to save the day, he’s saying, don’t pat me on the back because I witness and proclaim the Name of Jesus. I have to do these things…it’s in my bones!

He’s saying, “For me, witnessing is a command. Paul was passionate about reaching the lost.

Listen to what he said in [Col 3:23a NIV] “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”

Someone said; “You can’t have too much enthusiasm.” And we could sure use some in the church.

But I read about a man who may have had too much enthusiasm. He ran an open air fish market in NYC. This particular day had been very good for him and he had sold all but1 small fish. He was closing up when a lady came by and said, I’d like to buy a large fish for my husband’s supper.

He looked down in his barrel at that one little fish. He reached in and threw it up on the counter… “How’s this?” “It’s a little small” she said. “Do you have another one?” He took the fish, swished it back around in the barrel and lifted it out and said, how’s this? “Still too small” she said. So for a 3rd time, and with all the enthusiasm he could muster said, “ooooh, take a look at this guy!”

She replied, well…they’re all a little small…I believe I’ll take all 3! Oops!

Now that guy may have been just a little too enthusiastic, when it comes to selling fish but spiritually, we really cannot have too much passion.

I’ve noticed something, in the 20+ years I’ve been in the ministry. When we have someone with the passion for the lost, like Paul had, most church going people shun them. We say something like “Oh their just a fanatic and we don’t want people to think we’re like them.”

BUT the opposite of spiritual passion is spiritual sleep.

Paul says in, [Rom 13:11 NIV] “…The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

In other words, Jesus is coming sooner than you think!

Paul is referring to spiritual sleep here.

Today the church is able to sleep in a noisy room full of lost people.

I wonder how many of us understand that a vast majority of Florence County doesn’t know Christ as Savior. Yet we walk right past them in stores, at work, on the street and never give them second glance because we’re “sleep-walking!” At my last check, there was approximately 7.1 billion people on this planet but most are spiritually dead. And there’s a small minority of us which are supposedly spiritually alive but we’re in some kind of a slumber…

Ladies and gentlemen it is time for the Church to wake up!

We’re all guilty of sleeping from time to time. But we’re not alone.

If you’re looking for a good excuse, here’s some of our ancestors from scripture.

• Jonah was a good sleeper…he slept the sleep of unconcern. God told him to preach to the wicked city of Nineveh…but he went the opposite direction.

It wasn’t just that he didn’t care if they went to hell…he WANTED God to punish those people! Most of us get riled up thinking about what Jonah did. “How could he do such a thing, the miserable scoundrel!?” But what about us?

When we can talk to our neighbors about ANYTHING BUT the gospel, aren’t we sleeping the sleep of unconcern?

Is there a hell or not? Do we care if there is or not? Do we care if our family or friends go or nor? If we saw their house on fire, we’d surely run get a hose or grab a phone, right?

I read about a group of soldiers heading to an almost hopeless battle. On board the ship, they cornered their chaplain and asked him if he believed in a literal hell.

He was a liberal who didn’t believe the Bible completely and he said “absolutely not…take courage and don’t worry. I do not believe that a loving God would send anyone to such a place as hell.”

At that, they asked him to resign saying, “if there is no hell…we don’t need you…and if there is a hell…we do not want to be led astray!”

Can I ask you something? Do we REALLY believe God? Do we believe the Bible is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Or do we approach it “buffet style”? Do we give it a quick walk around then get in line but only picking and choosing what is most tasteful to us?

Another Bible example of spiritual sleep was,

• Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane.

They slept the sleep of the unprepared.

Jesus was in the most desperate spiritual struggle of his life.

Jesus knows that just a few hours ahead of Him is the cross, where He would literally become sin! He was being tempted not to go through with it…and He asked His 3 most trusted friends to go with Him and pray.

He said to His inner circle, I cannot explain how I feel or what lies ahead and you could never understand the anguish in my soul…just know I need you to come and pray with me now.

What an opportunity! The chance of a lifetime…to pray with the Son of God in His greatest hour of need! But they fell asleep! They acted as if they had no idea what was going on.

Heaven and Hell hang in the balance…eternity is at stake! And they fell asleep! They slept the sleep of the unprepared. For 3 years they had followed Jesus. It was all leading up to this very moment, and now they had the chance to get in the game and carry the ball, and they decide to go to sleep!

Once again, we can get really irritated with these guys because they let Jesus down. BUT how about us?

How many believers right now know in their hearts that this is them!? You have opportunities, but you don’t take them, because you feel unprepared. And so, you drop the ball! How many, in this very room are sleeping the sleep of the unprepared by using our own excuses…

Ladies and gentlemen eternity is at stake…major things are happening…but still, preachers get up in the pulpit spiritually unprepared. S.S. Teachers and youth leaders and children’s workers decide they can just “wing it” They try to fake their way thru it. Those in the pews use the excuse they’re not trained. They ALL sleep the sleep of the unprepared!

I believe too many Christians today are sleeping the sleep of the unprepared!

• Samson fell asleep in Delilah’s lap as he slept the sleep of the unaware.

He was overconfident…and too comfortable!

God help the pastor and the church that starts feeling like the well-oiled machine… “We don’t need to pray—the way God is blessing us.”

“We don’t need to invite people, not the way they are pouring in the door!”

“We have lots of money in the bank, we don’t have to depend on God!”

Or those who believe that God would never allow the doors of their church to close… no matter how lazy they are! Church doors are closing every week because those within the walls are sleeping the sleep of the unaware.

Or maybe we should call it the sleep of the “I don’t care.”

Just moments before the Titanic struck the iceberg she received 5 telegraph warnings about icebergs, and all were ignored. The crew and even the captain must have grown too confident in all the press and hoopla surrounding this new ship. Before she launched, people were saying, “Even God couldn’t sink this ship!”

35 minutes after the final warning they were sinking, and history records that crew as “criminally complacent.”

I wonder how many Christians will be charged as criminally complacent.

The 1st essential to effective evangelism is passion, and we need to wake up to the needs of the hour!