Share: Maybe They Were Right in Kindergarten, After All

You know that friend you have with whom you share everything? I think Paul had lots of those kinds of friends. When he wrote to the Believers at Thessalonica, he reminded them of just how close they had become when he had worked among them.
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well… For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11-12 NIV)

Picture This:

To me, this is the true picture of evangelism: a relationship that builds upon the foundation of the gospel to incorporate love and encouragement into everyday life. I think the KJV translation portrays it even better: “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.”

Who is dear to you? Who do you cherish? I often think of cherishing my own children or grandchildren; not so much people very different from me, or people who don’t share my values… Although as it turns out. God has blessed me with some relationships that feel like family even though we are different.

So, What’s YOUR Definition?

And what is evangelism? Is it big crusades with invitations? Is it taking the chance to share the Gospel on the streets? Why we do Evangelism is not based on numbers or results, or even on the importance of our mission; but we should really only share the gospel with someone because we love them. That’s really the only root cause of missions, of being called by God, and of being the Church.

How loving would it be to see someone deathly ill, to possess the antidote, and to refuse to share it with them? Compassionate love is the underlying reason for the gospel, reminding us it is not only about fulfilling a mission but about performing ministry. Evangelism is a means to engage others to encourage, comfort and exhort. It is a way to express to others what Jesus gave to us.

Is It Really Just This Simple?

It means stepping out from our biases and culture; it means going out into a Covid world to help. Evangelism is not thumping your Bible or out-positioning a skeptic, it is about doing what Jesus said we were supposed to do: love one another. The gospel is delightful and important; it is tender and demanding. It is a call to kingdom and glory, and to service and humility.

share life

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a clue from Paul’s letter and at least encourage my own kids, Jessica Nelson, Katy Burton, and Jordan Jackson (and Chris Nelson, John Burton, and Mallory Jackson too!) to “live lives worthy of God”. I know you guys do, and I know it’s not always easy. But take heart, and be courageous! It’s a journey worth taking.

Paul’s verses here in his letter to the Thessalonians remind us that we should urge and encourage one another to live the right kind of life. And to all of us today, Paul says: share the gospel, share your life. That also works when you flip it around: share your life, share the gospel! We were all taught to share in kindergarten. Maybe this is why.

Sharing is Caring

Evangelism conjures up a sermon and a Bible,
A fiery preacher calling folks to have a big revival.
Paul said there’s another way to share the gospel news:
Cherish people. That’s a harder sermon to refuse.
If you’d like to win someone to Christ, then take this dare:
Love them well, just as you’d love a child for whom you care.
Offer them your friendship, showing love by what you do:
And then they’ll find the gospel’s something they can to listen to.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Grow the Church. It’s Something We Have to Do in Order to Grow the Church

Is the Church supposed to grow? Today’s church seems to be different from the one mentioned here: “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they [the church] were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47 NASB)

Exciting New Growth

The first days of the Book of Acts must have been exciting. There was a new Spirit at work on planet earth. The small group of believers had started to grow. A movement had begun that literally changed the world. Those early believers broke down social barriers, changed habits, and initiated transformation that ultimately brought down the mighty Roman Empire. Believers enjoyed a sense of unity and fellowship that no repression or persecution could break, that no apathy or boredom could diminish.

Tell me, has there been a movement in your life that changed your world? Among the first-century believers, people were devoted to helping each other. They practiced what was preached, and committed the two most personal items they had: time and resources. The new church had started to grow. Relationships provided a basis for loving evangelism, and spending time together daily provided a platform for organic growth. They went deeper in order to get wider.

grow

What’s the Right Metric?

As a result, Luke says that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Is the Lord adding folks to your church day by day? Are you and your church being transformed by love? In our modern world, there are marketing plans and efforts made to get folks to come on Sunday by promoting celebrities or hooking up to what’s hot in culture—but surprisingly, with all of our marketing sophistication, church attendance in the US is actually down.

It’s a little awkward talking about growing numbers, 1) because most churches today aren’t growing numerically, and 2) because numerical growth is truly not the end game. Maybe we need to grow the church internally before we worry about growing the church externally. The focus of the early church was not on larger numbers but on being together, breaking bread, sharing gladness and sincerity, and praising God together. Growth was a by-product of unity and gladness.

Sad But True

Unfortunately, unity is often in short supply. A man became shipwrecked upon a desert island. It may have been a Southern Baptist man. (And I don’t pick them out just because I go to church there.) When rescuers found him, they discovered three huts on the island. Curious, they asked the man about them. “Oh, the one on the left is where I live”, he said. “The middle one is where I go to church. And the one on the right is where I USED to go to church.” Conflict, culture and bureaucracy destroy the mission of the church. Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship.

What Luke describes is still the blueprint for the church: be of one mind. Enjoy mealtimes and fellowship together. Be glad! Keep God in His proper place, and get along with others. It’s a simple recipe. When believers come together to share sincerely, praising God in love and gladness, the church will grow. And since we ARE the church, it’s up to us to go deeper in order to get wider. Have dinner with somebody from church this week. Invite somebody who’s not. If you’re too busy to love somebody this week, then you’re too busy.

Acts 2

Breaking bread with one accord,
believers served before the Lord.
Christians gave the church its start
from house to house, and heart to heart.
It wasn’t how much stuff they had,
but how the Lord had made them glad!
Focus on love, and not on growth;
I think you’ll find you have them both!
Have fellowship with those who search;
unite in love, and BE the church.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Cornelius Did Something an Angel Can’t. So, Do. Your. Job.

There is an interesting story in Acts that indirectly describes what an Angel Can’t Do, And the funny thing is that it has something to do with YOU.

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”

Cornelius

So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. 6 He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:1-6, NKJV)

Cornelius did as he was told and sent for Simon Peter, who came to his house and shared the Gospel. Cornelius and his entire household responded to Peter’s message and became believers. But here’s a very interesting Question: why didn’t the angel of God just tell Cornelius what to do?

An Impressive Messenger Would Have Been Better, Right?

Angels are powerful, impressive, truthful messengers from God. An angel was sent to Mary and to Joseph to brief each of them on the coming birth of their son. Throughout history, Angels have delivered all kinds of important news from God… They are striking and unusual, and they command attention and respect. Why didn’t the angel just go ahead and share the Gospel with Cornelius? Surely he would have responded! Surely the average person, upon receiving such a message from an angel, would accept it and believe!

So why didn’t the angel just say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved”? Have you ever asked that question? Well, here’s the Answer: because angels CAN’T share the gospel. There is only one set of messengers empowered to share the gospel on earth, and it is US. You, and me.

If the good news goes anywhere, it will not be because celestial beings appear to tell it. It depends on us. Which leads to this: if God sent an angel to someone seeking the truth, would that angel tell them to send for you? And if they sent for you, would you go? What would you tell them?
Something to think about; something to DO something about…

Your Mission, Should You Decide to Accept It…

Down in Caesarea one day
An angel came to Cornelius to say,
“Cornelius, we know you are seeking the Way!
So go find Peter at Simon’s place,
And he will talk to you face to face.”
Cornelius went, and he heard about Grace,
And believed everything that Peter said.

But tell me, this question is in my head,
Why didn’t the angel just tell him instead?
Why didn’t the angel just share the good news?
It’s something he knew that Cornelius could use!

If an Angel shared Jesus, why, who could refuse?
The reason he didn’t was not that he wouldn’t;
He reason he never shared was that he COULDN’T.
That mission is something that he couldn’t do:
The Gospel comes only through me, and through YOU.

So tell me, my friend, are you ready today,
If a curious seeker of truth comes your way,
Just what would you tell them? And what would you say?
If a guy comes along with a faith that’s unsteady,
Could you share the Gospel with him? Are you ready?
Angels have powers, but this is still true:
The Gospel comes only through me, and through YOU.
So, get ready to share. It’s a job you can do!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread