Good Shepherd Lutheran Church www.goodshepherdcollinsville.org Collinsville, Illinois
Pastor Michael Walther 618.344.3151 618.344.3378 (Fax)
The following notes are used to train students from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in the work of evangelism.
1. Israel was created to be a blessing to all the families of the earth (Genesis 12.3).
2. Israel proclaimed both the holiness as well as the mercy of God. Psalm 51.12-13 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
3. Pheideppides announced ( evangelized ) the victory of the Greek army over the Persian Army at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.
4. Gabriel spoke to Zacharias, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings (evangel)" (Luke 1.19).
5. Jesus gave the Apostles and the Church the commission to make disciples "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).
6. The early Christians followed the example of their leaders. "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching (evangelizing) the word" (Acts 8.4).
7. As the mediaeval church drifted away from the word of God, so did itís interest in true evangelism (telling the good news). Evangelism was largely replaced by coercive efforts.
8. The Lutheran reformation brought the renewal of Godís word in the church and with it a renewed interest in Christian education, preaching, and witnessing.
9. European and American pietism added a new and unwholesome element to the evangelistic effort.
10. Pietistic evangelism was less concerned with the truth and power of Godís word and more concerned with the inner feelings of the heart.
11. They viewed conversion as the work of man, a free choice. Charles Finney, lawyer turned evangelist, believed that this work of man could be manipulated by what he called "new measures" (anxious bench, revivals).
Here you hear a verdict condemning all fanatical sects. No matter what other false doctrines they may teach, they all have this grievous error in common, that they do not rely solely on Christ and His Word, but chiefly on something that takes place in themselves. As a rule, they imagine that all is well with them because they have turned from their former ways. As if that were a guarantee of reaching heaven! No; we are not to look back to our conversion for assurance, but we must go to our Savior again and again, every day, as though we never had been converted. My former conversion will be of no benefit to me if I become secure. I must return to the mercy-seat every day, otherwise I shall make my former conversion my savior, by relying on it. That would be awful; for in the last analysis it would mean that I make myself my savior (C.F.W. Walther, Law & Gospel, p. 207).
12. Unfortunately Lutherans sometimes over react to this error by turning conversion into a mechanical, unemotional, cognitive agreement with God.
There are people who regard themselves as good Christians although they are spiritually dead. They have never felt a real anguish on account of their sins; they have never been filled with terror on account of them, have never been appalled by the thought of the hell which they have deserved, have never been on their knees before God, bewailing with bitter tears their awful, damnable condition under sin. Much less have they wept sweet tears of joy and glorified God for His mercy. They read and hear the Word of God without being specially impressed by it. They go to church and receive absolution without feeling refreshed; they attend Holy Communion without any inward sensation and remain as cold as ice. Occasionally, when they become inwardly agitated because of their indifference in matters concerning their salvation and because of their lack of appreciation of Godís Word, they try to quiet their heart with the reflection that the Lutheran Church teaches that the lack of spiritual feeling is of no moment. They reason that this lack cannot harm them and that they can be good Christians notwithstanding, because they consider themselves believers. However, they labor under a grievous self-delusion. People in that condition have nothing but the dead faith of the intellect, a specious faith, or, to express it still more drastically, a lip faith. (Law and Gospel, p. 195)
13. Another casualty of this over reaction might be an inability to talk about conversion and even to be the instrument of the Holy Spirit that brings about conversion. We know that it is unbiblical to speak of conversion as a "decision." But what terms should we use? The Bible clearly tells shows us that words or phrases such as "believe on the Lord Jesus" (Acts 16.31), or "receive Him" (John 1.12-13) are good descriptions of conversion.
All that a person has to do when he hears the Gospel is to accept it (Law & Gospel, p. 367).
Through this means (namely, the preaching and hearing of His Word) God is active, breaks our hearts, and draws man, so that through the preaching of the law man learns to know his sins and the wrath of God and experiences genuine terror, contrition, and sorrow in his heart, and through the preaching of and meditation upon the holy Gospel of the gracious forgiveness of sins in Christ there is kindled in him a spark of faith which accepts the forgiveness of sins for Christís sake and comforts itself with the promise of the Gospel. And in this way the Holy Spirit, who works all of this, is introduced into the heart (Formula of Concord, SD, II, paragraph 54).
14. Conversion is a miracle that we do not understand. When we witness to people we must remember that we are messengers, and that God works His will through the message of Law and Gospel. We should try to sense if the miracle of faith is being born in a person (if they have a longing for mercy). If it seems to us that a person . . .
entertains no doubt whatever that everything depends on the will of God, utterly despairs of his own effort, does not do any choosing, but expects God to work in him, such a person is closest to divine grace and salvation (Law & Gospel p. 370).
We should not be afraid to encourage them to "believe" (John 3.16) or "receive" Christ (John 1.12-13). We should constantly assure them that this is a miracle. We should also assure them that the miracle comes through the word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their continued faith will depend on their continued "hearing" of the wordóhence the importance of associating with a Christian congregation.
All that a person has to do when he hears the Gospel is to accept it. But this is immediately followed by inward conflict. The error of false teachers in regard to this matter is that they place this conflict before conversion. For such a conflict an unconverted person is not qualified. The conflict comes at a later stage, and it is severe. The narrow way is the cross which Christians have to bear, namely that they have to mortify their own flesh, suffer ridicule, scorn, and ignominy heaped upon them by the world, fight against the devil, and renounce the world with its vanities, treasures, and pleasures. That is a task which causes many to fall away again soon after their conversion and to lose their faith. Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed with the manifestation of the Spirit and power of god, many more people are converted than we imagine. If we could look into the hearts of worshipers in a church where the Word is thus forcefully proclaimed and no works of men are mingled with the teaching of saving grace, we should observe many framing the resolution by the grace of God to become Christians; for they are convinced that the preacher is right. But many suppress these sensations the moment they leave the church and seek to persuade themselves that they have been listening to a discourse of a fanatic. Such persons harden themselves Sunday after Sunday and get into a most dangerous condition, past conversion. The Savior Himself says that many "receive the Word with joy," Matthew 13.20, but smother the sprouting germ when tribulations arise. This does not necessarily refer to severe diabolical afflictions, but, in general, to tedium as regard spiritual affairs, sluggishness in prayer, negligence in hearing the Word of God, contempt which Christians have to suffer from worldly men, etc. . . . Beware, then, of the illusion that men may become secure if they are told how quickly they may be led to repentance and conversion. On the contrary, consider the greatness of Godís mercy. After a person has been converted, he must be told that henceforth he will have to be engaged in daily struggles and must think of making spiritual progress day by day, exercising himself in love, patience, and meekness and wrestling with sin (Law and Gospel pp. 367-368).
One of the most important aspects of evangelism is our sincere desire for people to be saved and to serve God. Pastors should pray regularly for God to create and sustain this desire in our hearts.
The Basic Witness
The following three points are the basic messages that we need to deliver as evangelists. While they are very basic, underneath each of these points we continually develop better and better ways to communicate them.
1. (The Law) The first goal (not counting bridge-building, relationship building, etc.) is to explain to them that all people are by nature lost sinners. There is nothing they can do to save themselves. This usually involves teaching them about the true nature of both God and man. See Lutherís Small Catechism, question 157.
Do they believe this? If not, take care to show your concern that this is so important. Your own personal confession of sinfulness and wretchedness before God might help. As time permits, or, on other occasions, you will want to stress the holiness of God and His demand for perfect righteousness.
2. (The Gospel) The second goal is to explain to them what God has done to accomplish our salvation. This is the pure Gospel. See Lutherís Small Catechism, question 182.
Are they indifferent? If so you must be very careful. Donít give false assurances. (Donít tell them they are saved just because they agree that the Gospel is right.) Ask them to keep thinking about what you are telling them. Offer to continue explaining the Gospel.
Do they indicate a desire for this salvation? Is there even a slight desire? Tell them that this is the spark of faithóthe miracle of Godís gift. Encourage them not to try to figure it out or to be surprised if they canít explain what they are believing. Assure them of Godís forgiveness.
3. (The Means of Grace) The third goal is to explain that their faith came by the word of God (Romans 1.16) and the miracle of the Holy Spirit, and that their faith will continue to grow as long as they receive the word. The best way to do this to be baptized and to associate with a Christian congregation. Eventually they will also share in the Lordís Supper. Lutherís Small Catechism Question 161.
Reasons for Door to Door Evangelism
1. If we really care about something, we are going to take it to the street. Look around at those who take their cause directly to the people . . . Politicians and advocates of referendums. When you really want to change something, you take it directly to the public.
2. Though 95% of the people contacted will not respond immediately, we never know the seeds we are planting. If judgment day is coming at any time, how can we pass on the opportunity to offer at least a brief invitation hear the message of the Gospel.
3. Door to door evangelism creates awareness and sends a message that someone really cares about what they believe.
4. Over 80% of all those are turned by the Holy Spirit to faith in Jesus experience that turning in a relationship with a friend or relative. For this reason other forms of congregational evangelism are extremely vital. Nevertheless I find that individual members are extremely motivated to share their faith with friends and relatives when they are aware that their church leaders are doing the same thing. Most church leaders do not have a large circle of unsaved friends and acquaintances. However, as they go out into the community they do encounter such people. The 10% of those who are drawn to Christ through door to door evangelism are an inspiration to the rest of the congregation to do the same work among their own friends and relatives.
Three Levels of Evangelistic Conversation
Very, very common
Once in a hundred calls
1. The Book of Life (Revelation 3.5) (For those who think they are save . . .í)
2. The Wedding Feast (Matthew 22.2ff) (For those who think they are saved . . .")
3. The Romans 6.23 Bridge (For those who donít know whether they are saved . . .")
4. The Three Crosses of Calvary (The Cross of Rejection; The Cross of Redemption; The Cross of Reception) (For those who donít know whether they are saved . . .")
5. The Two Lost Sons (Luke 15) (For those who think they are saved . . .")
6. Have you every heard of Advent? Epiphany? Ascension?
Many of these ideas are the kernels of sermons you may have heard. Donít be afraid to try different approaches. Christian evangelistic conversation is an art. It develops with prayer and practice.
Remember that evangelism is a miracle. Always think of it in that sense. Pray with thanksgiving that you can have a part in the miracle of sowing the seed of Godís word. Pray for wisdom, clarity, and peace as you share your faith in Christ.
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