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At the End of Broken Dreams . . . He's the Open Door
based on Mark 6:7-13 and various other texts
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

Our theme this morning is one of the strangest animals for mainline Christians: evangelism. The question I am trying to answer is: how can we share with others our faith in a fruitful way.

In our Scripture passage this morning we have this amazing account. It is an account of how Jesus empowers his rag-tag followers to go out and basically do the same kind of ministry that Jesus himself was doing, to heal the sick, to drive out demons, and to preach the goodness of God's kingdom to the poor. And as the disciples put Jesus instructions into action they are absolutely amazed at the result. They come back reporting: "wow!! This evangelism really works. We saw people getting miraculously healed, we saw demons of fear and oppression driven out, and we saw people's hope and joy restored. I believe with all my heart that if we follow Jesus call and instructions for evangelism, you and I can see the same wonderful stories unfolding around us and our ministry. This morning I decided to discover the principles of evangelism in this text by dealing with common misconceptions:

Misconception I: is that some say that this was only for the immediate disciples of Jesus, and perhaps for preachers today, but that it is not up the people in the pew to evangelize. In Acts 2 we read about the commissioning to evangelize to all Christians: as Jesus leaves the disciples behind he promises them: "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses (marturei--martyrs) both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Verse 8). This of course, is known as the "great commission."

As the story in the book of Acts unfolds, we see that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not only for disciples and preachers, but for all believers. After all the prophesy of Joel that came to fulfillment at Pentecost was: "I shall pour out my spirit upon all men and women, and the young shall see visions and the old will dream dreams."

And so it is that as we read on through the book of Acts, we find that the Holy Spirit empowered ordinary people who "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). In fact, the apostles themselves remained in Jerusalem, with the exception of Peter. In fact, I want to be as bold as to say that as a Christian you cannot escape being a witness for God all the time. People know that you're a Christian by your actions. So your entire life is like an open letter to read for everybody. In 2 Cor 3:3 Paul writes to the Corinthians ". . . You are an open letter of Christ, known and read by everybody around you. . ." And that can be a problem, because we are often not aware of how much of a witness our lives are. Sometimes we may even be a bad witness for God based on our actions. Example: how many of us say grace before dinner even in a restaurant? If you publicly say grace and then leave a lousy tip, what kind of message is that going to give to the waitress?

Misconception II: is that some say with all the large churches and the outreach programs that are offered, with all the Christian evangelists on TV, what can I really effect? It is true that we have Christian programs on TV and mass evangelizations like Billy Grahams crusades, etc. However, according to statistics, these large gatherings usually draw mostly Christians. Nonbelievers seldom attend. Even excellent media publicity won't attract many of them. That's where we come into the picture. Many of us may not be able to preach before a crowd, but we can pray and care for people and invite them to Christ in many ways. And besides, it is people like you and me who invite people to Billy Graham type events, usually after sharing our faith with them. Definition of Evangelism

Evangelism is from the Greek euangelia, it means to tell someone the GOOD NEWS. "Eu" in the Greek means good, and angelia (angel) means "message." In other words the definition of evangelization is not just to share about our personal faith, but to bring good news--the ultimate good news--to people. Do you see what the emphasis on the good news does to the method of evangelism? It puts the emphasis on the recipient of the good news. If your method of sharing your faith leads to embarrassing the person that you're talking to, you've not evangelized him or her--you have not "good-newsed" him or her. The same is true when you're getting on their nerves, or when you put fear of hell in them. You have not "good-newsed" that person.

Misconception III: One of the things that Christians will often say is: "I don't have any non-Christian friends." Well, remember Jesus was a friend of sinners. We need to take risks and follow his example. In our Scripture text Jesus sends out his disciples. They actually have to do something--go to where the people are. Another great lesson we can learn from this text is that we are to make friends with the people we're send to. As Jesus sends his disciples out two by two he advises them: "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. (6:10)" The wonderful thing about Jesus kind of evangelism is that it asks us not to preach at people, but to make friends with them, "hang out" with them. And as we hang out with friends we better be ourselves--let your Christian love shine through in natural ways. We can make friends with unchurched neighbors, with non-Christian work partners, even relatives and acquaintances with whom we've had little contact for years.

One way of finding people that need Christ in their life is to combine your interests, your hobbies with reaching out. Join a local chess club or golf club, or a stamp collectors' club, or join a political party and make friends with people. Joke with them, fellowship with them, and most of all show that you care for them. This isn't hard to do since we Christians are caring people. Let me tell you, this church, we are a caring congregation. We just need a little help to overcome our inhibitions in expressing our care for others.


Misconception IV: "I cannot bring up the topic of faith" The world is full of lonely people. Many will react warmly to someone who reaches out to them and just listens to them in a caring way. Just do that and you don't even have to worry about how you're going to handle the witnessing part. That will come naturally. Some friends of mine recently made this discovery. They started a friendship with an unsaved couple in their neighborhood but did not get around to saying much about their faith. Then, out of the blue, the wife said, "Ron and I know that you go to church every Sunday. We can tell that your religion is important to you and has done a lot for you. We'd like to go with you next Sunday. Would you mind?" Would they mind?! We all know the answer to that. In friendship evangelism, your effectiveness will be determined by what you are, what you do, and what you say.

Flashing a toothy smile, punctuating your sentences with "Praise the Lord," or putting yourself under strict rules won't effect much. What will attract people to Christ is your genuine personality and character which is marked by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:15-21). If you're a Christian the Holy Spirit dwells in you and wants to empower you to care for others like Christ did.

Misconception V: is the fear that "you wouldn't know what to say once the topic of faith was raised." Trust God to put the right words into your mouth. But most importantly, don't think that you need to have all the answers. Just care for people. If you really care for people they will find you to be a person they can trust. They will see in you the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22,23). They will respect you. Some may have mixed feelings about you--maybe they will feel uncomfortable around you for making them feel guilty (without you even saying a word--just because of your Christian life-style), but deep down they'll respect you. And they may be very open to the idea of being your friend--even though they may even tease you about your faith or make fun of you at times.

We often encounter people who are sad or worried. A newly-wed who is having adjustment problems. A mother of teens who has just received word that she has cancer. An executive who faces heart bypass surgery. An assembly-line operator who is told that his plant might be shut down. A colleague whose life is in shambles because of family problems. In these kinds of situations, we must show genuine concern by being good listeners. Try to say something encouraging. Tell them you will pray for them. Or, if you are in a private place, offer to pray for them right then and there. Few people are so atheistic that they will resent your offer to pray. Once you show that you are personally concerned about them, they will usually be more open to listen to you. Your testimony of how you came to know the Lord is often appropriate at a time like this. After a while more and more people will come to you, because they know that you really care for them--unlike the many non-Christian friends they have who will stay away from you when you're down and out.

One of Eric Clapton's songs goes: "Nobody knows you when you're down and out." Doesn't that describe the reality of the world so well. It continues: "but when you're up on your feet again, everybody wants to be your long, lost friend." Well, Jesus approach was quite the opposite: he cared for the ones who were down and out, even to the point where he said: the healthy are not in need of a doctor."

I've seen this happening a lot in my life. I've had people come to me for help and prayer that I never thought would ask me for help. In fact, I thought they hated my guts. But when the going got tough, they remembered the way I listened to them, the way I took a deep interest in their life, the way I said to them that I would pray for them. At the end of broken dreams . . Jesus is the open door.

Misconception VI: "I am not qualified for some reason or other." Remember our reading from Jeremiah this morning. What did Jeremiah say to God when God called him to be a witness? He said: "I don't know how to speak, what to say" + "I'm too young." There are many reasons why God shouldn't have called you. But don't worry. You're in good company:

Moses stuttered. David's armor didn't fit. Mark was rejected by Paul. Isaiah had unclean lips. Timothy had ulcers. Amos' only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning. Jacob was a liar. David had an affair. Solomon was too rich. Abraham was too old. Jeremiah and David were too young. Peter was afraid of death. Naomi was a widow. Paul was a murderer, so was Moses. Jonah ran from God. Miriam was a gossip. Gideon and Thomas both doubted. Elijah was burned out. Lazarus was dead. Martha was a worry-wart.

Jesus gave his disciples--men of simple ways--the authority and the Holy Spirit for the ministry of evangelism. God--by the power of the Holy Spirit--calls and empowers you and me also to be his witnesses to a lost and dying world, but as these bible characters prove, when God calls, God also equips. You and I have the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. All we need to do is trust God and reach out in love to our neighbors. Let's take a time for prayer and personal recommitment before we will respond together through our hymn: "Here I am Lord." Amen.