Finding Creative Avenues
If you are like me, you have run into the challenge of sharing the gospel with others. Evangelism can be a formidable task that leaves us feeling scared and often guilty. Just mentioning the word evangelism may be intimidating. Few other topics leave a Christian feeling guilty and exposed. If you are fearful of talking to others about your faith, that is a good sign! That shows how big this is to you. You should see this as encouragement that you are not equipped for this tremendous task by yourself. You need God's Spirit working in your powerfully. You may have a desire to witness but don’t feel ready. You may have talked yourself out of witnessing, then felt ashamed. You might be asking yourself, “how do I get started?” I want to encourage you with a few creative pathways for evangelism that are natural, inviting, and winsome. Additionally, I hope you come up with some creative ways of your own to engage in delightful gospel talk.
Opportunities All Around Us
Barriers to witnessing are common for Christians who want to be obedient to the Great Commission. One of the big hurdles of witnessing is moving from asking God to give us opportunities to sharing our faith. Instead, we should ask to be sensitive to the opportunities all around us. When we look around, we can identify many ways to engage others with the gospel that you we regularly each week, maybe daily. These are relationships that may lead to gospel conversations. Begin by praying for people by name who you interact with on a regular basis. This may be the teller at the bank, the gas station worker, the person who picks up your garbage, the person who delivers your mail, a coworker, or a neighbor. When you get groceries, avoid the self-checkout line and take extra time to interact with the cashier. If you eat out, get to know the server or person taking your order at the counter. If you have a delivery person who comes to your home or business, leave them some snacks with a note. Try to engage them briefly since they are on a tight schedule. As your relationship develops, invite them to an event or as your guest for worship at your home church. Take genuine interest in people. You might find them responding with appreciation and reciprocation.
Speaking of Jesus
Relationships can stay on the surface without ever progressing to the subject of Jesus. There are a great number of ways to transition to gospel talk that are natural and comfortable. The more you use these transitions, the more natural they will come. Consider Jesus speaking to the woman at the well in John 4. He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. He used provocative statements that moved the conversation along. He was thirsty and longed for actual water. He used his physical thirst to point to her deepest desires. Her pursuit of men leading to several failed relationships was an opportunity for Jesus to reveal what she was pursuing. We can do the same thing in loving, creative ways. It requires a posture of great humility and the love of Jesus flowing through us. People all around us have an insatiable desire for God that they try to fill up with things of this world. Only Jesus can fill our deepest of longings.
Take a Shot
Former professional NHL hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, quipped, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”. Evangelism is like taking a shot while not knowing if your effort will fail or suceed. Take a shot and see what the Lord can do with your faithfulness. Remember, the Lord doesn’t need you. Yet He chooses to use our faithfulness for His glory! That is always a great encouragement to me when I witness.
What Do You Think About Jesus?
This is a question that cuts right to the chase. Maybe you have trouble getting over the hump in a conversation. You might be in a waiting room, airplane, bus, train, or enduring a long line. This is a great thing to ask people when you have small window of time with someone. It is also a good question to ask those you have known for some time, yet never broached the subject. Either way, most people have an idea of who Jesus is and developed certain thoughts about Him. They may quickly turn the question around on you. That gives you an excellent opportunity to provide the answer you have been preparing. Ask someone this week what they think about Jesus. I would be pleased if you let me know how they respond.
Before you open your mouth, pray for God to direct your steps. Ask for the words to speak. Just before Nehemiah presented his request to King Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, the cupbearer to the king offered a quick prayer (Nehemiah 2:4). Likewise, learn to give quick prayers in gospel talk situations. Request the Lord to help you recall verses you have intentionally memorized beforehand. Pray for favor with the people you plan to engage with the gospel. Ask that the Lord would remove obstacles in the persons mind that might block receptivity. Pray that the enemy’s work would be hindered. Share the good news of what Jesus has done in a winsome, personal manner. Then ask for the seed you have sown to grow up to maturity and produce fruit. We are not finished with evangelism just because the dialogue has ended. Prayer plays a crucial role in witnessing as we look to God to do a miracle in the lives of people we encounter.
Leave it In God's Hands
You have done everything you can. At this point, you are like the farmer who has prepared the soil, planted the seed, and watered. The farmer does not stay up all night. The farmer goes to sleep knowing that he can do nothing more. Now it is time for you to leave the results of your labor to God. He can use your efforts to do whatever He wants. It is an act of worship as we watch and see the increase He provides through our faithfulness. God is always the main actor when we engage in gospel talk.
What is a Confession?
If someone asked you what your church believes and teaches, what would you say in response? How much of what you believe would you tell? What are the non-negotiables? How much time would you invest in giving your answer? We as Baptists, specifically Southern Baptists, believe certain truths that not all traditions hold in common. For example, we baptize believers by immersion after a public profession of faith in Jesus. A confession is a succinct way to respond to anyone who might ask what you believe. Additionally, a confession is a concise way to teach the membership of our church what we believe. At Lighthouse Baptist Fellowship, we have adopted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 that briefly answers the question of what we believe as Southern Baptists in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. It is important that not only prospective members be familiar with our confession, but also that each of our members are well acquainted with this important document. It is important that we study each article of our confession and look closely at the Scripture references that support each section.
Is a Confession Authoritative?
A confession has no authority over Scripture. Rather, a confession captures what we believe God has already said in the Bible. If a confession cannot be clearly defended by Scripture, the confession must be abandoned or undergo necessary revisions. We believe that the Bible in all 66 books of the Old and New Testament are authoritative over the body of Christ. The local and universal church adheres to God's Word without compromise or revision. To depart from Scripture is to depart from existing as Christ's Church. A confession maintains absolutely zero authority on its own. A confession points to the authority of Scripture.
Creeds and Confessions
Creed comes from the Latin word credo, meaning I belief or I trust. When we say what we believe or trust in, we are declaring our creed. A confession is what we confess we believe as followers of Jesus Christ. Creeds and confessions are used interchangeably to concisely express what we believe.
A Brief History of Baptist Confessions
The church has sought to clarify what we believe through confessions for a considerable time. The Baptist Confession of Faith was first drafted in 1644 in London, England. It was agreed that the confession needed a revision, so they revised it in 1689 in London to create the Second London Baptist Confession. Baptists in United States wrote the Philadelphia Baptist Confession in 1742 and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith in 1833. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary drafted the Abstract of Principles that every professor was required to align with and sign. Each Baptist minister was free to create his own confession or to adopt either the Philadelphia or New Hampshire confession. The Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) was developed to provide accountability to the Foreign Mission Board. The BFM also helped provide more assurance of orthodox doctrinal distinctions with both the sending churches and the missionaries being sent abroad. The confession has undergone two revisions. The confession was originally composed in 1925. The first revision came in 1963 and the second revision came in 2000.
We Have No Creed but the Bible!
Whoever first made this bold declaration, and anyone who repeats it, is unwittingly asserting a creed. Doctrinal orthodoxy lost popularity as the liberal (moderate) agenda took control of the SBC. However, in recent decades the SBC has undergone a conservative resurgence that has changed not only the landscape of the seminaries, but also local Baptist churches. The perspective is changing to what it was with our SBC founders. However, no creed, confession, or council has authority over Scripture nor should they include anything outside the bounds of Scripture. If any of these are found to be in lack of conformity to Scripture, they must be rejected. They are to be considered heterodoxy, not orthodoxy. An example of this is the Vatican I and Vatican II. The Roman Catholic church departed from orthodoxy and elevated creeds, confessions, and councils over Scripture. They inappropriately exalted the position of Pope and Tradition as superior to Scripture. As Christians, we wholesale reject this notion. However, we still hold to orthodox creeds such as the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Baptists: Confessional from the Beginning
From the very beginning of our existence in the U.S., Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, have seen the urgency of adopting a confession for each autonomous church that accurately summarizes what we believe. The founders of the SBC were vigilant to preserve doctrinal orthodoxy both in the seminaries and in the churches. Through the years and the shifting landscape of the denomination the SBC has made a great deal of progress in preserving our doctrinal distinctions through the conservative resurgence. We can look back and see a clear pattern of faithfulness to our denomination’s distinctives. This is due to the confessions that have pointed us back to the supremacy of Scripture. The fact that Southern Baptists have been confessional from the beginning is a wonderful blessing to embrace.
Engaging a Sermon Takes Effort
Actively engaging a sermon is not automatic. At least, not at first. It is easy for any of us to get into a rut of showing up for corporate worship and going through the motions. We are conditioned to expect things to come easy with little effort on our part. Yet, the Word of God expects that we will train ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). In order to do this, we must expend some holy sweat as we sit under the preaching of God’s Word. Here are twelve ways to expectantly engage a sermon on the Lord’s Day that will provide growth and encouragement while benefiting the whole church. Consider printing the list out and reviewing them often. Add more creative ways to the list in order to engage sermons in a refreshing, exciting way.
Twelve Ways to Engage
1.) Pray for your Pastor, both for his weekly preparation and sermon delivery.
2.) Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the hearers and the preacher.
3.) Pray for a receptive heart and alert mind to be sensitive to the truths of God's Word before, during, and after the sermon.
4.) Keep your Bible open and turn to cross references as much as possible.
5.) Take notes if it does not distract you from listening to the sermon.
6.) Talk about a few highlights at lunch or throughout the day.
7.) Expect that the Lord is going to speak to His people.
8.) Pray for the Lord to grow your congregation in spiritual depth.
9.) Read the sermon text at least once during the week, maybe write it out.
10.) Pray and ask the Lord to cause His Word to grow your congregation numerically, particularly by conversion.
10.) Ask questions of the text and interact through investigation.
11.) Keep a journal of your discoveries and review it on occasion.
12.) Ask the Lord to help you be a doer of God’s Word rather than a hearer only.
The Power of Curiosity
A curious mind is a powerful thing. This is especially true as it pertains to searching out the truths of Scripture. What we once viewed as dull and uninteresting becomes alive and invigorating through curiosity. Consider bringing another translation of the Bible into your personal study. This helps you get a different sense of a passage. You might see a wider range of meaning of particular words and phrases. No one translation gets it perfectly right every time. As you take notes during the sermon, ask some penetrating questions that lead to exploration. A curious mind will see the value in the time and effort spent in investigation. You might ask your pastor how he develops his sermons each week. Consider the process your pastor goes through to bake the fresh bread each week. Exploring this process could lead to new ways to grow your curiosity during the week in preparation for the upcoming sermon. Pursue these few options and come up with a few of your own. I believe your curiosity for God’s Word will flourish!
What Do You Expect?
Is your Bible living and active? Do you expect the Word of God to do something powerful as you encounter it each Lord’s Day? Have you grown bored with sermons? Maybe its the preacher. But it could also be the listener participant. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”. Depending on your perspective, this could be very scary or greatly encouraging. God’s Word discerns the thoughts and intentions of your heart. Isaiah 55:11 declares, “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it”. It has been declared, “this book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book”. Approach the Bible with the full knowledge that Scripture is living and active and will do something powerful.
Keep a journal of your discoveries and the immensely valuable treasures you find along the way. Your findings may lead you to more exciting insights as you continue mining the riches of God’s Word. You will find that you cannot possibly exhaust the depths of Scripture. What you once thought you knew may become the recognition of shallow perception masked as rote, familiar terrain. Review your journal on occasion to be reminded of the exhilarating treasures you have found. You just might receive some needed encouragement and help along the way.
Take an opportunity to create community during the week. Lead a short time of family worship using the sermon text or have a church member over for coffee, tea, dessert, or a meal. Go out to lunch with another same gender member to discuss your insights. This will likely lead to a more natural means of discipleship and help your church flourish. Creating community takes initiative on our part. It most certainly does not happen without our efforts. But the efforts will be well worth the investment as we see the Word of God thrive in biblical community.