Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Favorite Evangelism Passage!

Philip’s Story in Acts 8 is my favorite evangelism story in the Bible. The Spirit of the Lord told Philip to go a particular place. He did not know what was to happen, but in obedience Philip obeyed and went to this desert place. Philip once again heard the Spirit tell him to go to an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the book of Isaiah. Philip ran to him and saw what he was reading and asked the eunuch if he understood what he was reading. With this simple introductory question, Philip started an evangelical process that ultimately changed the eunuch’s life.

This passage says that Philip recounted the history of the Scriptures showing the good news about Jesus. When I read this passage, I cannot help but ask what exactly Philip chose to share with the Ethiopian eunuch. Luke does not share the details, but we can only imagine the stories that Philip shared with the eunuch. When they came to water, the eunuch asked what was preventing him from being baptized now. This question makes me think that Philip almost certainly ended his story of the good news about Jesus with Jesus’ Great Commission. The evangelism of the eunuch almost certainly ended with Jesus’ great command to go and teach and baptize.

There needs to be a plan for personal evangelism in the Christian’s personal lives. They need to be encouraged to out into all of their worlds taking the good news of Jesus with them wherever they find themselves. Just like Philip, we need to be encouraged to listen to the Spirit of God’s leading and to take the Gospel message to our sphere of influence.

In order to accomplish this task, there needs to be a re-defining of what it means to evangelize. For so long, Christians have understood this task as being the sole job of the ministers and staff members of the church. However, the job of evangelism as we understand it from Scripture is clearly set forth as a task of all people in all places.

Evangelism starts with a personal relationship with God. It is only from this standpoint that one is able to be like Philip who was able to hear the voice of God telling him to go to another town and to approach the Ethiopian eunuch. Evangelism only becomes difficult and burdensome when the evangelist relies on his or her own strength and not upon the strength of the Lord. With an open and receptive heart, the evangelist will be led by God; and by being led by Him, he or she will be able to trust that it is not their own strength and power that they need to rely upon. It is the strength and power of God who sends them.

As the evangelist becomes more aware of God’s power and direction, he or she then needs to be aware of the subtly of opportunities. Philip did not know why he was sent to the desert. He just went and when he came upon the eunuch, he recognized the voice of God telling him to go to him. Philip did not open up his fancy flannel board or have a tract of the four spiritual laws. No, he noticed what the eunuch was doing and asked him a question. He asked him if he understood what he was reading in Isaiah. This opened the door and provided Philip with the opportunity to take the eunuch through the Scriptures sharing with him the good news of Jesus.

While in the desert, he heard the voice of the Spirit telling him to go to the eunuch. There was no question from Philip. He did not delay and he did not take a detour. Luke tells us that he ran to the eunuch. Opportunities that we have as evangelists are many times time sensitive opportunities. We may be on subways or on airplanes and the time that we have to respond to God’s prompting in our lives is time sensitive. One of the resources that I would recommend during this part of the curriculum would be Bill Hybel’s book entitled Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith. In Philip’s case, maybe the title should be “Just run across the room.”

When God calls us to do something or to speak to someone, He will not abandon us. It is very interesting to me that Luke shares with us a certain piece of information in this text. He tells his readers that Philip was called to go south and the place to which he went was a desert place. Why did Luke tell us that this place was a desert? After Philip shared the good news of Jesus, the eunuch saw water and wanted to be baptized. There was water in the desert? I like to think that Luke included this small piece of information to remind his readers that God is not only in control of each evangelical situation, but he is also committed to provide for each evangelist.

We are a part of a larger evangelical plan. When we are rejected, we need to realize that we are not called to be successful, but rather we are called to be obedient. Nowhere in our passage does God guarantee success for Philip. Philip does even question God about whether or not he will be successful. God calls and Philip obeys. The key here is to be reminded that we have nothing to do with the success or failure of evangelism. Pre-Christians become Christians only through the grace and power of God. As Robert Tuttle writes in his book entitled Can We Talk, we may just be one of the twenty-five needed witnesses in a pre-Christian’s life to persuade them to make a change.



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