The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
June 11, 2017
Those Christ saves by His grace, Christ sends out to pass on His grace.
A great part of His grace is the chance to strike up a life-enhancing friendship with Him.
To facilitate that happening is to do evangelism.
To evangelize, you don’t have to have eloquence or salesmanship ability; but you do have to have a) love for others and b) obedience to Christ.
Along with a deep appreciation for what Christ can do for a person, a deep caring about people is behind every true attempt to introduce others to Him. If you never attempt that, then either you lack a high view of how wonderful Christ is, or you lack a genuine concern for those missing out on His friendship. A heart of love shares its blessings.
Knowing you can help others by introducing them to Christ but never getting around to actually doing so indicates a deficiency of love for people. It also indicates a deficiency of love for Christ, who said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
His commandment to evangelize is one He stressed. When, for example, just before His return to heaven, He had a last word with His followers, He emphasized that commandment. Building on what He had said on Easter day: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” on Ascension day He sent them out to go and make disciples of all nations.
It is a failure to obey Christ when Christians let what is called the Great Commission become the Great Omission from their lives. To evangelize is to obey Christ, however one feels about evangelism.
Many feel negatively about it, because they’ve only seen it practiced poorly, and with the result of driving people away from Christ. Many overly aggressive and manipulative evangelistic efforts have had the opposite effect of that intended.
Three years ago, the Church of England conducted a study in which non-Christians were asked if a Christian had ever spoken with them about Christ and the good news. Of those who said Yes, only 19% said it made them want to learn more, while 59% said it made them want to avoid such conversations. Though 23% said it made them feel more positive toward Christ, 30% said it made them feel more negative.
In religion, as in everything, people don’t care what you feel about anything until they feel how you care about them. People won’t listen to what you say about Christ’s love until they pick up from you something of its fragrance, until they catch a sniff of it on you even before you’ve said a word about it.
Anglican priest Michael Green tells about the first class at a language school for missionaries. The teacher entered the room and, without saying a word, walked up and down each row of students. Then, still without saying a word, she walked to the front, turned around and asked, “Did you notice anything special about me?”
With brows furrowed in perplexity, the students looked at each other trying to come up with something. Finally, one student raised her hand and said, “I noticed you had on a very lovely perfume.” The class chuckled. But the teacher said, “Thank you for setting me up perfectly to make my point. It will be a long time before any of you will have enough proficiency in Chinese to tell anyone in China about Christ. But even before you speak a word, you can spread the sweet scent of Him by the quality of your character and conduct.”
We’d do well to ask each day how we smell!
Often people cannot hear anything about how compelling Christ is until they have seen something compelling about Christ’s people. Sadly, many Christians show little impact from their faith. A recent Barna Research poll found that, while 84% of the non-Christians polled personally knew at least one Christian, only 15% of them saw anything about that Christian that was significantly different from anyone else.
To make the case for Christ, Christians have to be the case for Christ. They have to demonstrate what He is like and how He can change people for the better.
Words, without deeds, are dead.
Yet, deeds, without words, are also dead.
Suppose you try to “preach” Christ through your actions. You are respectful, kind and generous toward your neighbors and co-workers. You reach out to a few and extend warm hospitality to them in your home. You go the second mile in assisting them in some task important to them. You let them know you volunteer your time to build low-income homes or to tutor kids.
Now, what have your actions “preached”? They have preached that a Christian is diligent and even self-sacrificial in doing good. They have preached that a Christian is morally upright and compassionate. They have preached that it’s nice to have a Christian around.
That’s all well and good. But your actions have preached next to nothing about what Christ is like, or why you ended up being the way you are. Your actions have not preached the good news. Your actions may in fact have left the impression that you are a self-made good person or someone who’s attained God’s favor by virtue of your good works. That is to preach falsehood.
At some point, you have to speak up about who Christ is and how whatever is good in you came from Him. You have to speak up about how there’s nothing all that special about you but everything special about Him.
So, to do the work of evangelism, you do have to speak up – when you’ve earned the right and the other person is receptive. But you don’t have to say that much or say it that well.
And, if you don’t know what to say, you can at least speak up about what you can talk about better than anyone else in the world: your own personal experience. You can share what Christ has meant to you and what a difference He has made for you. You can share how He’s blessed and uplifted you.
Jesus is not a product to sell, but to bear witness to Him is akin to being a “satisfied customer” who gives a testimonial as to how their life has been enhanced by enjoying the product.
Did you know, according to one study, 85% of Amazon shoppers say they base their purchase decisions at least in part on customer product reviews? A lot of people decide to give Christ a second look on the same basis. So what’s the review of Christ’s grace you’d give? If you’ve tried walking with Him any length of time, you will almost always have a “satisfied customer testimonial” to share!
None of us may be a saint. But each of us who is committed to Christ is a “sent”: someone sent by Him to reach out, share the good news too good to keep to ourselves, and make new disciples. Let us be who Christ has made us to be: Sent Ray, Sent Katie, Sent Rob!
Let us pray.