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Evangelism

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2 Corinthians 6

Are you ever disappointed?

... disappointed that something didn’t happen?
...disappointed when you prayed for something to happen and it didn’t?

This is a true story involving Karen and me; when we were on Prayer Ministry at Detling Summer Celebration.
A woman with arthritis in her hands such that she could not close them was allocated to us for prayer. She said that she had received a lot of prayer from different people but nothing had happened. Undaunted we prayed for her and sure enough nothing happened. We did not think more of this but simply accepted that instant miraculous healing sometimes happens but sometimes does not. The next year at Detling we saw the woman again and she recognised us. As she came over she opened and closed her hands.

What that has to do with evangelism we shall see later.

First the dictionary definition of Evangelise

Verb
  1. To preach the Christian gospel or a particular interpretation of it.
  2. To advocate a cause with the object of making converts.
However the Greek eu + angelion simply means good news, so the verb is to pass on good news and is an ordinary Greek word with no especially religious connotations.

The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the word once in 2 Samuel 4:10

When a man told me, “Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news (euangellion) I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag
(Clearly not actually ‘good news’ for the man concerned!)

In the New Testament there are 86 occurrences of the noun plus other derivatives so Jesus and his followers had taken on the word and used it specially to mean the good news of Jesus coming into the world and all that that implies or ‘Gospel’ as we often call it.
(Gospel is a contraction of ‘godspel’ from ‘good spell’, a Saxon translation of euangelion.)

In Mark 4, in the story of the storm on the lake, Jesus being alive and with them was very much ‘good news’ as he stopped them from drowning so now we have a way of evangelising – miraculous works. This may be not be as effective however as some believe as Judas was among those in the boat!

Another story involving Karen and me was the wedding of a confirmed atheist friend of Karen’s. It was raining hard all morning and she was becoming increasingly concerned as she wanted wedding pictures in the sun and not in the rain. We told her we would pray and we did. In time for the photos the clouds cleared and the sun shone brightly. This was the ‘Good news’ she wanted but no one as far as we know was converted (although she does like to repeat the story).

Jesus did many miracles but we know from scripture that not everyone who saw them was converted to become a follower.

In 2 Corinthians 6 Paul is despairing of the church at Corinth. He catalogues what he and others have done:

4...in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
They have worked hard to bring good news – to evangelise but
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.

They have been well and truly evangelised but have they accepted God’s grace and been really saved?
They seem still to be sceptical and think they have to do something. They do not understand the concept of God’s grace that Paul has been trying to get over to them. If you have ‘evangelised’ to those cynical about grace you will understand the frustration. There can be much Evangelism but no true conversion.

1 As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” (a quote from Isaiah 49:8)
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.

Why? Why if we pray, talk, work hard (perhaps not quite as hard as Paul) are people not converted? The clue is in the Isaiah 49 quote in this 2 Corinthians passage (above), “In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you;”
This is God speaking and refers to a specific time (then in the future) but also to all times. God helps when it is the time of His favour and the day he has chosen for salvation.

Evangelism is not conversion or salvation. The Holy Spirit does the conversion interacting with the individual concerned to bring about their salvation. If we get the timing right conversion may follow quickly but we may get it wrong and it be delayed just like the healing we started off with. God has reasons for his timing and we humans are no always able to discern his plans very well.

Summary

However hard we try we may not convert anyone so should we give up? No of course not! There are various ways to evangelise (and not). Just talking ‘religion’ is really often not effective in 2016 western society. We live in an era of lots of talk.

Karen and I were recently in London and followed a man with a portable PA who boomed out scripture to everyone. We admired his zeal but really doubted the effectiveness of this ‘scattergun’ approach.

Evangelism is making people aware of what the good news might be for them as we consider what good news it is for us. We do not need to be theologians or have a portable PA!

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,
Philippians 1:27

Generally live and walk the talk and be careful what you are seen to do and say by others especially secular people as you represent Christ and his Church to them. We are none of us saints but all works in progress but we should be doing our best to show the fruit of the spirit:

14For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other…
 
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5

We need to truly forgive people and to pray for people, especially those who are not so good or whom you do not like!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. 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
Note that here talk is involved but it is in answer to why you are how you are. This is very different to the man with the PA! The person asking this is already interested. Probably the Holy Spirit is already working. We should build on that. And as with comedy, timing is everything!

Whatever happens do not give up.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Walk the talk, pray, explain, do not give up, do not be discouraged - keep on spreading the good news...
...in short EVANGELISE!