Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in again to our discipleship series. Before you begin, I want to make sure that you have a copy of the paper entitled, “My Evangelistic Connections” (see below). Have one for each member; you’re going to need this at the end of the podcast today.
“My Evangelistic Connections” (PDF)
We must first be the people of God before we can do the work of God for our Family, Friends, Neighbors, Co-workers/Tradespeople – those who are in our neighborhood, even across the street. Nehemiah 3:28 suggests that everyone should begin “over against his own house.” Listen to Episode 150 to learn more!
You know the routine!
We’re going to start with accountability today. And this is what I’m going to ask you leaders to do: I’m going to ask you to pause the podcast and go over your assignment yourself. You know the routine now of quiet times, meditation, memorization, prayer calendars, and choosing a Christian biography. So test your members on what they’re memorizing, and how their quiet time is going, and what biography they’re reading. Go ahead and pause the podcast and do that now.
Teaching Time – Finishing up Priority #3
Next, during our time together, we’re going to go to our teaching time, and we’re going to finish up our teaching on priority number three. Do you remember your three priorities? We’ve been working on them faithfully throughout the year. Hopefully, you know them. Number one is Christ. Number two is the body of Christ. And our third priority is the work of Christ in the world. Or another way to say it is: Jesus, Community, Mission.
[PART 2] PUBLIC OUTREACH THROUGH Personal Evangelism
Now, we’ve already taught last week about how public worship can be part of our third priority. We saw that our worship can show others Christ. Today, we want to talk more about personal evangelism, how public outreach is the work of Christ in the world as much as public worship is. So let’s talk today about witnessing, about our public outreach, as fulfilling priority three.
We all need a small group of believers to support us. We talked about that in priority two over the last several months, our community of believers. You’re experiencing that in your discipleship group. But beyond our small groups, there are people all around us in deep trouble. They are desperately floundering and would welcome us as angels if we told them about Jesus.
I’ll admit to you that I struggle with methodology. How should I tell others about Jesus? When? Who? All these questions loom up in my mind.
The story is told of a man who came to D. L. Moody, that great pastor of Moody Bible Church, and said, “Pastor Moody, I don’t like your method of evangelism.” Moody answered him, “You know, I don’t like it very much, either. Tell me about yours.” The man said, “Well, I don’t have one.” And Moody said to him, “Well, I like mine better than yours.” That’s true, isn’t it? It’s better to have something than nothing.
Method #1: The Bread of Life
So let’s go to the Word and see what Jesus says about different methods of bringing others to himself. Open your Bibles, first of all, to Luke 9. We’re going to read verses 12 through 17 and talk about the Bread of Life. Luke 9:12-17. Listen as I read it, and ask yourself these questions: if you consider the food that Jesus is talking about sharing to be the gospel,
- What can you learn about the Lord? How does He operate in this?
- What about us? What are we to do?
- What about the world and its response?
So listen, as I read, and then I’ll give you those questions again. Luke 9:12-17 says this:
“Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.”Luke 9:12-17
Now, I want you to pause the podcast and discuss among yourselves these questions. If you consider the food to be the gospel,
- What can you learn about the Lord? How does He operate in this?
- What about us? What are we to do?
- What about the world and its response?
Go ahead, pause the podcast, and discuss those questions.
Method #2: Bringing others (sometimes literally!) to Christ
Now, I want you to go to another passage of scripture in Mark 2:1-12. Now turn off the podcast and read this among yourselves. Go ahead, pause the podcast, and read it right now.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”Mark 2:1-12
Alright, we’ve talked about the Bread of Life in Luke 9. Now we’re talking about bringing others to Christ in Mark 2. And I gathered some of these ideas from my father in law’s writings and sermons on this passage (Ray Ortlund, Sr.).
I see in this passage that people are paralyzed. They can’t always come to Jesus on their own. And I also see that the house owner got more than he bargained for. It may be costly to welcome needy people, but it can be a great privilege.
Through Coordinated Effort / Teamwork
First of all, this was a coordinated effort. Teamwork brings people to Christ. Do you have other people that you can ask to help you bring others in? Unite with other Christians. Four men brought this needy man to Christ. They had to agree and move together. Why? Because this man was needy and Jesus was his only answer. One man had to get the idea, and he had to sell it to the others, and then the others had to agree to join in and be part of the team of bringing this man to Christ. Teamwork brings people to Christ.
Through Bold Ingenuity and Hard Work
Secondly, bold ingenuity and hard work bring people to Christ. Look at verse four. The man didn’t give up. They struggled with it. Plan A failed, so they calculated the value of a human soul compared to the value of a roof, and the soul won. Look at verse four. It says this, “And when they could not get near him, because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him. And when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.” I love that. Now the roof was not just straw. It was built of stone, on which the upper room was situated. Luke mentions tiles in his account of this story in Luke 5:19. Mark mentions the making of an opening. Think of this with me. That opening had to be sturdy enough to hold four men, plus the bed, and the paralytic.
This is the question: “What roof is so important to keep souls out?” Remember our story from last week about Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel?
The salvation of souls through the work of Christ is not just a nice idea. It is either the way to eternal life in heaven, or it is a lie. Christianity and the truth of God’s love is not just a theory to make life more pleasant. By God’s grace, people who are spiritually lost get found forever! The dead come to life. Every effort is worth bringing people to Christ.
Through Daring Faith
So we see that coordinated effort (teamwork) brings people to Christ, and hard work brings people to Christ, along with bold ingenuity. Finally, daring faith brings people to Christ. Jesus did the inside job. Look at verse five:
“And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”Mark 2:5
Did you get that? When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic… Daring faith brings people to Christ. Jesus does the inside job. Jesus saw their faith. Faith was their motivation. Faith acts. Not a word of these men is recorded, but how their actions speak to us. Faith inevitably takes a form. You can see real faith because it acts. It is eager, determined, active.
Be prayerful, Wise, Gracious & Attractive
So, finally, let’s talk about our faith. Let’s let our lifestyle be prayerful, wise, gracious, attractive. Turn to Colossians chapter four with me. And turn off the podcast to read verses two through six together. Leaders, pause the podcast and read Colossians 4:2-6.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each personColossians 4:2-6
With whom are you conversing about eternal matters?
Our conversations should be prayerful (v.2), they should be clear (v.4), they should be accompanied by wise actions (v.5), and they should be filled with grace, kind, tender, merciful, good, and beautiful (v.6). They should be tasty; seasoned with salt. Our conversations should never be bland or boring (v.6).
I love how Rod Dreher puts it in The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. He says this,
“The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans, but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful—and they wanted it. This led them to the Truth. “Apologetics then and now, has a limited role,” Robert Louis Wilken says. “We must speak what is true, but finally the appeal must be made to the heart, not the mind. We’re really leading people to change their love. To love something different. Love is what holds and draws people.” The most effective way to evangelize, is by helping people experience beauty and goodness. From that starting point, we help them to grasp the truth that all goodness and beauty emanate from the eternal God who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.”Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option (2017), p.118-119
Well, in the midst of that tasty conversation with others, there will be questions. Look at Colossians 4:6:
“…know how to answer everyone.”Colossians 4:6
Oh my goodness. How? Well, Luke 6:45 says,
“…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”Luke 6:45
What is abounding in your heart today? Anxiety? Jealousy? Pride? Bitterness? It all comes back to priority one doesn’t it? God. Time with Him to bathe our hearts and our thoughts with His thoughts, and to fill our hearts and our mouths with His words. Mom and Dad Ortlund taught me that, “We must first be the people of God, before we can do the work of God.”
“Okay, I heart you, Jani, but Where do I begin?”
Now, I want you to think with me about where to begin. Nehemiah 3:28, when the people were rebuilding the wall, says this:
“Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house.”Nehemiah 3:28
Start in Your Own Neighborhood
This is the way to deal with the evil of this world. We’re all fonder of starting schemes, of forming committees, of discussing methods of work, than in settling definitely to work for ourselves. There’s a lack of definiteness. And we hardly know where to begin with evangelism. But this verse in Nehemiah 3:28 suggests that everyone should begin over against his own house.
Mom and Dad Ortlund taught me this. They taught me to try to make my own neighborhood a little more like what God would have it. It may be that I’ve gone too far afield in search of work. Maybe I’m trying to apply to the Foreign Mission Society or waiting for a sphere of service. Yet all the time there is that wretched neighborhood, like a piece of ruined wall before me. I must first be the person of God, before I can do the work of God.
My Evangelistic Connections
So I want you to take your evangelistic connections worksheet—your leader hopefully copied one off for you—and I want you to take it and fill it out in light of what I’ve just read from Nehemiah 3:28. I got those ideas from an FB Meyers quote, where he says, “Arise and repair it.” Fill out this evangelistic connections paper, and then I want you, as a group, to put them in the center of the table, and pray over all of them. Do that right now. Pause the podcast, fill it out, and pray over these connections.
My prayer for you over these connections is from Hebrews 13:20-21:
“Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”Hebrews 13:20-21
Time for a Quick Break!
Now, I suggest you pause the podcast and take a break right now.
During the second half of your time together, this is what I want you to do. I want you to have someone share from their Christian biography. And then share prayer requests and take some time to pray for each other. And finish up with this assignment. Make sure that your ladies are having their quiet times and meditating on their Bible verse; that they’re working on their Bible memory. And for those who haven’t given their biography yet, that they would read their biography and get ready to report on it. Also, have them check up on their short term goals, and adjust them as needed. And then close out your time together by singing or praying Numbers 6:24-26. And I say that over you all as well, “May the Lord bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you, and restore your souls.”