Hard Facts about Evangelism

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Fighting a war requires more than one dimension. The war effort could not succeed without military planning. Generals and admirals sit in war rooms and plan the strategy for each battle. And then there is the actual battle itself. This is ground effort where the strategies are executed. Obviously the planning is not enough. There must come a time when the soldiers actually enter the battle on the ground.

  • As we have been studying, we are involved in a spiritual battle every day. In our lesson last week we discussed the admonition of  Ephesians 6:15 (…having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace), and concluded that the apostle is calling us to be ready, as a well equipped spiritual soldier, to go wherever our Commander leads us. Putting on these shoes of readiness, through accessing the gospel of peace, involves being prepared to teach the lost.  Are you prepared to teach the gospel to your neighbor?  Are you going where Jesus is sending you, to battle for the souls of lost men and women?
  • In preparing our hearts for this endeavor, I want to consider some hard facts about our responsibility to teach the lost:

 I.  Most people are not interested in the Gospel:  Do you believe this? I think we recognize this from the general conduct and perspectives of the world we live in. But apart from our own observation, Jesus confirms this for us.  Matthew 7:13-1413 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

A.  Jesus divides humanity into two distinct groups, traveling two distinct paths.

  • The majority of people choose to follow their own desires, and do not submit to God’s authority. This is a pathway to spiritual destruction. Most people will leave this world and spend an eternity in Hell, apart from God.
  • The other group (the minority, or few) desires to please God and chooses to travel a more difficult path.  They will follow Jesus wherever He leads them. They are interested in knowing God’s will and God will save them from their sins, and gives them life.  Jesus Himself tells us most people are not going to obey the gospel.

B.   It has been often stated that 25% of people who do not attend worship services on Sunday would attend if someone would just invite them.  That should certainly gives us encouragement to ask.  But think about the other side of that statistic: 75% will not accept our invitation.  As we mentioned earlier, our own experience would bring us to the same conclusion.  As you try to bring up Christ in your conversations or extend invitations for people to come visit, what kind of response do you get?

1.    Why am I saying this?  Am I trying to discourage evangelism or encourage it?

2.    Although this may seem discouraging to us, not facing these facts will truly become a source of discouragement. We go out expecting everyone to be interested, and when they are not, we quickly become discouraged and we quit.

3.   When Jesus commissioned His apostles to preach the gospel, He spoke to them openly and honestly about the rejection they would encounter.   Matt 10:16-1816 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  Vs. 21-22 – “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.  Later in John 16, After promising the coming of the Holy Spirit, and commanding the apostles to be His witnesses, said,   “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  Jesus wanted them to know up front what they were facing, so as to keep them from becoming discouraged.

 II.  Many whom we teach will not respond to the Gospel.  Even among those who do show interest, many never end up obeying the gospel. There have been several times when I became very excited and hopeful about a Home Bible study, only to be disappointed later, when they discontinued the sessions, or told me they were no longer interested.

A.   One of the first reactions to these situations is to doubt your ability, and wonder what you did wrong. Maybe I’m not a good teacher.  Maybe we should just give up and focus on ourselves.

B.   The truth is many people we teach will not respond to the truth.  When Jesus taught the multitudes there was an initial following.   But most were not really interested in being obedient to the message. At Jesus’ teaching about true discipleship in John 6, “…many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (v. 66) The gospel is good news to the sinner, but it is also a call for genuine repentance and change. When faced with the implications of obedience, many turn away.  This is a hard fact about evangelism.

1.  We often contemplate the tremendous response to the gospel on Pentecost. 3,000 baptized at the first sermon (Acts 2:41).  In Acts 4:4 the number grows to five thousand men, indicating that the actual number of disciples may have been as in excess of 20,000.  But when placed in the context of all the visitors who gathered for the feast (scholars estimate that there were 1-3 million people in Jerusalem at that time), the truth is only a fraction of the people responded.

2.  Again, we must face the facts. Even when we have the opportunity to teach, many will not be responsive to the truth they hear.  Some will reject the call of repentance, or stubbornly refuse to give up denominational error.  This is the nature of the conflict and we need to anticipate it.

 III.  We are not Responsible for  Converting Our Neighbors.  Your first reaction to this statement mght be to object. God has certainly called us to be evangelistic. We have a mission. Matthew 28:18-2018 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19 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,  20 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.” Amen.   Jesus clearly tells us to “make disciples”. (to the apostles, and by implication to those who follow apostolic doctrine)

A.  But what is our Job? Our part in this mission?   1 Corinthians 3:5-7 –  5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. This passage clearly outlines the parameters of my responsibility.  I am a seed planter, like Paul.  I take the seed (the word of God – Mark 4:14) – and sow it on the ground (hearts) of people who have not heard.

1.    How is this done?  It may begin in simple ways, such as introducing the subject of Jesus into everyday conversations.  It may culminate in a formal Bible study in their home. But when it is all done, I have only planted the seed. This is the limit of my contribution. I just plant.

a.  Every historical example of someone becoming a Christian in the N.T. involved this initial planting of the seed.  They first heard the gospel through the agency of another person. Rom 10:14 –  14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?   Vs. 17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

b.  After the seed is sown (word is taught), the person either responds in obedience or he does not. The power to convert the sinner is not provided by me. The Spirit of God, who revealed the word, provides the power, inherent in that word, to convert every sinner who responds in obedience. Jesus told his apostles that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come (John 16:8)  Paul said, – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

2.   What should I conclude when a person DOES NOT respond?  They have not rejected me. I have not failed in my responsibility toward God.   They’ve rejected God; they’ve rejected His message.

a.   I may have made mistakes. It is possible that I could have done a better job at answering questions or presenting God’s truth. But remember that I am just a seed planter.  Let me make two points:

  • First, we should always seek to be properly equipped to do the work of teaching others. We need to keep studying so that we can effectively teach the word of God.  We need to grow in our abilities to talk with people, and develop godly attitudes.   We should take this seriously.
  • Secondly and ultimately, each person will have to take this book and its message and decide how they will respond to it.  Each person will bear his own burden.

B.  How should we judge success or failure in evangelism?  When we teach and people do not respond to God’s word, our feelings of failure result from our own misunderstanding of our mission.

  • By the seeds planted, not the harvest gathered.
  • If I plant the seed (even when I attempt to initiate the conversation that would plant the seed) then I’ve done my job!
  • I am not responsible to CONVERT my neighbor.  I’m responsible to TEACH my neighbor.  But now that we know what our job is….

 IV.  We must fulfill Our Mission.  Nothing we’ve said should discourage us about our doing our job.  If anything, these facts should help us be zealous and optimistic.  I should not grow discouraged when I try to talk to people about Jesus and many are not interested.   I should not quit when I study with my neighbor and he does not respond.  These are the facts of the responsibility we face.

A.  Those before me have faced the same obstacles and fulfilled their mission. I think about Noah.  The bible describes him as a “preacher of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5. How many people did he save?  We only know about those who actually got in the ark with him – his own family. But he preached.  He fulfilled his mission.

B.  Although the constant and persistent rejection of the truth by or godless society is a fact we mut face, we mut also realize there are still lots of people (millions of them) who would obey God, if they could just hear the gospel.  Jesus saw the potential harvest of souls in His own day, and it moved Him to compassion and prayer.  Matt 9:36-38 –  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”   It is our job to find that 25% who will come, and invite them. It is our job to find those who have good and honest hearts. They are out there.

1.  When Elijah took inventory of his preaching efforts (following his victory on Mt. Carmel) he concluded that he had not been any more successful than any of the prophets before him, and now he was the only one who really wanted to do right. (1 Kings 19:14) He was discouraged to the disparing of his own life.  God encouraged Elijah with words of action (there is work for you to do yet) and words of promise,  “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”   God was still at work, and there were those who would obey His Word. The work of salvation goes on, and it is His work, not ours.

C.  We must fulfill our mission.  Mark 16:15-1615 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.   With that in mind, let me challenge you to continue doing four simple things.

1.  Talk to your friends about Jesus.  Allow spiritual things to find their way into conversation all the time.  Talk about things you read in the Bible, sermons or classes you enjoyed, some kind thing a sister did for you.

2.  Share something with a friend who needs to learn the gospel.  Give them a CD of a sermon.  Share some printed material on a subject that may interest them.  Point them to our website.

3.   Invite them to come and visit our Bible studies and worship.  Say positive things about this congregation and encourage people to come and check it out for themselves.

4.  Pray for lost people every day.  Pray for God to open doors. Pray for wisdom and courage to seize the opportunities.

Conclusion:    If you’re not a Christian, nothing less than your eternal future hangs in the balance.  It may well be that what you decide today will make THE difference forever.  What will you do with the words of Jesus?  John 6:67-6867 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”.