(“He who wins souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30 NKJV)
Last week we discussed Evangelism Session #1 by Dr. Barry Jones, a Dallas Theological Seminary professor. I entitled the post “God’s Great Rescue Mission”. It focused on the “Missio Dei”, which means God’s purpose, in which God chooses, calls, and sends us on His rescue mission to save lost souls.
This week in lesson #2 Dr. Jones talked about our “divine mission” to witness to the non-believing world, and what the word “witness” means. He said as a qualifier, “It’s always necessary to use words.” But the first step in using words is to earn the right to use those words by “living out the truth of the gospel” so that people can see our changed and different lives of “justice and peace”.
Dr. Jones also said the essence of the Bible is God’s unfolding drama in which in the end we play an integral role as witnesses. He said the term “witness” is a narrower category under the term “mission”. And “evangelism” is a narrower category under the term “witness”.
Dr. Jones referenced a book entitled “The Rise of Christianity” by Rodney Stark. The book subtitle reads, “How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World In A Few Centuries”. At first I thought he was talking about the Jesus Movement that was related to the hippie movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Instead he was talking about the early church discussed in the book of Acts.
One key to this movement was the fact that it was in stark contrast to the prevailing Greek and Roman cultures. One example was that the early church movement treated women very well, unlike the Greek and Roman cultures. As a result many women were saved, and played a large role in the growth of the church. He said another key was the fact that the Greek and Roman cultures distanced themselves from anyone that had diseases like the plague, but the early church, in contrast, embraced and helped people with diseases, and many people got saved as a result.
Dr. Jones stated that there is some dissension between two camps of thought related to how we should witness. One side thinks that humanitarian efforts should be the primary means to share the gospel, and they may, or may not minimize the need for verbal sharing. The other side feels that verbal sharing should be the primary means to share the gospel, and they may, or may not minimize the need for humanitarian efforts. Dr. Jones strongly said that the church needs both.
Lastly, Dr. Jones pointed out that witnessing isn’t an optional choice for believers based on their preferences. He quoted Acts 1:8 which states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Note the emphasis on “YOU WILL be my witnesses.” Dr. Jones said choosing to witness, or not to witness isn’t an option, and that Jesus gave an emphatic statement of fact.
Dr. Jones also asked students to give possible ways of verbally witnessing, to open the door for future evangelism. Several examples were: The question, “May I pray for you?”, or “words of encouragement”, or “remembering and commenting to people by name”, or “treating all people in the workplace or elsewhere with dignity and respect”.
I still have a long way to go to understand, and to begin the practice of being a good witness for Jesus that opens doors toward evangelism. How about you?
See you next time,