Pass the Word

2 Corinthians 4:13

Let me make a little confession to you: Every time I hear a preacher talk about how he started a conversation with the person sitting next to him in an airport and by the time they arrived at their destination they had finished a Bible study and he drove them to the nearest church and baptized them, I want to go up and smack him in the head with the biggest Bible I own.

I’ve been to the seminars, I’ve listened to the tapes, I’ve been convicted by the sermons on the unfruitful branches getting thrown into the fire. But it never gets easier – and I’m a preacher – I’m supposed to have nerves of steel – I should be able to walk up to anyone, anywhere and start a spiritual conversation that will lead them to Christ. But I can’t. That’s not me. I’m not the out-going extrovert who’s never met a stranger. Some of you are and that’s great – but that’s not me. I get butterflies over starting a conversation with someone I’ve never met. I agonize over starting a conversation with a stranger about spiritual things.

Now, don’t misunderstand. In the last 38 years that I’ve been a Christian, I’ve studied with and baptized over 350 people into Christ. But it’s never gotten easier. I still get that same queasy feeling I got as a 16 year old boy asking a girl out on a date, terrified she would look at me and laugh – and occasionally they did. So, you’ll understand if I don’t beat you over the head with my Bible and take you on a guilt trip about evangelizing your neighbors and co-workers.

But none of that changes the biblical imperative to take the gospel to the world. Jesus’ last words to his disciples were his marching orders – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

The example of the early church reaffirms the seriousness with which they took his command – on the day of Pentecost, 3000 were baptized and added to their number – a few weeks later the number was up to 5000 – by Acts 5, even though it had become dangerous to follow Christ, “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” By Acts 8, the opposition to the church had risen to a rabid level and Stephen was martyred, the church was scattered to the ends of the earth, but Luke makes this telling remark – “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” And the word spread and people were saved and lives were changed. And the church grew because people could not keep the good news to themselves.

Each of us is here this morning because someone cared enough about us to share the gospel with us. Some of you were raised in the church (for some of you it felt more like being jerked up!). Others, like myself, came to know Christ through the influence of some Christian who swallowed their fear long enough to say, “would you like to study the Bible?” And it wasn’t some stranger – it was a friend or co-worker or fellow student. It might have been a relative or neighbor who had known you for years. Perhaps some ministry in the church touched your life and provided an opportunity in your life for someone to talk to you about Jesus.

And something else I’m pretty sure about. You’re not a Christian today because you lost an argument with somebody – an office debate over “once saved always saved” or the scriptural-ness of non-instrumental music (“Well you got me there. I guess I’ll be baptized now.”) At the same time as you learned the truth in God’s Word, there was a relationship involved. It was someone’s personal involvement and interest in you that was as important, if not more important, than whatever biblical understanding you were gaining.

Am I right? You’re a Christian today because someone shared, not only the Word of God with you, but their life as well.

Let me let you in on a little secret – that’s how most of us became Christians. It wasn’t somebody’s slick presentation, it wasn’t a soul stirring gospel meeting, it wasn’t a door-knocking campaign – and there’s nothing wrong with any of those – people have been won to Christ through all of those. But the vast majority of us were brought to Christ by someone who knew us personally, who cared enough to bring us to the Lord. And aren’t you glad they did?

This morning we’re talking about the third of the four legs on the table – Relationships, Bible study, Service and today, Evangelism.

Life Groups are really the ideal setting to introduce someone to the church – in a comfortable, casual, non-confrontational setting. People who would never come with you to a church building will come to someone’s home for a small group Bible study. Gathered around in a circle in a living room instead of staring at the back of someone’s head. Interacting with others over an open Bible instead of passively listening to a preacher lecture (sounds better already!) Life Groups are an opportunity to do what Christ has empowered and called everyone of us to do.

I want to give you something to do – an assignment, if you will. How many of you have a friend or neighbor or co-worker or acquaintance who doesn’t have the Lord in their life? (No? You and I need to talk – you need to get out more!) Yes? I want you to invite them to come with you to your Life Group – just screw up your courage real tight, and say, “Hey Bob. I go to a small group Bible study on Sunday nights over at a friend’s house. We have a great time and there are some really neat people in our group. I’d like you to come to our next meeting.”

Now, not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, you can count on someone saying no. But you ask five people, and one of them will say yes. Take them to the Life Group meeting with you – and let the power of friendship evangelism take over.

What do I mean by friendship evangelism? I mean that people are drawn to Christ by the people they know. Bring your friend to a Life Group, introduce them to people who love the Lord, let them get a taste of what it means to be in a family of Christians who love each other and you will have opened the door wide open to having the good news of Christ shared with them.

And that doesn’t mean that our Life Groups are going to be intense evangelistic Bible studies. When you bring your friends, there isn’t going to be pressure put upon them. Nobody is going to confront them, and put them on the spot, and make them feel uncomfortable at being there. You won’t go away embarrassed that you brought them. Will there be a study of salvation? Yes, at the right time.

You may not yet have the skills or the confidence to lead them in a study of salvation, but you have everything it takes to introduce them to the Lord. You don’t have to be a polished speaker, you don’t have to have a slick presentation, you don’t have to have all the answers. All you need to do is let your faith speak up once in a while. Tell about what the Lord has done in your life.

You need to be like Andrew. We don’t know a lot about Andrew, but what the Bible tells us speaks volumes. Andrew wasn’t the answer man, but he knew who had the answers.
• Andrew was one of Jesus’ first two followers, John was the other one. And in John’s Gospel, he describes that first encounter – “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ And he brought him to Jesus.”
• Not too long after that, Jesus has 5000 people gathered on a hillside and he tells the disciples to feed the crowd. They all look at each other and talk about how impossible that would be – except for Andrew. Andrew finds a little boy with a sack lunch and brings him to Jesus. And you know the rest of that story.
• A group of Greeks come to Philip requesting to see Jesus. Philip goes and finds Andrew, and Andrew takes them to Jesus.

Do you see a pattern here? Andrew is always bringing people to Jesus. He’s not the powerful, outgoing preacher like his brother Peter will become. He will never, like Paul, boldly stand before a king and tell him to become a believer. But he quietly goes about bringing people to Jesus.

And let me tell you – there is no greater feeling in the world than having a part in leading someone to the Lord – having a part in their eternal salvation. Why is that? Because that’s what God created you for – Peter writes: “to declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Paul tells us we are “the aroma of Christ among those who are saved and those who are perishing.” As Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:13 “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.”

And I want to make this promise: If you bring a person to the Lord through your Life Group, they are going to remain a Christian. Why can I promise that? The power of relationships. Dr. Flavil Yeakley did a study of new Christians who left the church and those who remained faithful. The key factor was friendships. If in the first six months of becoming a Christian, a person established friendships with 7 people, that new Christian would remain faithful. The fewer friends a new Christian makes, the more increasingly likely it will be that he will leave the church. If he makes no friends at all, the chances are nearly 100% that he will not be around 6 months later.

Bring somebody with you to Life Group and you’re bringing them into a ready-made group of friends. And not just arms-length friends, but folks they can really get to know on a deep, spiritual level. That’s what we all hunger for, that’s where we can really connect. That’s where God wants us.

And if you do, what happened in Jerusalem in Acts 5 will have in Glenwood Springs in 2012, “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”