|LESSON 1||*March 31 – April 6|
|Defining Evangelism and Witnessing|
Read for This Week’s Study:
|Acts 4:33, 13:48, 1 John 1:3, Acts 13:1–49, 22:2–21, 1 Pet. 3:15.|
|“ ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ ” (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJV).|
|An employee often is given a “job description.” It’s a detailed account of expected duties.
The Bible also speaks about a “job description,” and in this case it’s one for God’s people. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV), the apostle Paul admonishes the Corinthian believers to “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” While Paul does not specify to what work he is referring, a similar phrase is used in 1 Corinthians 16:10, with reference to the work of the Lord done by Timothy and Paul in evangelism and witnessing about Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. Thus, Paul’s admonition in chapter fifteen certainly included the work of spreading the gospel.
This week we will explore what evangelism and witnessing actually are; in other words, we’ll seek to uncover our biblical “job description.”
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 7.
Evangelism Is . . . ?
We get a clear picture of what evangelism is as we review the activities of the first evangelists. Regardless of the major differences between their world and ours, both worlds were sinful, fallen, and in disrepair—thus in need of hope and salvation. More than a century ago, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer somewhat exaggeratedly (he wasn’t known as “the philosopher of pessimism” for nothing) expressed the human condition like this: “no one has ever lived who has not more than once wished that he did not have to live through the following day.”—The World as Will and Idea, p. 204. Little has changed since the apostle’s time, Schopenhauer’s, or during ours. Thus, the main points of the first century evangelistic preaching also should be the main points of ours today.
Read Acts 4:33, 5:42, 2:36–39, 7:56, 13:48. What are some specific themes about which the disciples preached that should be included in today’s evangelistic presentations?
To be an evangelist in any sense of the word, one must have personal understanding and experience of “the everlasting gospel.” It is this gospel that ultimately brings belief, confession, conversion, baptism and discipleship, and the promise of eternal life.
The Jewish leaders saw something in the boldness of the apostles that convinced them that the apostles had been with Jesus (see Acts 4:13). Most likely the leaders formed this conclusion because they were confronted with a group of men who seemed unable to talk about anything else but Jesus’ life and teachings. Evangelism and witnessing surely have to do with speaking about the life and teachings of Jesus, the difference those teachings and beliefs have made in the individual believer’s life, and the difference Jesus can make in anyone’s life if He is accepted as Lord and Savior.
It is important to view evangelism and witnessing as a continual process rather than as a single program or event. A vital part of the process is establishment and nurture. The word steadfastly in Acts 2:42indicates a strong commitment by the new believers to an ongoing strategy for their spiritual nurture. Clearly, the early church saw evangelism as much more than just the preaching of a message. Their evangelistic process was not complete until people became disciples and had been thoroughly incorporated into the local group of believers.
|Of all the gospel promises, which one offers you the most hope? How can you learn to cling to that promise and make it your own, no matter how difficult your circumstances?
Witnessing Is . . . ?
A witness is one who gives a testimony, one who attests to something that he or she knows from personal experience. A Christian’s personal testimony regarding the work of God in his or her life can be very powerful. On one occasion Jesus healed a demon-possessed man (see Mark 5:1–19). When the healed man wanted to follow Jesus, Jesus told him to: “ ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you’ ” (Mark 5:19, NKJV).
Without question, the short time that Jesus spent with this man was insufficient to tutor him in the art of teaching or preaching. Nevertheless, Jesus told him to witness about what he knew. That is why Jesus said to him, “ ‘Go and tell.’ ”
Read Mark 5:18–20; Acts 22:15-16; and 1 John 1:3. What common and important point is being made by all these texts?
God has given us the responsibility of sharing how He has changed our lives just as He did to the formerly demon- possessed man at Gadara and to His other followers.
Witnessing, that is, sharing one’s personal experience of God—all with the intention of encouraging others to accept Christ—is not necessarily as organized or as intentional as radio, television, or crusade evangelism. Being a witness can be very spontaneous given that the opportunity to share Jesus can arise anywhere at any time with anyone. We must, therefore, be ever alert for opportunities to share our knowledge and experience.
As to the relationship between witnessing and evangelism, we can say that they are each essentially different strategies for reaching the goal of winning souls for Christ. Witnessing is more spontaneous and short term, while evangelism tends to be more long term and intentional. Sometimes planned evangelism is enhanced by the personal witnessing of those involved, and sometimes spontaneous witnessing leads people into a more planned program. However it happens, both are a vital component in the overall process. When we share what Jesus has done for us, those who are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit will want to know more. It’s also a lot easier for people to argue against your doctrine, your theology, your beliefs. It’s not, however, so easy for them to argue against your own personal testimony.
The Biblical Evidence
The early believers, no doubt, had obstacles to overcome as they committed themselves to spreading the good news about Jesus. Not the least of these obstacles would have been that most were untrained in the religious schools of the day, and, therefore, would have had little or no credibility in the eyes of the established church.
Nevertheless, in spite of all obstacles, the apostles and other believers felt strongly called by God to continue in evangelism and witnessing. The blessings of forgiveness and assurance that they had personally experienced compelled them to share. Witnessing was a natural result of conversion.
Read Acts 13:1–49. What work did the Holy Spirit call Barnabas and Saul to do?
The “Word of God” that was preached everywhere most certainly included the messianic passages of the Old Testament. Those Scriptures that foretold the death and resurrection of the Savior, and His consequent forgiveness and justification of sinners, were presented as being fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
The New Testament clearly reveals what the early believers committed themselves to preaching and sharing. Among their regularly emphasized main points were Jesus as Lord and Christ, salvation through His righteousness, the coming kingdom of God, and the promise of eternal life.
Study Acts 6:1–7. Focus particularly on verses 4 and 7. What enabled the early church to have so much evangelistic success with the professional clergy in Jerusalem?
Many people believed in Jesus and accepted Him as their personal Savior because of the testimonies of believers who shared their own life-changing experiences and not simply because people had observed miraculous events.
Telling Our Stories
As stated earlier, the most powerful witnessing a believer can do for Jesus is to share his or her personal testimony. That is, the sharing of what God has done for me and how He has affected my life and experience. Usually a personal testimony is expressed in three distinct sections. The first part is a short review of the believer’s life before accepting Jesus as personal Savior. The second part is an explanation of how the person met the Lord. The third is a declaration of the life experience after getting to know Jesus.
Read through Acts 22:2–21. Paul’s defense speech before the Jerusalem council is in the form of a personal testimony. What were some of the points he made in each section of his testimony?
His life before he knew the Lord Jesus (vss. 3–5):
How he met the Lord (vss. 6–16):
His life experience after his conversion (vss. 17–21):
Even if you were raised in a Christian home and did not experience a dramatic conversion experience, you certainly had a special time when you made your personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Think back on your experience and write out some points that will help to form your own personal testimony.
My life before I knew the Lord Jesus (or before I made a commitment to Him):
How I met Jesus (or what influenced my commitment to Him):
My life after I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior:
A personal testimony should not be a long and detailed autobiography. We mentioned earlier that witnessing is a more spontaneous way of sharing Jesus than is a planned evangelistic approach. Christians should be able to give their testimony in a short space of time, because we don’t know when the opportunity may arise to speak of Jesus. It could be in any number of unplanned places and times. It may be on a plane or at a bus stop. It may be during a short telephone call. However the situation arises, we should be ready and willing to speak about what the Lord has done for us, what reasons we have for our faith, and the hope that God offers not just to us but to others.
|Consider the eternal difference between the lost and the saved, between eternal death and eternal life. In the long run, what else really matters?
Our Job Description
Read 1 Peter 3:15. What is this text teaching us about witnessing? How does it fit in with what we have been looking at so far?
By now we have considered evangelism and witnessing sufficiently in order to be able to suggest what we deem as an adequate biblical job description. We don’t need to create a definition of evangelism and witnessing that everyone agrees with in every detail, but we must make sure that any definition that we accept includes the essential ingredients of sharing the truth about Jesus and what He offers the world.
Consider the following definition of evangelism. Do you consider it an adequate definition? What would you add or take away? Evangelism is the process of clearly and persuasively proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ so that individuals will accept Him as their personal Savior and follow Him as Lord in order to become disciples and disciple makers.
While a definition of a task is not necessarily a detailed job description, it does give some overall guidance. Of course, when it comes to witnessing, the individual situation and the believer’s own experience with God will determine the approach. However, an understanding of God’s desire to reach a lost world through His church will cause us to consider a planned approach to witnessing and evangelism.
The rapid growth of the early church was due in no small part to the conviction and commitment of its members. This in turn was based upon their personal experiences with Jesus and the special empowering outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The teachings of Jesus Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit remain basic and crucial to all witnessing and evangelism.
“Thousands can be reached in the most simple, humble way. The most intellectual, those who are looked upon as the world’s most gifted men and women, are often refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God, and who can speak of that love as naturally as the worldling speaks of the things that interest him most deeply. Often the words well prepared and studied have but little influence. But the true, honest expression of a son or daughter of God, spoken in natural simplicity, has power to open the door to hearts that have long been closed against Christ and His love.”—Ellen G. White, The Colporteur Evangelist, p. 38.
|I N S I D E Story|
|Sharing God’s Love in ChinaDeng
Deng is a Global Mission pioneer in eastern China. She dreamed of starting a house church in her elderly mother’s home in a village with no Adventist church. Deng traveled to the village twice a week to share God’s love with her mother’s neighbors.
She ministered to the elderly and the sick whom she met during her neighborhood visits, and then she invited them to hear God’s message of love. A little group began meeting in Deng’s mother’s home, and within a year some 40 people came. They crowded into the small home, filling every available space.
Someone complained to the authorities about the unauthorized meetings in Deng’s mother’s house, and the police shut down the house church. Deng went to the government and explained that she was helping the people. “Some are old, and others were sick; they have no one to care for their needs. Go and ask them who is caring for them,” she challenged.
The local people begged the police not to close down the church. “Deng is a good person. She is helping us,” they said. The police allowed the house church to continue meeting while Deng sought formal permission to find a church in which to worship.
The church members found a small house to rent and converted it into a church. But soon it, too, was too small. But when Deng asked for land on which to build a church, the local authorities couldn’t help her.
The congregation found an old movie house for sale, and Deng requested permission to buy it. But she learned that a businessman wanted it and could afford to pay far more than Deng’s congregation. The believers prayed that God would influence the government to let them buy the building. But the price rose, and the congregation had to release its bid to buy the cinema.
Deng felt impressed to return to the government and ask them to intervene with the businessman to let the church buy the cinema. The official explained Deng’s work in the village to the businessman, and he withdrew his bid to buy the building.
Deng’s congregation didn’t have the money to buy the building, but the 46 Adventist churches in the region agreed to help buy the cinema. Within two years the little congregation grew to some 150 people.
Global Mission pioneers such as Deng work in many regions of China and throughout the unreached world, sharing God’s love and reaching souls who otherwise might never hear the message of salvation. Your mission offerings support the work of Global Mission. To meet more Global Mission pioneers, visit www.Global-Mission.org.
Deng is a Global Mission pioneer working in eastern China.
|Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.
email: email@example.com website: www.adventistmission.org