Thursday, 28 April 2011

As believers do we labour for Christ out of love, or do we have a job role?

I reflected today on the occasion quite a few years ago when I was made a Deacon at our then local church. After I joined the leadership team of our fellowship, a meeting was arranged with the pastor to go through the specifics of the role. We went through the qualifications for the position of a Deacon that are listed in Timothy 3: 8-12. At the end of our time together he handed me a couple of sheets of paper that laid out in great detail the actual role and responsibilities that I been given. This ensured that there was complete clarity regarding the position bestowed upon me, which was a big help.
Key Point: We should labour out of our love for Jesus
The whole of this book relates in one way or another to witnessing or evangelism. With that in mind I thought it would be interesting to clarify the responsibilities that we, as believers, have to the lost. I am not talking about labouring for Christ as work, because whatever we do for Him should be done out of our great love.
We do need to be clear on who ‘the lost’ are. We are talking about people who the Bible describes as walking “through the wide gate”, whether they realise this or not. They are going in the wrong direction, or they wouldn’t be ‘lost’.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”
 Matthew 7: 13
We know well from Scripture that the Lord has a desire that everyone would come to know His Son. 
That the Lord desires that all men be saved: For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 
The incredible thing about this is that He chose us to reach people! Why would God, who is perfect, entrust imperfect people with the message of salvation? His ways are higher than ours as scripture says.  Below I have listed out some of the believer’s ‘job description’ in relation to witnessing. It is presented in a similar way that my responsibilities as a deacon were given to me:
Part of your role as a believer is to tell others about the message of salvation. Remember that Jesus said: 
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. 
John 14-16. 
When you obey, the Holy Spirit will be with you and empower you.
Be a Labourer: First and foremost, you are to work as a witness amongst people you know, or come into contact with, always being prepared to share the message of salvation.
Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”
Luke 10:2
Be a Witness: You are to be a faithful witness. You should be able to share your story detailing the account of how you came to Christ, as well as being able to effectively share the reasons why people must be saved.
 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1: 8 
Be a Servant: You will be required to perform the work of a servant of the Lord. We are commanded by the Lord to proclaim the good news – even in the face of adversity and opposition.
This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 
Be a Discerning Believer: You will need to walk in wisdom towards people who don’t know Christ, being ready ‘in season and out of season’.  
 “Using wisdom to take advantage of the opportunities to share Christ.” Colossians 4:5 
Be a ready and willing witness: You must always be prepared to share your own story of salvation or be able to share the Gospel in a way that your listener(s) can relate to. 
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3: 15
This is by no means an exhaustive list. You may well have other scriptures that you could use. We know the Lord doesn’t give us job instructions in this way, but we should be willing to carry out tasks like these, not because we have to, but purely and simply out of gratitude for the work of the cross.
I again say that it is clear that we are not all called to be evangelists, but we are all commanded to be witnesses. The Holy Spirit will be with us every time we witness for Christ, plus He will empower and guide us.
Let’s not end up in heaven having hardly ever shared our faith!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Do we have to change the Gospel so that it becomes acceptable?

Something I have noticed for quite sometime is that some speakers and preachers have started to change their tune when presenting the Gospel. I am not saying that they are heretics or that they are spouting off messages that are contrary to the message of salvation.

We are in a world which is rapidly changing and as a result, we need to change with it. As evangelists and witnesses we sometimes have to come up with different methods to reach a lost world. We need new ideas on how to effectively make Jesus known to the masses. However, when presenting the Gospel, we need to be very careful that we do not change the important message of salvation.

It concerns me that in order to reach people without offending them, some people decide to remove words from preaching such as ‘Hell’ because they don’t want to offend the seeker. Jesus spoke about Hell a great deal. Why would He do that? Perhaps it was because it was quite important. Should we no longer preach on those parts of the Bible? I could write a book on that alone.

In recent times I have heard that the word ‘Sin’ in some cases is being replaced by the word ‘Mistakes’ and ‘Lord’ is being replaced by the name ‘Manager’. Though similar in some ways, when looking into the real meaning of the words there are some major fundamental differences, which are extremely important. It has been said that these words are either replaced or removed because they are old fashioned so people of today won’t understand them.

Over time, language evolves and in some instances, a word has a totally different meaning nowadays than in years gone by - such as the word ‘wicked’ which once described something evil, to today’s generation is an indication of approval!  However, if the words are read and followed by an explanation of their meaning, then the message is made clear. I don’t believe that Jesus died for (my own our ‘mistakes’ and I certainly didn’t make Him ‘manager’ of my life. He is Lord!

The word ‘mistake’ can cover many different things, such as an error in calculation, doing something wrong through ignorance, poor reasoning or carelessness and a lack of knowledge.

Doesn’t it say in Hosea 4:6 My people perish from a lack of knowledge”?  

Key Point: We must not forget that sin has a power, whereas mistakes do not

However we read in scripture in Romans 6:6 that sin has a power. We also learn that people come become slaves to sin. Do mistakes have a power? No, Jesus broke the power of sin in our lives through His sacrificial death on the cross.
Three scriptures sum it up:

For He made Him who knew no sin (Mistakes) to be sin (Mistakes) for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Therefore, just as through one man sin (Mistakes) entered the world, and death through sin (Mistakes), and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Made mistakes) Romans 5:12
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, (Mistakes) but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Manager). Romans 6:11

A manager generally means a person responsible for planning and directing the work of a group of individuals, monitoring their work and taking corrective action when necessary.

The term ‘Lord’ is described as Master, Owner, Supreme Despot (there are both good and bad despots), King and someone who possesses supreme authority. I could give many more definitions.  

Consider the following three scriptures, which I believe give the answer. The first connects ‘Lord’ with deity.

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord (Manager) and my God!” John 20-28
And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, (Manager) if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Matthew 8-2
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord (Manager) and Christ.”         Acts 2-36
If we change important words we risk watering down the Gospel message, by making it easy to say something like “Jesus, I have made a few mistakes, give me a new start and be my manager”? (I It is very different from being convicted of our sinful nature by the Holy Spirit and genuinely making Jesus the supreme authority of our lives, letting Him get involved in our thoughts, money, marriage and relationships.

We all make mistakes don’t we? Oh and dare I say it, we sometimes sin as well. The good news is that if we have made Jesus Lord of our lives, we become sinners saved by His grace. I thank the Lord for this scripture:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Should we stick to the words that may jolt or perhaps even offend occasionally, or should we change them so that they are pleasing to the ears?

What do you think?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

How many times should a man hear the Gospel before making a decision for Christ

Ever heard it said that a person needs to hear the Gospel a certain number of times before they give their lives to Christ? Do you believe that it is true? It is something that I have heard quite often of late and I have even said it myself in the past. I have heard figures explaining that to reach the heart of a man it will take anything between seven to eighteen times before they decide to make a commitment and it has been on my mind for a while now. So here are my thoughts.

Studying scripture, I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus, Paul, Phillip the evangelist or any of the apostles preached the Gospel seven to eighteen times in order for someone to accept Christ. I agree that there would have been people who left having heard the message of salvation but who decided not to believe it, maybe as many as twenty times over.

My point is that the Gospels say that many people’s hearts were changed immediately, the very first time they heard the message. The Holy Spirit convicted them of their sin, and the people realised that they needed a saviour and the important fact that there is only one who could rescue them. I don’t believe that it is any different today. For example, when Reinhard Bonnke holds a crusade in Africa sometimes with crowds of over a million people, many have never even heard the gospel, but when it is preached many thousands come to Christ and huge numbers are healed in Jesus name.

It is very common to have statistics like this today. Having looked closely at the examples we have in scripture, plus the examples of evangelists preaching both today and in the past, my opinion is that the statistics suggested don’t quite measure up. How many people were used in the test and over what period?

My old Pastor, a gifted evangelist, would typically retort that such figures were ‘Baloney’, and ask what would the preachers of the Gospel today in the underground church in China say?  The truth is, many thousands of people are converted every day in Asia, Africa, Argentina! God’s Kingdom is growing!

I have been very fortunate to spend time with some proven evangelists over the years and have noticed they all have one thing in common – whether they give the Gospel on a one to one basis or are preaching to a crowd they all do the same thing. What is their secret? What do they do that most people don’t do? The answer is simply that they expect people to make a decision! 

They don’t give the message thinking “I wonder how many times these people have heard the gospel? Perhaps they will have heard it enough times today.” They just believe that the Gospel will do its work.

Key Point: Always expect a decision when you share the Gospel

Daniel Cousins, one of the most gifted evangelists I have ever seen at work, wrote this recently.

“At a conference some years ago the speaker before me said, and I quote, “It takes eighteen times for a man to hear the Gospel before he can make a decision”. I followed him and thanked him for his remarks as said that “Whenever I preach I presume that it is the nineteenth and it’s time for a decision.”

This is the faith that the evangelist has and it is a faith that we should all have!

I am not talking about positive visualization here, like the golfer who is 100 yards from the green and makes a picture in his mind of a perfectly chipped shot bouncing on the green with the ball rolling into the hole before actually making his golf stroke. We must have expectancy, believe the word of God, believe in the power of the Gospel and that through what we share that the Holy Spirit will then do His work.

As one of my favourite scriptures says:

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” .Romans 1: 16

It is God who gives the increase. What we must do, is to obey the commands of Jesus and go and tell people what Jesus did for them at Calvary.

“Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15.

If we obey, many people will realise that they have a serious problem that can only be solved through accepting Jesus. When they accept this and understand the truth, the good news that you have to tell them really will be good news!

Expect a decision when you share the Gospel; God’s word does not return to Him void. It will always accomplish its purpose.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Does my responsibility end when I lead someone to Christ?

This is a question I have been asked a number of times when doing evangelism training. It’s also interesting to see what some people do with a person once they have had the honour of leading them to Christ. Some of what I am going to say may be obvious, but I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to any Pastors that may read this, because I am sure that they have seen what can happen more than I have.

I genuinely believe that effective follow up on a new believer is one of the essentials that is greatly lacking in the area of sowing, reaping and the really vital point of keeping. When we have won a person to the Lord, it’s very important that every one of us should have a desire to do our own follow-up work. It should bring us great joy when seeing those people we know, or have met and won for Christ coming to church. At Gospel One To One we believe in keeping things simple. As a sales trainee and then a sales trainer we were told to K.I.S.S. our listeners. In other words to ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. Actually, the ‘stupid’ part is directed at the trainer, speaker or writer. Oh! That’s me isn’t it?
My eldest daughter and her husband who were not following the Lord at the time, decided one day out of the blue to go to church. At the meeting they accepted Christ and gave their address and phone number to one of the leaders of the church. The following week they had a visit from one of the leadership who amongst other things brought a bank direct debit form with him and asked them to complete it to pay their tithe. I believe in tithing, but I think that perhaps it was a little early to be doing that, and it’s not the type of follow up I am going to talk about today.
Key Point: The truth is that your responsibility and care never really ends
I suppose the truth is that your responsibility and care never really ends as the new believer should always be in your heart. Anyway, here are a few pointers that I think are important.
The points are basic. KISS.
  • Make sure you have accurate contact details: Make a point to explain that they will be contacted by someone from the church.
  • Tell your pastor or church leader about the person you have just won to Christ: Your leader should encourage you and get the news around the rest of the leadership and the church prayer team.
  • Make sure you pray for the person every day by name.
  • Check that your church sends out a welcome letter signed by the Pastor within the first seven days. If they don’t do that, handwrite one yourself.
  • Contact them on Saturday to remind them about Sunday services.
  • For their first Sunday visit, make sure that you either bring them along yourself, or wait at the door for them until they arrive.
  • Give them a church welcome pack on arrival.
  • Introduce them to the Pastor / leaders of your church.
  • Introduce them to positive joyful Christians. For example saying “Hi, this is Bill. He accepted Christ last Friday”. The positive Christian will reinforce the life changing decision the new believer has made.
  • Make sure you sit with them during the meeting, unless you are involved in some other ministry. You will be surprised that some people will find the new believer a seat and then leave them alone and go and sit somewhere else. It’s very likely that they have lots of questions for you to answer.
  • Invite them to midweek meetings, talk about what happens in these services and be excited about them, but don’t pressure them.
  • Contact them as before on the Saturday to remind them about the next Sunday services and arrange to either pick them up or meet them at the door for the next day.
  • Arrange to informally meet them for a coffee or chat.
  • Check that one of the church leadership has arranged to meet with them; perhaps you will be able to go along as well. The leader will deal with tithing, baptism and church membership at the right time. This could be during a new converts class or similar.
  • Continue to maintain contact with them
  • Continue to pray for them
  • Let them know you are available if they need help
  • Remember that we are not responsible for changing them. The Holy Spirit does that.
  • Encourage them to tell others about the decision they have made.
  • As I said earlier, the points I have made are very simple. They should help to ensure that we keep as many new Christians as possible. My wife and I are still in contact with the people that were responsible for telling us about Jesus. The responsibility never really stops does it?
  • You may have some other “Do’s” or even “Don’ts”. Let me know.