A seminar on evangelism was being addressed by well known, very experienced leader and preacher from the USA, whose intense focus on training people in evangelism exceded almost anyone else I am aware of.
He spoke with an enthusiasm which is often not seen. It wasn't that apparent enthusiasm which comes from inexperience, and often seen in many a young preacher, like an excited yappy puppy with far too much energy. No! It was an enthusiasm which came from much experience in seeing the fruit of his endeavors.
He came to a point in his talk where he addressed the issue of what causes evangelism to be more difficult than it ought to be. It wasn't the evil one, it wasn't that the unbeliever was ignorant of Christian things.
The biggest hurdle to overcome was the fact that the unbeliever DID know a Christian or Christians!
Many times I had heard the comment, “No! I don't want to talk about those things. My experience with Christians (often very specific comments) has been enough to make me not want to be one.”
Alan Knox has been talking about the Truly Local Church and there is some discussion regarding how such a group should meet in the local area, such as in a home.
I have been reminded of what another great old servant of Christ , who is deceased, Dr.David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who has written a book “Studies on the Sermon on the Mount”, which has a large bearing upon our attitude in meeting in our homes which are generally surrounded by unbelievers.
He describes the Sermon on the Mount thus: "The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not to be regarded as a law- a kind of new ‘Ten Commandments’ or set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us-but rather as a description of what we Christians are meant to be" .
He declares that we, “constantly have to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes”
How I wish I had taken that advice as a young elder,pastor,teacher! Even if I had heard it, like many other bright young folk, I probably would have thought it the simple ramblings of a fellow past his use-by-date!
From where I sit today his words have so much wisdom in them!
We need to be reminded that, regardless of our educational qualifications, our knowledge, our enthusiasm, zeal and bold confidence, we are to “remind myself daily that I am to be poor in spirit, merciful,meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on”.
He goes on to say, “In everything I do and say, I am to be like the man I see in the beatitudes”
All who knew the Godly author would say he reflected the very spirit of the Beatitudes, and that he knew what he was talking about.
You see, he lived what he taught, “But, not only are we to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, we are to live accordingly. What does this mean? It means we are to avoid everything that is opposed to this character, we are to be entirely unlike the world. It is a tragic thing to me that so many Christians, because they do not want to be different, or to suffer persecution, seem to be living as near as they can to the world. But this is a contradiction in terms. There is no mean between light and darkness; it is either the one or the other, and there is no communion between. Either it is light or it is not.........”.
In response to a comment on Alan's blog regarding complaints from neighbours, I said, “ I would complain on behalf of the community, if, as we have witnessed, a group seemed to believe it had a divine right to fill the street with cars, assume that "worship" must be accompanied by as much noise as they pleased, allowing children to run riot while the parents met.
I have strong convictions that local congregation meetings in homes ARE the right way to go, but, as members of a secular community we must bend over backwards to show love and consideration towards them (unbelievers).” “ ........over a period of 10 years of no complaints, that regardless of the make-up of the community, respect for others, good manners and moderation in all behavior are well regarded. “
During those ten years God drew many into His Kingdom , and some wonderful testimonies of His gracious working in the lives of older believers, mine included, have been shared.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The world is becoming more rude; rougher,uglier,louder. I think we all agree with that.” But it is clear that what passes for Christianity is also becoming more rude; rougher, uglier and louder and the world around us are not slow to notice.
As our author suggests, it is far too easy to say,”I'm a follower of Christ” , loudly proclaiming the benefits, and in the same heartbeat be rude and inconsiderate of those around us.
“We are to be humble, peaceable, peacemaking in all our talk and behaviour, and especially in our reactions to the behaviours of other persons. I believe that the individual Christian is having a greater opportunity today than he has had for many a century, owing to the whole state of the world and of society. I believe that people are watching us very closely because we claim to be Christian; and they are watching our reactions to people and to the things they say and do to us. Do we flare up? The non-Christian does; the Christian should not. He is like the man in the Beatitudes, so he reacts differently. And when confronted with world events, with wars and rumours of wars, with calamities, pestilences and all these other things, he is not overanxious, troubled and irritable. The world is; the Christian is not. He is essentially different.”
Far too many claiming to be Christians are mimicing, and emulating the ways of a lost world.
Two of Jesus illustrations of the life He initiated were salt and light.
Salt doesn't mimic the food in which it is placed, it enhances and, sometimes makes the food vastly more pleasant.
The same with light, it doesn't emulate darkness, it disperses darkness, and yet we have those who claim to be Christians who think that they have a mandate to inconvenience the neighbors in their area with the clutter of cars, unruly behavior of their children and the noise of their singing. Many seem to have found a verse of Scripture which says that God is deaf.
Our God is much more interested in the state of our heart, which is reflected in the character revealed in our daily lives. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt.5:16)
The genuine Christian never draws attention to himself. Genuine poverty of spirit means that self has last call on our plans, desires,and inclinations, that our first concern is to reflect the Christ who denied Himself for us, before a lost community, seeking to serve them, not antagonise them, to love them, not disregard them.
At the same time we must have great sorrow in our hearts for the lost, not despise them. They are lost, and don't know it. We must have concern for them, not ourselves. We must have compassion for them, not contempt.
It is so very true that the reason some don't want to hear about the saving work of Jesus, is because the DO know one or more, who claim to be Christian, who are loud, bombastic, inconsiderate of others, arrogant about their spirituality, who love to display their great learning!
I have known very quiet people who, some claimed Christians deride as simpletons and dumb mice, yet make such an impact for the Kingdom of God that they leave those who know utterly amazed at the fruit of their, almost underground, ministry of God's grace in Jesus Christ.
I am reminded of a story told about Alexander the Great. The great soldier had sent out a conscription party. One young man had hidden in a cave to escape conscription. He was brought before Alexander, who demanded to know his name. The young man whispered tentatively,
“A -a-a lexander.”
Alexander the Great drew himself up to his full stature and exploded, “WHAT!!”
The young man again said, “A -a lexander, sir”
Alexander the Great, in full voice, said, “Young man! Change your ways, or change your name!”
Our Commander in Chief says, “Christian! Change your ways, or change your name!”