Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evangelism In the Early Church

We've left the 4 gospels after 5 years of preaching through them and are now preaching on The Christology of the Book of Acts; viz., those Acts-passages that especially speak of Christ.

One of the things that now stands out to me is that the early church had no "evangelism program." They didn't read books on evangelism - they didn't even have the gospels yet! They didn't pay money to attend evangelism seminars. And they didn't hold scheduled evangelism meetings. Yet the news about the Real Jesus spread like crazy. How did that happen? This way, I think.

The early Jesus-followers:
  1. Stayed tight with Jesus, abiding in him as he instructed in John ch.s 14-16.
  2. They were empowered with the Spirit of God, given to them, and dwelling within them. God had come to make his home in them. Now, they were "temples," "portable sanctuaries," hosting the presence of God.
  3. They heard from God, either directly or indirectly (as, e.g., through angels).
  4. A good part of that "hearing from God" had to do with receiving directions about where to go, what to do, and what to say.
  5. They obeyed.
And... the thing exploded!

This is what the biblical book of Acts is about. These first Jesus-followers are always hearing from God. Even non-Jesus followers are hearing from God. We saw this in our church two weeks ago with Philip the evangelist, last week with Paul and Ananias, and we'll see it again this coming Sunday with Cornelius and Peter.

At Redeemer we're taking the weirdness out of hearing from God and putting this forth as part of the normal Christian life. The normal Christian life includes: hearing from God, then obeying if called to. The results include: the message of Jesus gets disseminated. And, from, my pastor-POV, no more teeth-pulling-guilt-producing-low-turnout "evangelism classes" - Yay! My task is to: 1) teach people how to abide in Jesus; and then 2) teach them how to discern whether that voice they hear is God's or not. As for obedience, I can do little about that, since it says in Hezekiah 1:1 "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink."

The past two Sundays we've had a lot of good, ordinary, powerful Jesus-followers at Redeemer share stories where they heard God call them to do something, they obeyed, and very cool things happened. So - if you're part of our Redeemer family - we're having another chance to share "hearing God + obeying" stories this coming Sunday. I look forward to these, which already have been encouraging and strengthening a lot of our people!

(If you're the academic type and want to read something about this check out U. of Southern California Prof. of Philosophy Dallas Willard's book Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.)