A couple of people from a church were going door to door, knocking on doors and passing out information about Christ and their church. One woman answered who was not at all happy to see them. She told them in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t want to hear message and slammed the door in their faces. But to her surprise, the door bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it and slammed the door and it bounced back open. Convinced that one of the church people was sticking their foot in the door, she reared back to give it a third slam when one of them stopped her and politely said, “Ma'am, before you do that again, you really ought to move your cat.”
This morning I want to introduce you to a man named Philip. Philip was a man who was on fire for Jesus. He was so in love with Jesus, the early church made him one of its 1st Deacons. Later, when the church was persecuted, he went on up to Samaria and, when found a group of people who’d listen to him, he told them about Jesus and ended up baptizing nearly everybody in town.
Right after that, in Acts 8, an angel appears to Philip and sends him on a mission. And Philip doesn’t have to knock on doors, and he doesn’t get a door slammed in his face, and the guy he talks to isn’t offended or angry with him. Instead, the man Philip talks to is eager to hear about Jesus and even asks to be baptized… doesn’t have to be talked into it. And then the man Philip baptized goes on his way rejoicing.
How many of you would sign up to talk to someone about Jesus IF you thought that would be the result almost every time? (Almost everyone put their hands up)
Well… have I got a deal for you. Right here in this text is a recipe for success like that. A recipe on how to talk to people about Jesus and changing their lives. And I’m so convinced that this will be a success that I am personally going to invest my time in making it happen. And I’m looking for volunteers to help (long pause)… those volunteers are YOU!!!!
But first let me give you a short outline of what we’re going to talk about today. GOD SENT Philip to the Eunuch. Philip WENT to the Eunuch. Philip STUDIED with him. And Philip CLOSED the deal.
So, using Philip (and Jesus) as examples, I have a GREAT PLAN to help you bring to Jesus. So, (you might ask) what is this GREAT PLAN you have, Jeff? (I waited until they asked the question). It’s very simple… I’m asking you to (pause) throw a party! And I want you to ask your unchurched friends over for a barbecue. Then I want you to introduce me/Scott to your friends, and I want you to be willing to host a Bible Study in your home.
Now, I don’t want you to invite CHURCH people to this activity (unless they’re helping you). This is totally about a Bible Study for people OUTSIDE our congregation. If you don’t want to teach the Bible Study, that’s OK. Just host it. I’ll teach it, or Scott will teach it, or one of the Elders, or someone else in church will teach it. If you don’t feel comfortable leading the study, we’ll do it for you. But the idea is to introduce your friends to Jesus, and to the church.
And I’m convinced this will work.
ILLUS: I was at Hillsboro Family Camp in Ohio a couple weeks back and I talked to a couple of men from churches that were having a hard time of things. So I shared this GREAT IDEA with them. Both of them said… they’d done it in the past and it was always successful. One of the men told about his father preaching in a small congregation of about 25 people, and that he’d done this Bible study idea in his own home. He said at one point they had more people in his home than they had in the church and they began funneling people over to the church building.
ILLUS: I already have a few people on board to make this happen. Roy and Sherri are tentatively planning to start their barbecue on September 5th and watch the Bears and Green Bay play.
But, why should this work? Well, it should work because it is closer to the Biblical model than knocking door to door. Not that I’m knocking knocking door to door, it’s just that this fits what Jesus did better than that. Do you know what Jesus did in His ministry? He ATE WITH people… and then He talked to them about eternity.
In Luke 15:1-2 we’re told “… the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and EATS with them."
When Jesus called Matthew to be His follower (he was also called Levi) Luke 5:27-30 tells us that“(Jesus) went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a GREAT FEAST in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others RECLINING AT TABLE with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
It worked because eating with people says they matter to you. You like them enough to sit down with them in their home. They feel safe and welcome and they’re open to listening to you.
SO, here’s my plan, based on Acts 8. Now granted there’s no food in this story in Acts, but once we get past the food this is the game plan on how to reach our friends for Jesus.
1st pray! We need to remember – this is a God thing. God made what happened in Acts 8 happen.
Acts 8:26 tells us “… an ANGEL of the Lord said to Philip ‘Rise and go toward the south…’” And Acts 8:29 says “the SPIRIT said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’” Philip didn’t do this on his own. Both an angel and the Spirit of God guided him in what he was to do.
Too often Christians forget to include God. You’d think it would be a no-brainer for us. I mean – it’s not like we’re Elks club or the Optimist Club or something. We’re a church. This is supposed to be a God thing. But too often we make our plans… THEN we ask God for help. I’m as guilty as the next guy on this.
It would be so easy for us to just throw a party like it was some kind of Amway gathering. But this isn’t an Amway thing – it’s far more important than that. We need to pray before hand that God works on the hearts of those we’d like to invite so that they’ll be prepared for what we want to do.
So first… pray. Then notice that Philip WENT to the Eunuch. Acts 8:30 says “Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet.”
Too often Christians think church growth happens because people drop in to church. We don’t really go to their house or invite them to ours to talk about Jesus. Instead… we invite people TO CHURCH. We have projects and events to get people in the door here… and well, it does work some of the time. But it’s not the most effective way to reach people for Christ.
One man observed: “A church that is waiting for sinners to visit their building is like the police waiting for criminals to visit their station.” (Ray Comfort)
So, if it’s not the most effective method of evangelism, why do churches wait for outsiders to visit their building? Well, because it’s easier and less demanding. And frankly… it’s a little scary to go out and talk to people about Jesus. We’re afraid of rejection or embarrassment… so we just don’t. We’re just not that enthusiastic about the idea.
But the early church was enthusiastic. You couldn’t hardly shut them up.
ILLUS: We should approach this evangelism thing with the enthusiasm of a child. I read the true story of a mother who moved into a new house in town with her husband and young son. Early the next morning, their 3½ year old ran into bedroom to wake them up. His mom dressed him and told him to play in the yard and to quit bothering them. About 20 minutes later, he came running back yelling "Mommy, Mommy, everybody has doorbells… and they all work."
IT WAS FUN. IT WAS CHALLENGING. AND IT WAS SOMETHING HE COULD DO. All he had to do was push doorbells. He could do that. In the same way, what I’m suggesting is simple, effective and fun - if we do it right. We just GO to our friends… and then we invite them to a party.
YOU CAN DO THAT!
Third thing to notice is - Philip STUDIED the Bible with this man. “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with
this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:35
Notice, Philip didn’t say… “Hey, if you show up at church this Sunday I can have the preacher explain all this to you.” But Philip didn’t do it that way. Philip taught this guy. There was a strong chance this Eunuch wouldn’t visit their church building (they didn’t have one anyway) or that he’d wait till Sunday before he headed home to Ethiopia… by that time, the chance to talk to this man about Jesus would have been lost.
You might say “Well, that was Philip. That’s not me. I can’t do that!!! Well here’s the beauty of what I’m telling you this morning – you don’t have to. If you set up the meeting… I’ll be there. If you need me or Scott or an Elder to teach… we’ll teach.
In fact, I will make you a promise.
Last Sunday I talked to you about upping your game. I told you I believe God wants to bless us with growth IF we are willing to invest our time in Sunday School. Our attendance in Sunday School has regularly been about ½ that of Worship (like most established churches). And I challenged you to make Sunday School or Sunday Evening or Wednesday Evening a priority for the next 6 months.
Then I challenged you to sign up to volunteer for ministry so I’d have a “tickler file” of people who’d help if the need arose. Granted about 40 to 50% of you already are involved in ministry… but I’m pressing the rest of you to step up your game and make yourself available.
ILLUS: I talked to a politician from a nearby town who will be running for a position representing our district. He’s a young man with 3 daughters and he goes to a church in his community, he told me that it’s discouraging to go to church each Sunday and have to sit in the Nursery each Sunday watching the worship on a small TV screen. He said that nobody in the church is willing to take charge in the nursery because (they said) “I’ve already put in my time. Let somebody else do that.” That’s sad… and that’s not you. You’re better than that. I just need more people to step up and be available when the need arises.
And then I talked about the need for you to step up and be more diligent in your giving. Many of you give a tithe on a regular basis, but many don’t. When you give financially you are investing in this church and saying that you want it to do more for Jesus. More missions. More local ministry. More outreach to the lost.
So, I’ve challenged you to all of that because I believe in you. I believe you are worthy of that challenge.
But now, here I am asking all that of you… do you think it’s fair for me not to be willing to do the same? I mean, is that fair for me to ask you to up your game, if I’m not willing to up my game? Of course not!
Well… this is what I promise you. If you set up these parties/Bible studies, I will commit to teaching in as many of them as necessary. I promise you that, if I’m needed, I’ll teach every night of the week. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
But I’m going to commit to something more than that. The Sunday after Labor Day weekend, I’m going to begin a Sunday School Class focusing on the Gospel of John that will teach you how to run a Bible study. Now, you don’t have to want to run a Bible Study to go to this class, but I’ll share ideas there that will help you do it.
ONE LAST THING: Philip’s Bible Study wasn’t just a Bible Study. Philip was studying with this man to lead him to Jesus. He didn’t allow himself to get distracted with silly arguments about theology. He had only a couple of hours to lead this man to Jesus. So he had one focus, and one focus only: he told the Ethiopian Eunuch WHO Jesus was and he told the Eunuch HOW to become a Christian. When he was done, the Ethiopian knew exactly what needed to be done, and he was so excited about Christ… he asked to be baptized. He begged for the privilege of being buried in the waters and rise up a new creature in Christ.
CLOSE: Max Lucado tells the story of a man named Robert Reed. Reed attended Abilene Christian University with a degree in Latin and then taught at St. Louis JR. College. But Reed’s real passion was to be a missionary to Portugal. So, one day, he packed up and moved there. In the 6 years he was in Portugal, 70 people were baptized into Christ because of his ministry. That’s pretty impressive isn’t it? But people might say: he was trained in Bible College… I’m not. I couldn’t do what he did.
Well, not so fast. When Reed went to Portugal he didn’t know the language. So, when he moved to Lisbon, in 1972 he began studying Portuguese. He found a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Oh… and did I mention that Robert Reed had severe Cerebral palsy? His hands were twisted and his feet were useless. He couldn’t bathe himself. He couldn’t feed himself. He couldn’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. His shirts were held together by strips of Velcro. And when he talked… his speech was like listening to a worn-out cassette player.
So how could he possibly win so many people to Christ? Well, he did what he could. He’d station himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ, and within six years he led seventy people to the Lord.
If he could do that… we can do this!