Have you ever had news so good to share you couldn’t wait to tell someone? We tend to be wiling to share news about pregnancies or weddings or promotions very easily. But do you share the best news of all? Are you evangelistic? Do you regularly put yourself in situations where you can share your faith personally?
In the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, the early believers are consistently, regularly, faithfully sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Privately, publicly, personally and powerfully they shared the good news with sinners. Philip, one of the church’s first deacons provides a great model for being evangelistic in Acts 8. Philip offers five imperatives that will help us be more effective and intentional evangelists.
- Be Obedient. Philip had been preaching in a revival setting in Samaria, but God sent him to the desert. Philip obeyed. His obedience led to an opportunity to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch. Sometimes you may be frustrated with your situation and location. But be obedient. Maybe God has you right where you are just because he wants you to share the good news with someone.
- Be Attentive. Philip noticed the eunuch and ran to speak to him. I think sometimes we fail to share the gospel simply because we are so busy with our own stuff. Look for a person to talk with. Pay attention to the waiter or waitress at the restaurant or the homeless person on the street corner. Being attentive to our surroundings and to others will afford us opportunities to share the good new
- Be Inquisitive. Philip’s first words to the eunuch were in the form of a question, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” It can be challenging and intimidating to know how to share your faith with someone. But when you are not sure what to say, ask a question. Being inquisitive allows you to genuinely be interested in other people and move the conversation toward spiritual things.
- Be Prepared. Philip connected the reading in Isaiah 53 to Jesus himself. If you know Jesus as your Lord, then you know enough to share the gospel. Would you consider standing in a pulpit to preach with no preparation? I would hope not. Your greatest evangelistic preparation comes from your daily walk with Jesus Christ and meditating and memorizing Scripture.
- Be Available. Philip was not only ready to share, but even baptized the Ethiopian right there. This imperative should also be an overarching theme of our lives. Are you available to share Christ and make disciples or are you too busy doing other church things? There is little more important in our lives than sharing Christ with others and leading them to follow Jesus. We must be available.
It is so easy to be distracted and hampered by good things from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. But when we look at the story of the early church, the gospel was not hampered. They shared over and over again because they were ready to share. Are you?
If your church is like ours, then you have mission trips planned for this summer. We have teams going to West Virginia, Vermont, Honduras, and Kenya. As a missions pastor, I’ve witnessed the power of God on numerous mission trips. There can be no doubt that prayer is the primary ingredient for spiritually successful mission trips. Here are some prayers I’ve learned to pray for our mission teams.
- Pray that the mission team will not let the platform take the place of the mission. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. That’s our mission. Oftentimes, compassion ministry, construction, or other need-based ministries are the “platforms” that give opportunity for mission trips. But success in meeting these needs is not our “mission.” Our mission is disciple-making (evangelism, teaching, baptizing) connected to a local church. It is easy to let the need (platform) become the focus. Pray that your mission teams will not forget the “mission” in lieu of meeting the need.
- Pray for the spiritual preparation and development of the mission team.There’s a reason Paul’s prayer for spiritual boldness in proclaiming the gospel (Ephesians 6:19) followed his treatment of Christian armor and spiritual warfare. Mission trips are not for the spiritually weak—they require recognition of the spiritual war we are facing. Pray that your teams will be spiritually prepared for the work and war they are sure to face.
- Pray for the flexibility of the mission team. Sometimes our mission plans require revision and flexibility. Acts 16:6-10 records Paul’s prevention by the Holy Spirit of going into Asia and the Macedonian call. Mission teams must learn to trust God’s plan, not their own and be spiritually discerning. Pray that your teams will be flexible in their planning and discern what God wants to accomplish on the mission trip.
- Pray for the financial support of the mission team. When Jesus sent out his witnesses, he told them to trust the provision offered in the villages for their wages and sustenance (Matthew 10:9-10; Luke 10:4-8). International mission trips cost money. And I believe in a God who owns everything. Pray that God would meet the financial obligations of each team member and mission trip.
- Pray for the health, safety, and travel of the mission team. Traveling to mission destinations and encountering new bacteria (internationally) can drastically affect the health and strength of mission team participants. Getting sick is just a normal part of international travel. However there is precedent for praying for the health and safety of mission teams in in travel. Acts 27 records the storm at sea and shipwreck of Paul and his captors. Yet Paul prayed, and God protected all on the ship (Acts 27:24). Pray that your teams will experience safe travel and health protection while on the mission trip.
- Pray for the spiritual wisdom and loving service of the mission team. One of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesian church was that they would grow in spiritual wisdom and depth of love (Ephesians 3:14-20). Mission team members need an abundance of wisdom and love, and God desires to provide it. Pray that your team members will be abundantly wise and discerning as well as filled with love for those whom they will serve and share with.
- Pray for the Spirit to open blinded eyes and that unbelievers would see Christ in all of his glory. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers to the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict and bring to light the truth and power of the gospel (John 16:8-11). Pray that the Holy Spirit would go ahead of your mission teams and prepare the hearts of the lost to respond to Christ and that the Spirit would draw unbelievers to Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
- Pray for the spiritual development, strength, and growth of the partner churches and missions that your teams will work with. Paul encouraged, commended, challenged, and prayed for the churches, elders and leaders of the Ephesian church before he finally parted ways with them. (Acts 20:17-38). Mission teams are only a part of God’s ongoing work in the world. Churches, organizations, pastors, and believers across the globe will continue God’s work far longer than a mission team serves on a mission trip. Pray for the partner churches, pastors, and organizations to have strength, growth, and success in fulfilling God’s disciple-making mission in their context.
Can you believe it? We’re a week into the New Year already. I can remember growing up how I thought time moved like molasses—very slowly. The older I get, the faster time seems to move, especially trying to keep up with my two energetic little boys. Anyway, I’m sure many of you can sympathize with the speed at which each day seems to go by. Thinking about time and all that needs to be done and all that I want to get done is a necessary and sometimes frustrating endeavor.
Someone has said that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day and underestimate what we can do in a year. That insightful thought reminds us change, improvement, or movement toward sanctification happens in a process and not overnight. So, how can we grow, improve, or change in 2015? Let me offer some suggestions that I am personally going to adopt this upcoming year.
- Be consistent in Bible reading and application. Ezra 7:10 reads, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” I do read the Bible every day. I believe it is a requirement for spiritual growth. But God has been convicting me about living out what I read. So I’m going to try to apply specifically each day something I read from my devotional time.
- Grow in my prayer life. I pray every day, but the devotion, depth, and consistency of my prayer life is not what I believe God wants. I’m going to be trying something new. There are about 4-6 parts of my day that I would consider either starting points of the day or transition points (first thing in the morning, last thing at night, devotions with my family, first few minutes in my office, last few minutes in my office, etc.) My aim for 2015 is to make prayer the starting or finishing point for each of those daily transitions.
- Go on a mission trip. I’m the missions pastor at my church and annually go on a mission trip. But we are commanded by God to be on mission. One way we can all practically obey God’s commands is to set aside time, resources, and efforts to go on a mission trip.
- Read more broadly and consistently. A year ago in December, I finished a PhD, which required an enormous load of reading. While I didn’t take 2014 off from reading, I read significantly less. I’ve put together reading goals for this year that are broad and challenging.
- Be useful and give away what God is teaching me. Far too many Christians today soak in their spiritual development and inconsistently, if at all, share with others what they’ve learned. Through friendships, writing, teaching, serving, and leading God has reminded me that his followers are to invest in the spiritual lives of others.
- Share Christ personally with more consistency. I love my job and the opportunities I get to preach, teach, write, serve, lead, and share. But sometimes I’ve allowed my responsibilities within the church building to overwhelm my focus. This has at times resulted in a failure to consistently look for conversations and build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus. I know this is an area of my life that needs improvement in 2015.
- Renew my commitment to personal health. All of us have many demands on our time. But personal health is a part of spiritual health and growth. Mark Dance wrote about The Physically Healthy Pastor at Lifeway’s Pastors Today blogpost. While it’s targeted at pastors, I’m sure anyone would benefit from the principles.
These seven suggestions are in no particular order. And as a way of personal accountability, I plan to write on these topics through the year. I’ll share where some of these suggestions have worked or need to be amended (such as the prayer strategy). I also hope to share some stories where God is working in my own life teaching me important lessons in the year ahead. We’re all on a journey of spiritual growth. These are some of the suggestions I believe God is leading me to adopt this year. What about you?