evangelism

My devotional reading today came from Mark 10 where parents were bringing their children to Jesus. The disciples rebuked them for bringing children to Jesus. Evidently, they perceived that Jesus’ ministry was too important for children. But Jesus made the staggering claim that to children “belong the kingdom of God.”

Here’s the story from Mark.

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16

It is important to grasp the historical context in contrast with our contemporary view of children. In American culture, children are cherished and prized. Often we build our lives around their schedules and live our dreams through them. But in most ancient cultures, children were not valued to such a degree. Child mortality rates kept parents in some cultures from naming their children until they were five. While Jewish views of children were better than their Greco-Roman counterparts, children were still perceived as lowly and unimportant in society.

Yet, the text tells us that some parents perceived that Jesus was unique. They recognized that having Jesus bless their children was a priority. And Jesus welcomed them! Children have a unique sense of trust. Their trust muscles are exercised at an early age where they learn to depend on others for their basic needs. Trust is the human response to the gospel. This is one of the reasons why children respond to Jesus and why the kingdom of God belongs to children.

Recently at our church we’ve baptized a number of folks and some of those have been children. This past Sunday, we had an 8 year old girl publicly profess her faith in Jesus. We also had a 9 year old meet with our Children’s Minister to talk about faith. She professed faith as well and will be baptized soon. What I love about the most recent children who have come to faith in Jesus is that their parents have been their primary evangelists. This is as it should be.

I love telling children, adults, and teenagers about Jesus. It is a privilege to help others come to faith in Christ. But it is biblical when parents are the primary evangelists of their children. I firmly believe that all Christians are responsible to share the gospel, but we are especially sent to those around us with the message of Christ (see Romans 10:14-17).

Parents and grandparents, you are especially sent to your children and grandchildren with the gospel. Like the parents in Mark 10, will you bring your children and grandchildren to Jesus?

Here are several practical suggestions for helping your children meet and follow Jesus:

  • Pray for them. The mother of the 9 year old who came to faith in Jesus this weekend shared with me, “We have prayed for this day since we found out we were expecting her!” Of those children who have come to faith recently in our church, many of them have been on my personal prayer list. And several of them have been on the regular prayer lists of those in discipleship groups together. Only God can save. When we pray for the salvation of our children, we admit dependence on God to convict, make alive, and rescue from sin. If you are not regularly praying for the salvation of your children and grandchildren, start today.
  • Talk with them. God, faith, church, and the gospel should be a regular topics of family conversations. Some of these conversations can be formal, such as family devotions (see below), but many can happen just in the regular happenings of the day. Parents and grandparents, if you have a vibrant faith, then this will be natural. The more you walk with Christ, the more normal it is that Christ is a consistent part of your conversational life.
  • Share with them. Both of my boys responded to the gospel during our times of family devotions. Family devotions don’t have to be intimidating. Start small and short. Your maximum time should be one minute for every year of your youngest child. For example, if your youngest is 5, your maximum devotional time should be 5 minutes. We used a children’s Bible and Bible story books when our boys were little. Now we are reading a paragraph a night from the New Testament and closing in a time of prayer.
  • Bring them to worship. Dads, I’m going to aim this one at you. I believe the Bible teaches the husband to be the spiritual leader in the home. This means that husbands should take the lead in family devotions and attending worship. Too many husbands and dads wait on their wives to get them to church. Most of those children who have come to faith recently in our church have families that attend worship regularly and dads that lead their families to worship. Dads, think about this. You are responsible for the spiritual lives (eternities) of your families (children). What you make a priority they will as well. For you single parents out there, especially single moms reading this, I know your life is tough. As a church we’re suppose to be your support and community. At Wilkesboro Baptist, Sunday school and Awana (Wednesday pm) for children (pre-k through elementary) and Sunday school and disciple-life (Sunday pm) for middle and high school students are our programs aimed at communicating the gospel and biblical principles for your children and teenagers. We believe in helping them learn the gospel. We can be your support system. Let us know how we can help you.
  • Follow Jesus. While the principles of Christianity can be taught, doctrine can be communicated, and the message of the gospel preached, following Jesus is often “caught” as much as it is “taught.” Following Jesus is something we should demonstrate. In a recent lecture series on preaching, John Piper reflected on the three means for life change in a church: exhortation, supplication, demonstration. Those who don’t know Jesus need to hear the gospel (exhortation at home and in the gathered worship experiences at church). They also need to be prayed for (supplication). But the main way our children and grandchildren will come to follow Jesus is if they see you following Jesus (demonstration). How you follow Jesus (or don’t) will influence the faith practices of your family. Do they know you pray and read the Bible? Do they see you value church? Do you serve others and invite your children to be a part of serving your church and community? Parents and grandparents, when you bring your children to worship, let them see that it matters to you. Sing. Give. Bring your Bible. Take notes. If you are engaged, in the gathered worship experiences, they will learn to be as well. I’m not suggesting that you be perfect. Nor am I suggesting that you flaunt your faith for your children. But if you follow Jesus, the life you demonstrate will reflect the gospel to those around you.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

St. Francis of Assisi is rumored to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” This is an oft cited comment to insist on living out our faith actively and only speaking rarely. The problem with this quote is that to fulfill our mission, we must speak.

The Greek word for gospel is euangelion, and it means “good news.” News is shared verbally.

Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching. One cannot teach without speaking.

The early church spread, not only by being a good deeds community, but by sharing the good news. What is this news? It is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is the gospel account that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

According to J. I. Packer in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, the gospel is made up of four specific truths.

  1. The gospel is a message about God and his holiness.
  2. The gospel is a message about man and his sinfulness.
  3. The gospel is a message about Jesus Christ.
  4. The gospel is a summons to repentance and faith.

Understood in this description is the reality that the gospel is a message. For the gospel to be shared, there are some things that must be said. God is holy and demands righteousness. Our problem is that we are sinners and cannot fulfill God’s standard of righteousness. God knew our dilemma and sent Jesus Chris to solve our sin problem. As the perfect Son of God who became our substitute on the cross, Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead that we might have new life. This news invites a response. When we hear this news, we should repent (turn) from our sin and believe in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.

The good news is something that we must share.

Our mission at Wilkesboro Baptist is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. In order for us to fulfill this mission, we must share the good news about Jesus with others.

You may be wondering, “But what do I share? Where do I begin? But what if I’m rejected? I’m afraid of what might happen?”

Remember this. The temporary discomfort you and I might experience in public witness is minuscule when compared to the permanent suffering unbelievers will experience in eternal separation from God.

Here are some basic practices we can all engage in to be more evangelistic.

Obey the Lord. Being evangelistic is a command. Instead of thinking about sharing the good news based on how we feel (nervous, afraid, unsure), we need to base it on obedience. When we share the gospel, we are obeying Christ. It is a spiritual discipline and a matter of growth. By the way, success in sharing the good news is sharing the good news. When we obey by sharing the gospel, we are successful. The results are up to God.

Pray for people. If you are unsure where to begin in your journey of being evangelistic, then pray. Pray for wisdom, discernment, courage, and opportunities. But even more, pray for unbelievers. Here is a post from a couple years back that highlights how we can pray for those who are lost. I have an ongoing list of unbelievers that I pray for. And God is faithful to regularly give me opportunities to reach out to them and talk with them.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Our circumstances provide numerous opportunities for evangelistic witness. When we suffer and handle it with patience and grace (the context of 1 Peter 3:15), we open the door for people to question why we have hope. Friendships, interactions, and opportunities abound for evangelistic encounters. Walks through your neighborhood, the sport or dance events of your children and grandchildren, conversations with co-workers, eating out, and many, many more situations are potential opportunities for gospel conversations. Our problem is not lack of opportunity. Our problem is that we are too often distracted by other things to consider the opportunities in front of us. In Acts 8, Philip offers us an evangelistic example on which we can model our witnessing. You can read some observations about Philip’s example as a witness here.

Ask questions. How do we transition from opportunity to gospel conversation? We can transition from “Hello” and “How are you?” to the gospel by asking insightful questions. Here are some examples although there are countless options: “How are you doing during this past year? What things are you doing to stay at peace? What do you think about all the difficulties we’ve experienced? What do you think about Jesus? Do you attend a church? If so, has your church/faith been helpful for you in the past year?” Open ended questions are preferable. Questions that engage the mind and heart of others open the door to gospel conversations.

Share who you know. I could have written, “Share what you know.” Both are appropriate. But ultimately, we are sharing not just the facts of the gospel, but a person-Jesus Christ. What is it you must share? J. I. Packer’s outline above is a good starting place. But if you’re not sure how to explain those truths, then just share Jesus. Tell how Jesus forgave you and redeemed you. Share about the new life you have and the eternal life you anticipate. Sharing the gospel can be as simple as sharing the Jesus that you met when you became his follower.

If you’d like more information on what you can share about Jesus as Savior, scroll down through my blogs here in 2021. Every Wednesday this year, I’ve posted a weekly word. Most of them have been theological terms related to our salvation. These terms provide helpful content for sharing the good news.

If you’d like to go a little deeper, then follow the link to this podcast from my friend Dr. Craig Thompson. Craig regularly hosts the Ordinary Christian podcast where he addresses specific relatable issues within Christian life. In episode 42, Craig interviews Dr. Timothy Beougher, a professor and mentor of mine and Craig’s from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Beougher explains and relates personal evangelism for ordinary Christians. Craig’s podcast is helpful and relatable. Consider subscribing.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash