Sunday, May 24, 2009

Strategies for Evangelism in the Book of Acts

This evening at Binbrook Baptist Church, we are gathering to brainstorm strategies to reach the community around us for Christ. As we open I plan to offer the following devotional on evangelistic strategies from the book of Acts. I want our people to see that the Word and prayer are most important in the life of the local church, but that strategies can and ought to be creatively employed. Even though they are rough and unedited, I hope these notes may spur some thought in others as well. . .

Strategies For Evangelism in the Book of Acts

We are here tonight to brainstorm together, strategies for penetrating the community around us with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our hearts long for Christians who move to Binbrook to settle into a church family where they can serve and be served. If they do not yet have one, we’d love them to come to this church!
Our hearts long even more for unbelievers in Binbrook to be saved!
So we are here tonight to think together about strategic ways we can penetrate this community with the gospel.
I recognize that an evening like this is dangerous. It would be easy for us to rely too much on strategies and not enough on the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
But I also recognize that not having an evening like this could also be dangerous. It would be easy for us to assume that if we focus on the most important things - prayer and the Word - that we are focusing on everything that is important. This may not be the case.
In preparation for this evening I read through the book of Acts very quickly - to get the big picture and to notice some important details about strategies for evangelism modeled by the Apostles.
It is clear in Acts that people become Christians when God works! There is no replacement for this.
Acts 1:8 - you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.
Acts is full of witness to Christ using words, especially preaching.
The Holy Spirit working through the Word to bear witness to Christ is the essentials of every church. This is foundational, and central. There is no replacement for this.
Also in Acts you’ll see the following things result in masses of people becoming Christians:
A. Healing followed by a verbal explanation
B. Suffering
C. Boldness in the face of persecution
D. Scattering, followed by more witness
E. Fasting and Prayer
F. Etc
So as we talk about strategies, we must not begin to think they are most important.
But as you read Acts you’ll see that strategies do exist and they are important. They are not most important, but they are important.
Before we brainstorm together I want us to notice a few of these strategies for evangelism that are employed by the Apostles in the book of Acts:
I’ve boiled them down into four categories:
1. Language 2. Location 3. Leadership 4. Likeness

1. Language
*Peter and Paul tailored their messages to their specific audiences. They worked to make it understandable to the specific people they were speaking to.
Acts 2 = all Jews - preached Christ as the fulfillment of the OT. Explained from Old Testament:
Holy Spirit, Crucifixion of Christ; Resurrection of Christ
Acts 17 - all Greeks - began with the existence of God, quoted pagan poets and altars, got down to their level
Look at these other references to persuasive language for the specific audience in Acts:
Acts 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.
Acts 22:1-2 "Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you." And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet.

2. Location
Simply put, Paul looked for a place where he could gain a hearing.
When he entered a city he always went to the synagogue first. This was his pattern. He gave the Jews a chance to repent and believe. But as soon as they rejected him he creatively looked for a place to have a hearing among Gentiles.
Acts 19:8-10 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Also: Acts 16 - went looking for converts to Judaism - went outside the city, found women in prayer
Acts 17:16-19 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"--because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

3. Leadership
The Apostles were to focus on the Word of God and prayer. But there were practical needs in the churches. So:
Acts 6:1-7 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

4. Likeness
In Acts 15 there was a clear decision among Christians that circumcision was not required of converts. Paul and Timothy went out with this message and listen to what they did as they went:
Acts 16:1-4 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem.

*Even as they went out with this message, they circumcised Timothy so that they could gain a hearing among the Jews! They sought to look like the people they were ministering to. Or, more properly, they sought to remove as many stumbling blocks as possible, in order to gain a hearing for the gospel.

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