Friday, October 17, 2014

Love Becomes Joy

image used under Public Domain license, photo from
I've been blessed enough to get connected to the online sessions of both the Spring and Fall Exponential conferences.  The Fall conference is about evangelism.  Thus, our illustration is street preaching.  In this case, Ray Comfort.

As I write this, the conference is over, complete with some technical glitches. And also lots of great insights.  The points made are important.

Some of the earlier sessions, I was either just enjoying listening or fighting the technical glitches (I wasn't sure they weren't on my end.).  But there was lots of good fruit.  As usual, some of the best came from the lesser known speakers.  Today, we'll try to tie it together in a way that makes it evident it doesn't apply just to leaders.  And some of what I share will be my own expansion on what was said.

The title of this Exponential conference is "Seek & Save, Rethinking Evangelism".  My first response to seeing the title, last Spring, was that I was glad my access to the conference online sessions was free.  Every time I've seen a conference, seminar, or forum that suggests rethinking something, the result was often some area of Christianity being watered down and liberalized.  So, I was ready to cut my connection, if that turned out to be the case.  Fortunately, I didn't have to.

One of the ideas that was brought up by a number of pastors was that  the Church needs to stop mentally separating evangelism and discipleship.  Both are part of the progression of the Gospel. The Gospel doesn't end at the point of salvation.  It isn't just missing Hell and gaining a Heavenly banquet.  There's a whole experience in the here and now.  The growth begins at the first mention of the Gospel and continues till we reach Heaven.  My own thought is yes, we can personally derail the continuity and never even reach the point of salvation.  But we're still being discipled.  It fits that God would teach as well as draw to Himself.

One of the first speakers was Pastor Dave Gibbons.  He was probably the most vocal about considering evangelism as the early part of discipleship.  Along with that, he made a solid argument for his main point -- that our biggest evangelistic tool was our own experience of God's love.  What he suggested was that we need to actively latch onto that love, which would give us the joy of the Lord.  Dave was a great example of his point.  He was personable, had a relaxed sense of humor, and exuded that joy.  He described several examples of people noting his countenance and wanting to know how they could experience the same thing.  That joy of the Lord is attractive, to the point that it should be our best evangelistic tool.

We've all seen the arguments about evangelism being an invasion of someone else's privacy. Pastor Dave says that, whether we're just shy or don't want that accusation made against us, our closeness to God will draw people to ask us what's different about us.  Pastor Jeff Vanderstelt added another facet to that idea.  He suggested that we talk about what we love and we talk about what changes us. If we don't talk about Jesus, do we love Him and have we let Him change us?

That all assumes that if we're changed, people will notice, be drawn to the changes and our conversation will naturally be directed toward talking about the Lord.  I agree that it can happen that way.  I've sometimes had similar experiences.  But my own experience has been that the people who notice are already spiritually awakening.  They know there's more than the wreck we've made of our world.  But the Old Sin Nature dulls our perceptions.  Which means there are many who don't even realize they should be looking for more, much less actively exploring the possibilities.

It takes "normal" evangelism to turn on the switch to the realization that there is more than what we see, feel, experience, and read.  We can't rely on people's perceptions to open up on evangelistic opportunities.  We have to actively go out and make most people aware that there's more than what they experience in the physical realm and that the spiritual can change even that.  So, while what could be termed "evangelism by attraction" is a great idea, we still need all the "normal" methods of evangelism, as well.  Even then, it's the strength of our connection to God (based on who He is) that will attract people to the reality of what we offer.

How's your Joy connection, today?

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff Bill. I too am leery when I see "re thinking...." It is easy to be so passionate about our own callings that we think we have the only answer.

    You said: "It takes "normal" evangelism to turn on the switch to the realization that there is more than what we see, feel, experience, and read. We can't rely on people's perceptions to open up on evangelistic opportunities."

    Last Saturday I along with 3 other guys went door to door in a local apartment complex. We had the ability to pray with several people who needed God's intervention right then. No not a single one of them came to church the next day. But that Saturday we became the right person at the right place. - We had to decide to do that.