Major events have a role to play in church life, but the bedrock of gospel ministry (preaching Christ) is low-key, ordinary, day-to-day, often unseen work. Most gospel ministry involves ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality. Whether it is helping out a friend, a day at the office or going to a movie, there is a commitment to building relationships, modeling the Christian faith and talking about the gospel as a natural part of conversation. Mission is not about events, but a lifestyle of mission. Church is not a meeting, but a community with a shared life.
The gospel is a message — it is a word. God does his work in the world through his word. This is why speaking about Christ and His gospel is so important. Mission only takes place as we share that word with people. A commitment to mission through community only works if the priority of the gospel is a strong value within that community. Otherwise we simply form good relationships which never lead anywhere. We may even hesitate to share the gospel for fear of jeopardizing those relationships. We fear that if we talk about Jesus, people will not want to be our friends; the relationship will be broken. Most of that fear is because of the stereotype of past forms of evangelism and the reputation sharing your faith has in the world, much like this convo
Here is an online conversation regarding Amway:
Acquaintance: Hi Scott! How are you?
Me: Me? I‘m great! Yourself?
Acquaintance: Oh, good.
Acquaintance: Hey Scott. Do you use the computer much?
Me: Uh… A little, I guess.
Acquaintance: Hmm… Are you in on the internet?
Me: Oh, I suppose you can say that.
Acquaintance: Well, do you ever buy things on the internet?
Me: Yeah, I‘ve been known to do that from time to time.
Acquaintance: Have you ever heard of Amway on the internet?
Me: No, no… Who‘s scamming you?
Acquaintance: Oh, no, no… I just buy what I want from these guys, and then at the end of the month they cut me a cheque. What are you doing Friday night?
Me: I beg your pardon? [Keep in mind this is a guy I‘m talking to.]
Acquaintance: Well I thought I could come over and show you what this is all about.
[Identity blown over. It is an Amway salesman in disguise, also known as Acquaintance.]
Me: What is this, Amway on the internet?
Acquaintance: Yeah I guess you could call it that. Although I guess it is a lot more than that.
Amway is a distributive selling network that is huge in America and Australia. As a salesperson, you get people on board to sell things. The more people you get on board to sell things, the more your income increases. It’s not about you; this is about them!
When it comes to talking about God, the real risk is that we come across like the above Amway salesperson. We end up sounding a bit clunky and forced. People are living in a culture where they are already very suspicious of being sold something: they are forever being approached by salesmen in the street, and being enticed to buy into all sorts of things. (Intro and the Amway conversation are from Porterbrook, Term 2, Evangelism, Unit 4)
My aim this morning is to use Paul’s conversation in Acts 26 to outline for us what it might look like for all of us to be able to “Preach Christ Effectively” in our different contexts. Let’s get to work.
v. 1: Paul waited until the opportunity came to him to speak. Let’s trust God to give all of us moments (daily) to speak of all that God has done in our lives, and then speak it boldly. Some of us to need keep our mouths shut more and wait for God to direct you in your declaration of him so you don’t spurn his name. And some of you need to open your mouth and speak about Christ and stop being ashamed of him or scared of being rejected or having some say to you, “you’re crazy”, “how could you believe that”, or heaven forbid they may even say “shut up loser”. When God presents and opportunity to speak of him, take him up on it!
vv. 2-12: Instead of starting with areas of disagreement, Paul began with all the points of agreement between he and King Agrippa (briefly look at vv. 2-3; vv. 6-8; vv. 9-12).
This is key in sharing the gospel. The 4 major world views in life that people believe in are in line with the four major breakdown of Scripture:
1) Creation-Imago Dei (My identity/What identifies you?)
2) Fall-Sin/Rebellion (What is your problem? Everyone has a problem, what’s the source?)
3) Redemption-faith in Jesus (My solution/What is the solution to my problem?)
4) Restoration-New Heaven, New Earth (What is your hope in/this life and after?)
Usually, you can find areas of agreement within this matrix. For instance, someone who has lived a bad life or has had terrible things happen to them, they have a basic understanding that sin is real, destructive and has made things in this world terribly wrong. You would want to start there. Start with the reality of sin then slowly move towards the story of Genesis 3 and what happened there and the biblical consequences of their sin, etc…
vv. 13-18: Then, after he had some commonality between he and King Agrippa, he went ahead and shared his testimony and of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Telling the story of what God has done for us is a great way of introducing people to Jesus. A personal story of what God has done for us is often called a ‘testimony’, but in the Bible the testimony of the disciples is their witness to the facts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and how he was the fulfillment of the prophesies of God.
What I want to do now is spend a little time sharing some tips on how we should be sharing our story with others (the examples below are adapted from Porterbrook, Term 2, Evangelism, Unit 5):
1) Share how God saves you, past, present and future: When you share your story, you should focus on telling your ‘conversion story’, that is, how you first came to Christ. But also share how God has continued to show you grace throughout your life. So you should also be ready to tell other stories which will intersect with people’s real lives: how God has helped you through suffering or an illness; a concrete example of how Jesus‘ wisdom has helped you love your kids better; etc…
2) Be personal rather than preachy: “You are opening your heart to reveal things that are personal and real to you — how God has dealt with you. You will teach someone the content of the gospel as you do this, but not in a preachy way. In other words, do not say something like: ―I came to realize that everyone in the world, including you, is lost and dangling over the pit of hell.‖ Instead you might say: ―I came to realize that, although I thought I was quite a decent person, the problem with me as far as God was concerned ran deep within me, and I couldn’t deal with it myself.”
3) Make Christ the center: Jesus has done the work to change us. He is the one who should be the centre of our story. We are telling the story of how we changed our thinking, but ultimately we must show how our thinking about Jesus changed. As the cliché goes, the aim is to tell Christ‘s story through your story.
4) Be honest: Most stories fail to have an impact people because they are too glib (Everything changed and life was suddenly wonderful!), too triumphal (Since that day I have not looked back) or exaggerated (I was lost in the depths of sin and depravity, and my dark heart sought out opportunities for evil, and then when I was seven…). Tell it just as it happened, with all the doubts, questions and slowness of your response. Even though you may be a convinced Christian, it is important to include your current struggles. Don’t be afraid of your current questions or struggles. It is also worth talking about inadequate versions of Christianity (people and churches) that you have come across (but do not slander specific churches or persons).
5) Include relevant individuals and churches: Don’t just share your story of bad church experiences or ignorant Christians to be relevant. Share with people about the new community of faith you are in and what’s different about them and why they attracted you. Concrete details make your story easier to understand and more interesting.
vv. 19-21: Now that he’s shared his testimony of how the God of his fathers (whom Agrippa believes in) came to him and declared to him what he was to do and the way of salvation, Paul says, “I had to obey God! (v. 19) So that is exactly what I did. I obeyed God, and I’m still obeying even now. I declared to the Jews what God told me to and the seized me for the message God said to me.”
We must be obedient and declare what God has revealed in Scriptures and not leave out it’s truth for fear of rejection, embarrassment, or death. This is God’s word, not ours! We are deliverers of the Good News, not writers of the Good News. Deliver the goods!! This often (not all the time) happens once you’ve shared your story and built a relationship with a person. This is not necessary, but is often effective.
2 Timothy 4:1-5: 1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
God has many around you, right now, who He has already prepared for them to hear His gospel and come to Him. God uses us to get the message out. This is the most loving thing you could ever do. (Share the story of the atheist).
vv. 22-23: Then Paul declares that his help is from God (ascribing glory to God) and clearly and very simply articulates the gospel. Jesus is God (the Christ). He came to suffer and die for us (he must suffer). He conquered death (being the first to rise from the dead). This is for all who believe (he would proclaim light both to our people and the Gentiles.) This happens when we share the Gospel in word and is backed up by our lives that ascribe glory to God by the way we live.
1 Peter 3:15-16: 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
vv. 24-29: This is where the criticism and the continued unbelief of the gospel comes once again. This is where it is absolutely crucial that you actually know and believe the gospel so that we can have the assurance and confidence of who we are in Christ and what he desires of us: 1) Christ purchased you through his life, death and resurrection; 2) That you are now a child of God and your identity is in that and not in your acceptance of anyone in this life; 3) That your way to greatness is by being a slave to all, especially to God; 4) That your hope in firmly set in the resurrection of your body that will dwell with Jesus for eternity.
1 Peter 1:3-7: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
There are plenty more realities of the gospel, but this is a great start for you to start preaching this truth to yourself so that the gospel affects your words, thoughts, actions, and emotions; especially in the moments of rejection, persecution, etc…
vv. 30-32: This should be the response of unbelievers regarding us after having the time to share the gospel with them. They should leave us (even if they disagree with us) saying that this man is not crazy, seems to be a decent person, and there should not be any reason for them to condemn you apart from the Gospel.
1 Peter 2:12, 15-17: 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation…. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
List all the activities in your life including the mundane ones, that make up your normal daily, weekly and monthly routine:
1) Daily routine (for example: traveling to work, eating meals, chores, walking the dog, playing with the kids).
2) Weekly routine (for example: grocery shopping, running errands, park with the kids, watching favorite television shows, sporting events, getting exercise, yard work).
3) Monthly routine (for example: getting a haircut, going to a movie, washing your car, gardening).
Now, for each activity, ask whether you could add one of these components:
1) community component — involving a member of your Church community
2) missional component — involving an unbelieving friend
3) gospel component — talking about Jesus
In the end, salvation belongs to the Lord. Trust him to cause the message you are relaying to bare on the hearts of the hearers, but don’t disqualify yourself by your lifestyle or spurn the name of the Lord by declaring a message that is drastically different than the way your life looks.
Trust that only God opens up dead hearts, blind eyes and deaf ears. Do what you can, live righteously, declare the truth of the Gospel through your testimony, live out the truth of the Gospel among unbelievers, know the Gospel, believe the Gospel, labor for the Gospel… But in the end, sleep good and know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). Let your evangelism/proclamation of Jesus be the outflow of your faith in Jesus and belief of the Gospel, then leave it at that.