“The Greatest Honor”

"The Greatest Honor"

“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,   11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”—The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:7-12)

Recently, a good friend of mine (and our District Superintendent) Terry Bentley came and spoke to many of us about Evangelism. He began by making a few statements and asking if we agreed with them, I have his permission to use the statements and address them to you. As Christians, we say that we believe:
(1) Everyone’s life would be better with Jesus.
(2) Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (and no one comes to a relationship with God unless it is through Jesus.)
(3) Jesus is God among us.
(4) Jesus is our bridge to eternal life.
(5) That not everyone has prepared for eternity and are at risk of losing their soul. (6) That we have the Word of Life that can actually change the world.

Then after each statement, Terry asked if we believed it and we all said yes. Then he asked if that is the case, why are we not telling others about Jesus? That got me to thinking about what would a person do if they saw another person literally drowning and they had the opportunity to save that person. Would they just let them drown? Or would they do everything they could to help save them. Yet, are we not doing the same thing when we are so reluctant to share the Good News of Jesus with others?

In the class that Kevin Riggan and Ken Durbin are teaching, the authors of the study, Williams Faye and Ralph Hodges, talk about the “sin of silence.” They go on to say Christ has commanded that the church (and that is ALL of us, not just the preacher) to “Go and make disciples” and by refusing to even talk to others about him, we are disobedient and are sinning.

And one of the ways we Methodists have fallen into that sin is by doing the works of mission, mercy and justice yet “never naming the name.” We bought into this idealism that we should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and stand up against injustice and evil and yet never tell the world why we do what we do. The purpose of every single ministry of the church has but one purpose TO LEAD PEOPLE INTO A LIFE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST! So, we must make sure that we know the reason why we do what we do. It is because Jesus told us to do it and that we are acting as his hands and feet to show them that He loves them!

The Apostle Paul knew this as one who had experienced the grace of Jesus Christ and who felt honored that God would count him worthy enough to be entrusted with sharing the Good News of God’s redemptive plan. He goes on to say in the Ephesians text shown above that God’s plan also involves the church (that’s us folks!) Paul says that God has entrusted us with the great honor of sharing with the world the formerly hidden plan of God that had been revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But honestly, all of the churches I have ever served had very little of what Terry called “A Culture of Evangelism.” In other words, most UM Churches (including ours) are great on doing mission work to help the poor and needy, they do their best to make first time guests feel welcomed, and they do an excellent job of looking after those who are already there. But, they don’t have a stress on bringing those outside the church to come to know the Lord. And only a miniscule of Methodists have ever shared their faith with strangers, let alone shared the “Plan of Salvation” with another person. There are multiple reasons for that: the fear of rejection, the feeling of inadequacy concerning knowledge of the Scriptures, the misunderstanding of what the word evangelism means and the lack of an evangelistic culture. I wish now to address each one of these.

We all have a fear of rejection because being rejected hurts our self-esteem. But we need to “get over it” because it is not about us! Instead it’s about being obedient to Christ and His command and it’s about being used by God to possibly lead another person out of a life of sin and death and into the light of Jesus. And we can’t just take the easy route of just inviting them to church and think that is all we should do (although that is a start). Finally, take the class that Ken Durbin and Kevin Riggan will be offering again on “Share Jesus Without Fear.”

If we feel that we don’t know the Scriptures well enough to talk to them about faith, then why not learn them? But you don’t have to be a scriptural expert to help others know about Jesus. All you have to do is share your story. Tell them what a difference having Christ in your life has had on you.

Thirdly, regarding the misunderstanding of the word evangelism, I must say this… somehow the words evangelism and evangelical have taken on a political meaning. Politics has nothing to do with evangelism. We get the word Evangelism from a Greek root word which literally means “bringer of good news.” To be an evangelist means you are a bringer of the Good News of God’s redemptive plan to others. Or as some have said evangelism is the process whereby “one hungry beggar tells another where to find bread.” And to me, to be evangelical means that I unapologetically believe and proclaim that it is only through Jesus Christ that a person can be brought into a life altering relationship with God. It means that I totally disagree with pluralism that has worked its way into United Methodist theology that says, “Find your path” or that there are many roads to God.

Lastly, I want to address the need for building a “culture of evangelism.” Terry shared with us that at Guntersville FUMC they began to do this by having prayer before each service and that the prayer teams that prayed asked God to send them some people to each service that did not know Christ. They entered worship expecting those people to be there and God would move in their midst and someone would come to Christ in their services. They also set up a table of candles (like we have) and would light a candle for any person who came to faith in Christ because of the work of the people of that church. It did not matter if the newly converted person actually attended Guntersville FUMC or not. What mattered was because people at Guntersville FUMC shared Jesus with others; people were now “heaven bound.”

So, we have already begun to build a culture of evangelism by setting up our own candle table. I am asking that we all pray, work and share Jesus with others so that by this time next year at least 12 new people have come to Christ. Also, beginning Feb 2, I am asking for volunteers to meet me in our prayer room (on the main hallway) 20 minutes before both services where we will pray for God to send people who need Jesus our way. And I am asking that every single ministry and Administrative team to consider how their team can be involved in this process. For example: The Clothes Closet Folks can build a flier that shares the plan of salvation with those who attend. The Outreach team can make sure that when we host the teachers luncheon that they know we are doing this because Jesus loves them and all glory goes to him. The Evangelism team can help us to develop our new Thursday night worship service to help us reach the unchurched who may feel intimidated by a Sunday morning service.

Does this church really believe that without Jesus in a person’s life that they have no real hope for eternal life? If so, why aren’t we all sharing Jesus with others? We have been entrusted with a great re- sponsibility and honor of helping others to come to know Jesus and it is a great honor! But do we see it that way? (I have “preached enough” for this one article, so I will stop—blessings to all!)

Love yall! Pastor Dee

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