Effective, Everyday Evangelism
One of the chief reasons for the very establishment and existence of the Lord’s church is evangelism; the saving of lost souls; for, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1st Timothy 2:4). He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2nd Peter 3:9). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Word made flesh who came and dwelt among us said during His earthly ministry that He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). And one of the last things He did before He ascended back to glory was to give His hand-picked and chosen Apostles (and us by extension of course) the precious and glorious privilege of being His divinely-designated co-workers and sharers of that great ‘co-mission’ with Him when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Indeed, as the divinely-inspired and Spirit-driven apostle Paul wrote to the first century congregation of the Lord’s church that worked and worshipped in Thessalonica: “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1st Thessalonians 2:4). The apostle Paul again echoed those same sentiments (that the ultimate reason for the church’s very existence is for evangelistic purposes) when he wrote to the first century congregation of the Lord’s church that worked and worshiped in Ephesus. There, in Ephesians 3, verses 8-12, he let both them and the entire world know in no uncertain terms, that the “eternal purpose” and crowning touch of God’s plan from before the very beginning of time, was to establish His Son’s one, New Testament church, and that it could make known the good news of Christ to a lost and dying world. This, so that the lost in sin world might receive it, believe it, obey it, live it, and be saved by it as well, thus being added by God to that grace-cleansed, blood-bought, and heaven-bound group; for God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)!
But how exactly do we most efficiently and effectively spread that grace-laden, soul-saving message of gospel truth – especially in today’s fast-paced, immediate-gratification, instant electronic communication, “that’s just your interpretation,” media-saturated, satanically-infiltrated, religious diversity-celebrated, “no such thing as God or sin” world? I believe the key to our understanding what might or might not work, ‘for better or for worse’ when it comes to efficient and effective evangelism today, begins with understanding, accepting, and internalizing Acts 8:35. As the eunuch sat reading from his quite-possibly-recently-purchased-in-Jerusalem copy of the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, the bible says in verse 35, that “Then Phillip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” Did you catch that? I am completely convinced that that’s the key to successful evangelism! We must follow Phillip’s phenomenally successful example of personal evangelism by taking people from WHERE THEY ARE CURRENTLY AT, to where they eternally need to be, via the vehicle of the soul-saving word of God and nothing less!
This is how the Lord Jesus, the Master Teacher, modeled effective teaching throughout the gospels. The fact is, that if we would be as truly and efficiently effective and successful as the Lord wants us to be when it comes to our evangelistic efforts, we must learn to integrate and emulate this example, so much so that it becomes second nature to us! We must learn to take people from WHERE THEY ARE CURRENTLY AT, to where they eternally need to be, via the soul-saving word of God and nothing less!
I believe that that’s the problem with far too many of our unsuccessful attempts and programs of evangelism today! They may ‘well’ be, some of the most well-intentioned, well-supported, well-attended, and/or well-funded attempts at personal and congregational outreach and evangelism that we can possibly put together, but if they don’t reach the lost, where they are, on their level, FIRST, then they’re probably not going to be, ‘well,’ very successful now are they? In fact, they will be more like a very unsuccessful ‘well’ – a deep, dark, empty and unproductive hole, into which one pours resources without much to show for their efforts. Hence: the “birth” of “Joe Clevelander” and “Chuck Churchman.”
“Joe Clevelander” is the name given to a fictitious character that was designed to give the average, local, “Joe Q. Public,” or “Joe on the street” in our little town of Cleveland, someone to truly and fully identify with. As such, he is the cumulative mouthpiece for all of those crass, critical, skeptical and/or sometimes quite unkind comments that are so often heard from the biblically ignorant and scripturally uninformed of our communities, regarding the faithful members, biblical doctrines, God-fearing practices, and God-honoring obedience of the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). In Joe, it is all laid right out there – tangibly, truthfully, and transparently. He sincerely voices some of the most common and recurring criticisms regularly leveled at the Lord’s church today by the biblically uninformed religious zealots and denominational regulars permeating almost any community in modern-day America. Paul dealt with the same in the ancient world as well (Romans 10:2-3).
“Chuck Churchman” however, is intended to be the epitome and example of what so many of us in the Lord’s church, at least used to be. Well-studied, unflappable, and full of just good old common sense to boot, he knows his bible and how to rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15), as well as how to appropriately apportion, argue, reason and apply it. Automatically understanding and adjusting to the fact that he is not dealing with a decades-long, well-studied and well-informed member of the Lord’s church in his friend Joe, and subsequently integrating the absolutely essential example of Acts 8:35 into his evangelistic efforts in order to make them as successful as they can possibly be, he consciously and consistently strives not to choke with the meat of the word, one who is not yet even ready for the milk of the word, not having even entered into infancy in the family of God by being “born again” of the water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). Instead, Chuck seeks to illustrate through common, everyday examples, the uncommon, incredible, and eternal truths of God’s instruction in a way that Joe can understand and easily accept and process. This is the same exact thing that Jesus did, as He effectively taught the people about heavenly and eternal truths, with simple, everyday, earthly terms like “fish,” “fishermen,” “baskets,” “rocks,” “salt,” and “light” – items which every lost soul in earshot could quite easily understand, being ultimately and intimately familiar with them from their everyday lives.
These are just some of the timeless secrets to successful evangelism that so many of us have maybe either forgotten somewhere along the way, or perhaps were possibly never taught in the first place… and so, the Lord’s church and cause has continually suffered, being somewhat less successful at soul-saving than maybe we all could have been on occasion.
This is the reason for this writing; to take us back to the basics of both biblical AND automatic common sense answers and applications when confronted by those who only think they know what the bible actually says, so that we can perhaps convert them to Christ and help them to come to a better and fuller knowledge of the truth. As Christians, this is our God-given mission. This must be our primary passion. And we must bring it as close as we can to complete perfection!
But how do we patiently, lovingly, and compassionately get the often critical, confused, and confrontational lost of our world to where they need to be scripturally, and eventually then, on into Christ? How do we “confront without being confrontational?” How do we handle with care and lovingkindness, those who attack us with pure relentlessness, while neither attacking back or giving them legitimate grounds to further judge us as too judgmental? Answer: We must be, as Jesus put it, as “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
For the sake of illustration, please carefully consider the following fictitious – although hopefully, very accurate to reality – conversations, as they could (and should) occur in “Anytown, U.S.A.,” on any given day, between your average “Joe” on the street, and “Chuck,” who is a faithful member of the local congregation of the church of Christ (Romans 16:16) nearest you…
PLEASE NOTE: The above article is a series of excerpts taken directly from the introductory chapter of Doug Dingley’s new book, entitled: “Effective, Everyday Evangelism; The Adventures Of Joe Clevelander & Chuck Churchman,” available now from James Kay Publishing of Tulsa (See: www.jameskaypublishing.com).