Tag Archives: Evangelism

GAME DAY: Are you ready?

given on Sunday, August 30, 2015

Game Time: Are you ready?

Scripture lesson: using the NLT

Psalm 72:4-7, 12-14

Help him to defend the poor,
to rescue the children of the needy,
and to crush their oppressors.
May they fear you[a] as long as the sun shines,
as long as the moon remains in the sky.
Yes, forever! . . .

. . . 12He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
and he will rescue them.
14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious to him.

Philippians 4:8-14

   8 . . . Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

   10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ,[a] who gives me strength.

James 1:17-21

   17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[a] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[b] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.[c]

   19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger[d] does not produce the righteousness[e] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

 

 

 

 

Reflection:

Have you noticed that football preseason is wrapping up this weekend and the 2015 season begins next weekend—Labor Day Weekend? Baseball season has a couple more months and the anticipation locally is high that the Royals make it to the final World Series game. Kansas City football and baseball fans are energized.

Are we, as Christians, energized like the sports fans on game day? Do we live our faith like jerseys with our favorite player’s number or the team’s name or logo? When we are in conversation at lunch or on breaks, do we sit around and discuss our faith with the same enthusiasm as we do the various sports news?

Living our Christian faith should be as obvious as our sports loyalty, yet many of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers cannot name what church you attend or even if you attend a church. If no one can identify whether or not we are Christians, then we are failing the team. Each day is game day, are we ready?

Pretend that next Sunday is the opening game of the season. We have reviewed the playbook, talked about different plays, practiced a few key points, and prepared. The pre-season ends Saturday, but the game is Sunday morning.

Paul certainly was a highly visible Jew known as Saul. He was a leader in the persecution of the newest faith team, Christianity. He used the old playbook, knew the laws extremely well, and led others to join in the persecution of the Christians. But God had a different plan for Saul.

An unexplained injury, so to speak, struck Saul. For a few days it was touch and go as to what his future would be, but God is in charge and he changed Saul’s position. His conversion successfully led the Christians to develop into a winning team.

The game plan is so simple—love one another. In fact, the success of that play propelled the church to move from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea on around to the north and the west under Paul’s direction. God’s plan can be repeated in community after community, country on to other countries, even across oceans. Yet, the simple and successful play has hit a snag.

The churches are at a plateau. For some reason, Paul’s successful game plan is not working. For about 50-65 years, the stadium—I mean churches–are no longer filled. The fans are worn out and tired from doing everything that does get done, and even their families seem to need a vacation more than an hour or two at church.

Paul clearly understood the challenges of maintaining a church’s growth. His letters are filled with advice and encouragement. He was quick to compliment, but also quick to scold the young church leaders in the efforts to keep their faith and to grow so others may learn the good news.

Over the past few weeks, the worldwide team followed the same advice in the common lectionary as provided the Ephesians. The rule is unchanging: love one another. The opponents are no different. The difference is the world itself. The cultures are so focused on business and technology and on international politics that the churches are no longer the first priority.

The Bible is our playbook, and the leaders’ stories provide the historical experience and timeless examples of how Christians can live in a complicated life using the simplest rule possible. The formula is fool proof so why are the churches failing?

Beginning today, reaffirm your commitment to God. As part of the game plan, check the Bible. The use of the three scripture readings today detail the very behaviors needed to keep each one of us healthy Christians:

  • Psalms 72—Help defend the poor, rescue the children, and crush oppressors. Even the faithful Jews knew these rules in ancient times.
  • Philippians 4—Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Praise. Practice. And then Paul adds a very personal statement:

11 . . . for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

 

  • James 1—Get rid of filth and evil. Accept the word God planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

 

Following the lectionary is one major practice that keeps each Christian player focused and prepared for all life dishes out.

Reading scripture is critical yet so easy to overlook.   Worship services can highlight scripture like coaches do when they tell players to go back to the game book, but fewer and fewer people are attending. As part of our covenant with God, we need to be inviting and encouraging others to attend church. Are we asking family, friends and co-workers to join us in our churches?

Worship is something like a game practice session or even a huddle before lining up on the field. It gives us an opportunity to review, to praise another player, and to ask questions. Worship interrupts the week and reminds us to stay faithful, to refresh our commitment to God, and to rally each other so we are strong enough to handle all the challenges thrown at us during the week.

And, each day practice. Be conscious of how you are living your faith. Read a daily devotional. Maybe read a piece of the lectionary or a small devotional book like The Upper Room, Guidepost, or Daily Word. When you check your emails, maybe you find a daily scripture you have signed up to receive. Another way is to listen to Christian music like on K-Love, your personal playlist or CD’s. Pick up a hymnal and read through one of the hymns. Practice. Practice.   Practice.

Game day is every day. Make sure you are ready. Over the week, practice, then when the opportunity to invite others to join the team, you are ready to win one for God.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

We know the rule.

We have the game book.

We listen to the coaches.

Help us to stay in the game.

Guide us in our practice.

Praise us when we do well.

Strengthen us when we tire.

Scold us when we make mistakes.

As your team player,

We strive to do our best.

We promise to practice.

We thank you for your gifts

We thank you for the coaches.

We thank you for playing time.

We thank you for the joy of winning

Life eternal now and forever. –Amen

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The Big Evangelism: With whom do we share the good news?

given on Sunday, March 11, 2012–the third in a series

         Let’s review the last two weeks before starting in on today’s thoughts.  Two weeks ago, the idea of evangelism was introduced.  The point was to remove the negative emotions that are conjured up when that word is heard.  The Big E of evangelism really is not that difficult but is really the Big Easy.

         Of course it is not easy to evangelize if we do not know how to talk about it.  Therefore last week the emphasis was to understand what the good news is that Jesus told use to share with others.  Evangelism is the gospel, the gospel is the good news, and the good news is John 3:16—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (NIV)

Unfortunately that still is an abstract idea rather than something concrete.  Each one of us might interpret this differently, but the closest words I can find include descriptions of experiences that create emotions filled with love.  The test, I believe, is when someone makes a comment like “it certainly does not take much to make you happy” about how I live my life.  The kingdom of heaven or of God is that state in which we experience a sense of awe, joy, blessing and/or peace in our life. 

         The definition and the understanding of the kingdom of heaven and/or God are for continual discussion.  This makes Bible study and discussion important even critical in order to follow the Great Commission each of us is tasked to do.  But study is ongoing, and the next question is to ask with whom are we to share the good news, today’s topic.

Preparation for the sermon today was triggered by a little bit of humor that showed up at home this week.  The paper is titled, “You might be in a country church if . . . “  Needless to say the chuckles are also somewhat nervous chuckles:

You might be in a country church if . . .

  • the call to worship is “Y’all come on in!”
  • people wonder when Jesus fed the 5,000 whether the two fish were bass or catfish.
  • opening day of deer season is a church holiday.
  • four generations of one family sit together in worship every Sunday.
  • the only time people lock their cars in the parking lot is during summer so their neighbors can’t leave them a bag of squash.
  • there’s no such thing as a “secret” sin.
  • you miss worship in the morning and by 2 pm you have had a dozen calls inquiring about your health.

Redneck humor certainly can lighten up a serious topic like small country churches, but underlying all humor is truth.  The truth for us today is whether or not we can honestly identify who our neighbors are.  We drive right past their houses.  We stand in line at the store with them.  We work beside them in the field, in the businesses, or in community projects.

Right now, stop and mentally name—or write them down on the bulletin—who lives between your house and the church.  You passed them this morning and you may have even noticed whether or not the cars were in the drives.  Do you know what church they attend—or do they even attend?  Have you spoken to them within the last week?  Have you ever invited them to come to church with you?

Undoubtedly the answers to these questions can be uncomfortable or maybe they are not.  If you are answering these questions positively, then congratulations you are evangelizing.  If you answer these questions and are a bit uncomfortable, maybe now it will not seem so fearful to ask others to join you in church.

Still, the people living between here and your homes are not the only ones to consider reaching.  We know from the scripture we discussed in the first week’s sermon, Matthew 25:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’   (MSG)

These descriptors seem so logical and they stand out when we live in a close-knit community, but do we reach out to all of them or to just a random one or two a year.  That is the problem.

We all know which people are unchurched in our own community.  We can drive into the parking lot and see who is here, but we also can see who is not here.  Have you ever considered that targeted prayer might make a difference?  Maybe prayers can include the names of people we want to see not only parked in the lot, but sitting in the pews.

The challenge of making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world is not easy, but we can train ourselves how to do it.  We can learn to see those who are unchurched, those who keep busy calendars and rest on Sunday, those who believe but don’t worship or study, those who would do anything for others in need and yet stay home on Sunday morning or take off for a day of recreation.

The Big Evangelism always sounds more difficult than it needs to be, but even the simple steps have to be carefully planned, prepared, and carried out.  The task ahead for each of us is to find the way to use our natural talents to fulfill the Great Commission.  To accomplish this task, we need to make a personal commitment, but also a corporate commitment.

We need to keep a positive attitude, pray, and study as we take our own understanding of the heaven/reign of God and find out how best to share it with others.  We need to act so that the needs of others are met.  We need to find energy from serving rather than dissatisfaction from not doing.

This may be one small, quick statement about who we are to share the good news, but we need some discussion time.  The work started when the fair revenue was earmarked for an emergency need fund.  The work continues as the teapot money is targeted for special giving.  The work continues each year the apportionments are met, but . . . and this is big . . . what is our next effort going to be.

As we meet for our monthly meals, let’s talk.  Let’s brainstorm some ideas that we might like to try.  Let’s open our eyes and see our community through God’s eyes.  Let’s pray for concrete answers.

Dear Holy Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

We hear a word, evangelism, and we begin to tremble.

We look around our sanctuary, and we sigh at the empty seats.

We drive down the road, and we notice who are not churched.

Though we are small in numbers, our hearts are ever growing.

Though we are in church, we still have no solutions.

Though we have dreams, we need to take action.

Guide us, God, to work together and to reach out to others.

Guide us, Jesus, to teach, to preach, and to heal as you did.

Guide us, Holy Spirit, to become energized and to step out in faith.

Today we begin the conversation about how to evangelize without fear.

–Amen.

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The Big E(vangelism): What is the good news that we are to share?

given on Sunday, March 4, 2012:  the second in a series about evangelizing in the 21st century

Okay, last week we tackled what the word evangelism is and why it makes us so uncomfortable.  Evangelism is the good news that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ, so that we could have eternal life, John 3:16.

That one verse serves as the foundation for almost all conversations concerning ‘the good news.’  Yet how in the world can the birth and death of one individual—man and God—be good news?  If we are to spread the good news, we need to know the good news in words that make sense to us and to others who are skeptical or non-believing.

Face it.  We have all heard the same platitudes repeated throughout our life.  Parents scold their kids that if they continue doing wrong they will not get to heaven.  Schoolteachers ominously tell us that we are being bad and that will lead us down the wrong path.  The older generation shakes their heads and says what is this world coming to.  Everybody seems to know what happens if evil wins, but nobody is able to give a concrete account of what happens next—next being after our bodies die here on earth.

Is that the good news?  We have to live a good life here on earth to reach heaven after death?  The skeptics ask how do we know.  We have no concrete proof.  We have the promises of the Bible.  We have the teachings of the disciples and theologians who have used all the methods that Jesus demonstrated while he was living.  Yet, we do not seem to have the words that are needed to convince or to assure others just what the good news is.

Surprisingly, though, I think we do have the answers.  We just have never been able to confidently state exactly what the good news is.  The Apologetics’ Bible article, “If There is Such Good Evidence for God, then Why Don’t More People Believe?” convinces me that I should be able to define the good news in ways that people can understand.

The article uses the contemporary arguments against smoking as a metaphor for understanding the good news.  Scientists have researched the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and even complications of pregnancy and are overwhelmingly convinced that smoking is directly related to these life-threatening conditions.

Researchers have tried to confirm the existence of Jesus throughout the last 2,000 plus years.  The evidence continues to prove that this man did exist.  The analysis of the scripture—Old and New Testaments—connects and reconnects with the secular evidence of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and theologians.  The more in-depth I search for answers, the more solid my understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The article poses the question, “Why don’t more people believe?”  The next statement is “The basic cause of all unbelief is a sinful heart.”  The article continues:

One reason may be ignorance of the evidence.  This is why it is important for Christians to study the evidence and be prepared to present it in a logical, gracious way.  The Bible commands us to “always be ready to give a defense” (I Peter 3:15) as you “go . . . and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)

Therefore, we must study the Bible in order to be comfortable in discussing it confidently with others why may not know it so well.  This is a lifelong process.

Yet the article continues:

. . . When told about the gospel, some people realize that a life given to Christ will result in sacrifice and serving others.  The idea that they have to give up their sin compels them to reject God no matter how good the evidence is.  Still others say they reject God because they’ve seen Christians act sinfully.  This amounts to using the sins of others to justify your own sins and unbelief.

These descriptors sound familiar to me.  Others have talked abou them before.  I have felt inadequate to address their disbelief.  And, I have also used the sins of others to justify my poor decisions.  Now I must focus on God and not fall from grace.

Here is the clencher in the article:

Belief is like a two-sided coin:  on one side the evidence; the other side is the will.  Just as some people continue to smoke despite the evidence, some refuse to believe in God even when they know the evidence.  Others remain skeptical, because they are steeped in a worldview that does not allow them to evaluate the evidence properly.

A two-sided coin:  you can believe or not.  As one who does believe, I think telling the good news, or evangelizing, is primarily living a God-centered life.  We live a life that models the behaviors that Jesus taught us.  We see this world through God’s eyes.   What better way to learn the concrete proof needed so unbelievers can see God in our lives!

The Beatitudes describe the behaviors that God asks from us.  The first scripture reference for today is Matthews 5:3-5:

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.  (the MSG)

These are the first verses of the beatitudes Jesus first shared in the Sermon on the Mount.  He outlines in the beatitudes the behaviors needed to reach the kingdom of heaven (which sound more familiar in the NIV translation):

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These behaviors are concrete.   These are ideas that are real to us in the 21st century.  Still there is that phrase again:  kingdom of heaven.  What makes that term so impossible for us to explain in a comfortable manner that others can understand?

One issue is we do not understand the concept of kingdom.  Since the colonies separated from England, kingdom has become an archaic word, an outdated word.  We do not use the term kingdom to mean a specific, geographical location on this earth.  Kingdom is not a word we use in casual conversation and to connect it to heaven creates a whirlwind of images in our minds.

During ancient times, kingdom was a common reference to a region that was ruled by a specific family.  The size widely varied, but the ruling family gave the people the law of that kingdom.  Today our society is not subject to one ruling family; rather we are all involved through the democratic principles of this republic.

With all the confusion over the term “kingdom of heaven” one can certainly understand how skeptics and non-believers are not convinced that the “kingdom of heaven” or the “good news” exists.  After reading a few articles, reading the scriptures referenced, and stopping to reflect and talk to God, I think I have some concrete evidence of the kingdom of heaven:

  • a baby’s hand automatically wraps around your finger,
  • the robins sing when snow is still in the air (not the ground this year),
  • the bite of the summer’s first tomato off your very own vine,
  • the peepers first song on a spring evening,
  • the smell of honeysuckle wafting through the breeze,
  • the sight of a small calf trying to stand for the first time,
  • the excitement of completing a crossword puzzle,
  • receiving that first paycheck,
  • the sound of a child calling for mom or dad,
  • the toe-tapping sensation when the music comes on,
  • the thrill of wind racing past your face on a bike or in a convertible,
  • the tug on the line as a fish takes the bait,
  • the thrill when pushing off for a downhill run on the skis
  • the sunset or the sunrise across the ocean,
  • the smell of supper when you open the door after a long day,
  • the joy of blowing bubbles and watching them float upwards,
  •  and …………………………. fill in the blank.

 

We have the proof of the kingdom of heaven.  It is right here with us and provides us with that inner joy that defeats the evil that exists around us.  It places good as the priority in our lives.  We see the world through God’s eyes.

The Big E, evangelism, is the gospel, the good news, and we are to spread the good news.  How many times do we react to some tiny little thing that gives us joy—these are the times we experience the kingdom of heaven.  How often do others say that it certainly does not take much to make us happy—we are modeling Christian life in the kingdom of heaven?  How many times do our thoughts turn to prayer when we hear a siren—we are part of the kingdom of heaven?

Evangelism is easy.  All we have to do is to see God in our lives today.  All we have to do is model God’s teachings.  All we have to do is accept God’s grace and find the joy it brings into our hearts.  Is not that easy to do and to share with others?  The good news is good living even when surrounded with evil.

Share the good news and you will be evangelizing.  In the last verses of our scripture, Jesus again tells the disciples how to reach the kingdom of heaven:

. . .  19-20“Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.   (the MSG)

Keep it simple, and you will know the kingdom of heaven.  Live it and others will soon know the kingdom of heaven, too.  The disciples did it, so can you.

Dear Loving Father,

Thank you for such a sparkling day filled with hope and promises.

Thank you for making our lives much easier than it was in ancient times.

Thank you for loving us so much that you sent your own Son to guide us.

As we begin a new week, help us to keep centered on You.

Remind us to look at the world and all that we do through your eyes.

Help us to use the Lenten season to re-evaluate our lives.

Help us to make the corrections in our lives

So others may see the kingdom of heaven in their lives, too.

–Amen.

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The Big E: How well are we following Jesus’ commandment?

given Sunday, February 26, 2012

During LENT, let’s open our minds to the Big Evangelism through scripture, worship, prayer and discussion.  The bulletin and quotes will be from The Message translation.  Consider reading your favorite translation and study notes to compare the ideas being discussed.  This is the first of the Lenten series.

Ephesians 2:1-5  Paul’s letter explaining the nature and purpose of  the church

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us!  (the Message)

Additional verses referenced in today’s sermon:

  • John 3:16  Apostle John writing to New and searching Christians
  • Matthew 28:19-20  The Greatest Commission
  • Matthew 22:37-40  The Greatest Commandment
  • Matthew 25:34-36  from the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Today is the first Sunday in the Lenten season, and during this Christian season tradition establishes these 40 days—excluding Sundays—as a time for deep, personal reflection.  Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and marks the beginning of the process.

Methodists do not have any requirements for the season, but suggestions do include giving up something for Lent.  Over the past few years, I found that adding something for Lent is another way to add focus to the season of reflection and evaluation.  In fact, one possibility is to carry your personal Bible to church each Sunday.

With that suggestion, I challenge each of you to bring your favorite translation with you during the remaining Sundays.  The scriptures provided are from the Message, but each one of us has our favorite language to read.  We may have a version with study notes that help us to hear the message.  Just bring your own Bible each Sunday; and during the week, read as often as possible.

Now that the challenge is issued, it is time to begin working through the discussion of “The Big E,” which is a subject that can strike horror in one’s psyche.  Evangelism has evolved into one of the scariest words in church language, and it is one that causes many to run away from the church.  Why?  Just what is evangelism?

Go back to Jesus’ greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-40:

37-40Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”  (The MSG)

The Greatest Commandment turns out to have two parts, really.  Love God, but then also love one another.

The question for our personal reflection is “How well are we following Jesus’ commandment?”  Stop and review what has happened over the past year.  Has there been a time when life got in the way of this command?  Has something hurt you causing you to focus on yourself rather than on others?  How many times have you recognized someone’s need and worked to meet that need?

These are tough questions and we are human.  So many times we walk right past someone in need—and we really do not see the need.  We pass right on by, caught up in our own thoughts.  The disciples wanted to understand how they were to know when they were following God’s laws.  The answer is found in Matthew 25, not just once, but repeated twice:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’   (the MSG)

The answer Jesus gave the disciples is the same answer he gives us today.  Look at those needs and then review whether or not you have served others in any of those ways.

This list is not complete, but it is a list that covers the basic needs of all humans:  food, shelter, and clothing, as well as healing for those who are sick or in prison.  Each of us surely can think of other times when we have identified a need and then worked to see that it is met.

How does the Big E fit into this discussion?  A definition of evangelism is needed.  Evangelism, according to the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, is ”. . . proclaiming the good news about God’s Kingdom and about Jesus the Christ . . . “  Those words sound familiar, and they echo the Great Commission as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20:

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”  (the MSG)

The echo continues to be heard across the centuries and nothing has changed Jesus’ instructions since then.  During this Lent, we need to include or possibly conclude our reflection with the question How well have we shared the good news with others?”  The Great Commission is Evangelism.

A language search makes the connection much clearer.  Evangelism is the gospel.  The gospel is the good news.  The good news is found in John 3:16:  “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  (the MSG)

The Big E should be the “Big Easy,” but in our harried, full, fast-paced lives we are frightened of evangelism as we think it is another job for us to do.  We see evangelism as imposing our views on someone else.  We see evangelism as a specific process to get others into church.  We do not know how we could possibly evangelize, as we do not have that talent.

These are reasons I know personally.  I did not get it.  I could not see how evangelism was something I could do.  I did not understand that evangelism as a process was simply living my faith openly.  Evangelism is easy; evangelism is Christian life.  What do we do to take fear out of that word—evangelism?

During the weeks of Lent, the Big E needs a makeover.  We need to conquer the fears that evangelism creates in our own minds and find ways to apply the gospel in our lives today.  Why the word evangelism did not even surface until the early to mid 1600s!  The word is certainly not as old as the faith, so surely we can tame it for our 21st century lives.

Evangelism can be studied and analyzed by theologians, but the simple fact is that evangelism needs to be as natural to us as breathing.  The question really becomes how do we share the love, the joy, and the peace that our faith provides us in all that we do in our earthly life.  How can we demonstrate to others the power of God when we just casually live with it?

First, review your own daily life.  Look at how your faith is woven into each and every little facet of the day.  As you prepare and eat a dinner, do you see God’s role in your life?  Is God in your life at work, whether in an office or out in the field?  When you look out at the birds, the sun, the thunderstorm, or the woods, do you see the wonder of God’s world?  In the doctor’s office, in a hospital, or even during a funeral, is God with you?

Second, think about the times you have been asked how you manage all that you do or have been through.  Don’t you say that you do it because of your faith?  Don’t you tell others that that is just life so you take it one day at a time—knowing that God is with you?  And, despite all that you are struggling to manage, when someone else is in trouble, don’t you put them first?  You are evangelizing.  You are living your faith.

As the Big E continues to loom over us, let’s continue with our personal reflection and a congregational discussion.  If living a Christian life is the good news, how can we share that with others?  Once you see the gospel in your life, now you will look outward seeing how to share it.  The final issue is defining the kingdom of heaven and then how to explain it to others.  This is our Lenten task.

Dear Loving Father,

Our lives are so full of family, work, and fun

     we are guilty of overlooking the Great Commission.

Forgive us for knowingly avoiding evangelizing.

Guide us through Lent as we review our own faith,

      as we struggle to understand our own good news.

Open our minds as we look at how our faith is evangelism

     and search for ways to openly share with others.

Teach us through the words of the Bible, the hymns,

      and the prayers how the Kingdom of Heaven

     was, is and will forever be available to all.

Thank you for this community of faith who join

     in worship, study and practice together.

Amen.

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