June 2017           "A Journal of Biblical Understanding"           Volume 14           

(Daniel 4:25)
" ... and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."


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REALITIES OF 21ST CENTURY EVANGELISM

During the Cold War, President Reagan gave what is now a famous speech. It was actually written by Peggy Noonan, but Ronald Reagan will always be remembered for the inspiring words he spoke when he referred to the United States as a "shining city on the hill." He proclaimed America to be a place where the whole world looked for inspiration when it came to blessings such as freedom, justice, and liberty.

When the world looks at God's Church, they should see each congregation as a shining city on the hill. When the world looks at us, they should perceive our actions as benign, beneficial, and beautiful. Today, there seems to be considerable discussion within the body of Christ regarding the subject of evangelism. I read about it in church publications and on the Internet. I hear it in conversation and sermons. God's people are genuinely desirous of letting their lights shine and preaching the gospel of Jesus to the unchurched.

When talking about evangelism, it is important that we start from four premises:

The FIRST premise is that we must acknowledge that many of God's people are already doing good works. Many, if not most, independent Sabbath-keeping congregations today work hard to selflessly help others in their communities. So many of our folks are reaching out with programs such as:

• assisting women's shelters,
• taking food to the hungry,
• visiting the sick
• donating clothing
• giving blood

You already know what you are accomplishing individually and what your congregation is doing collectively. If that is the case, why are we discussing evangelism? There are a couple of reasons:

One is that, no matter what we do, we should always evaluate our progress to see if we can do better.

The other reason is that, at this time, there is a considerable yearning in the Churches of God to do more to share the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God. And this is good because there should always be room for more discussions on evangelism. This topic should be a big part of our daily Christian lives

"there is a considerable yearning in the Churches of God to do more to share the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God."

The SECOND premise is that evangelism is not easy. If evangelism were easy, everyone would have congregations with thousands of people. Evangelism is difficult. There are no shortcuts. The only formula for easy success that I know of has been exposed because so many people have already used it. That formula says this: "You can evangelize and you can bring many people into your organization, if you lie to them. You can say things like, 'This church is the only place where you can get the Holy Spirit.' Or you can say,' Jesus is going to return on a certain date and you'll be better off with our group so you can be prepared for His coming.' Or you can say, 'Our leader has a unique approach to understanding world events and prophecy so you are better off in our organization listening to him while he is doing the Work of God.' "

But, again, this formula is based on lies because no organization has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit; no man knows the time or date of Jesus' return; and no one can claim to be doing "The Work."

So, if we are going to evangelize with integrity, we must realize from the get-go that our task is not easy. There are no shortcuts.

The THIRD premise is that the pastor cannot evangelize by himself. In other words, he can't do it alone. Many of us used to believe that preaching the Gospel was limited to a very few people. We now know that this belief is totally impractical in our small congregations today. Even if you have a pastor who serves your local group, there is no way you can say, "Pastor, you have our prayers. You have our moral support. You have our backing. Now go forth and evangelize while we cheer you on." It doesn't work that way. Your pastor probably already holds a regular, full-time job in business or industry. Serving your congregation and providing for his family already take up a lot of his time. Evangelism requires active congregation involvement.

And one of the reasons the old model of evangelism won't work in today's churches is because every local pastor should be following what Paul taught in II Cor 1:24.

"Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand."

Some Sabbath-keeping church organizations have a Roman-type government where the pastor has only a few people who report directly to him. These few people then have other people who report to them. On and on it goes. It's a pyramid form of government which is unbiblical. If your congregation practiced this type of church government, it would allow your pastor to delegate many of your needs to his subordinates. Then he'd have considerable free time to evangelize. But hopefully, your pastor doesn't operate that way. Hopefully, he is constantly visiting the sick, comforting the needy, helping the less fortunate, and personally assisting you in your life. And this is the way it's supposed to be. Your pastor should be a helper of your joy.

And, as long as your pastor is going to operate as taught by Paul in II Corinthians 1:24, we can't say, "Ok pastor, go preach the gospel to all nations." No, he's probably got plenty to do already. Any new projects in the area of evangelism need to be done on a congregational level.

The FOURTH premise is that we have an obligation to share. No Christian should ever have an attitude which says, "We've got everything we need here; let's just sit back and enjoy ourselves." Hopefully, everyone who has the Holy Spirit says, "God has given us great, great blessings and we must share them with others." Hopefully, there is a restlessness within our souls—a restlessness which burns inside us and pushes us every day to share the wonderful truths that God has given us.

When discussing evangelism, it is not uncommon to hear someone say, "Wait a minute. For years in the church, we were wrongly taught from Matt 24." In the old days, we were taught incorrectly regarding the Olivet Prophecy-especially on verse 14 which says: And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Someone says, "We were told for decades that this was the Great Commission and that we had to suborn everything we had to an organization because this was supposedly a commandment for us to promote the message of 'give vs. get' to third-world dictators. And we were told wrong."

Yes, these folks are correct. Matt 24:14 is not a commission, it is a prophecy. And nowhere in Matt 24 are we told that it is the job of the church to preach the gospel to all nations. It was wrong for an organization to teach this, but they did.

So, for the sake of argument, let's forget about Matt 24:14 for the time being and instead look at Matt 28:18-20. These are the last three verses of the Gospel of Matthew.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Notice two things:
First, we are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel. It is not an option. It is a commandment.

Second, Jesus says to teach "ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you.' What did Jesus teach? Some say, "The doctrines of Jesus are just love and accepting His name." No, it is more than that. In the Gospel of Mark alone, we see the following doctrines of Jesus:

demons (1:23)
healing (1:30)
outreach (2:15)
Sabbath-keeping (2:23)
ordaining (3:14)
blasphemy (3:24)
Kingdom of God (4:11)
Satan (4:15)
laying on of hands (5:23)
resurrection (5:42)
faith (6:8)
love (6:34)
law (7:1)
ten commandments (7:21-10:19)
holy spirit (9:1)
three days and three nights (9:31)
ministers (9:35-19:43)
repentance (9:43)
hell (9:45)
divorce and remarriage (10:3)
millennium (10:21)
baptism (10:39)
Passover (10:34)

"we are commanded by Jesus to preach the gospel. It is not an option. It is a commandment."

In the book of Mark alone, we see at least 24 doctrines of Jesus! There are probably more. And we still haven't even covered the doctrines He taught in the other three Gospels.

So again, in Matthew 28 we have a command by Jesus to preach the Gospel. In addition, He tells us to teach people to observe all the things He taught the disciples—things which were based on the entire Old Testament.

And this shouldn't surprise us. Because we find the beginnings of the Gospel taught even in the Torah! We see that Moses preaches the Gospel from the get-go in his first words of what we call the book of Genesis. The ink is barely dry from his writing "in a beginning God created the heavens and the earth" when Moses starts talking about God's master plan for mankind!

Notice Gen 1:26
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Again, here in the very first chapter of the Bible, we read of God's plan to create the God-family. This is part of the good news of the kingdom of God.

Then we see a few chapters later that there's going to be a Redeemer who puts this God-family plan into action.

In Genesis 3:15, God says,
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and you shall bruise his heel.

This is what scholars call the "prot-evengelium." Prot-meaning before or early. Evangelium meaning preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God on this earth. So prot-evangelium simply means the earliest preaching of the Gospel.

Gen 3:15 talks about God's plan that His seed (Christ) will be wounded by Satan's followers, that is, the pagan Roman kingdom will temporarily kill the Messiah. But that Messiah will (in the end) completely destroy Satan's kingdoms forever and ever.

This message in Genesis is another relating the prophecy we find in Daniel 2 where we read about an image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of clay. This image represents the great pagan kingdoms of Chaldea, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Daniel 2:35 gives us the magnificent prophecy of what Jesus is going to do to these great kingdoms when He returns:

"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."

And what does this stone represent? Our savior Jesus, whose kingdom will encompass the whole earth. And then later remember that Jesus does a play on words with Peter where He basically tells Peter, "You are a little piece of gravel-a pebble. But I am a petra-a great mountain boulder."

So, getting back to our instruction to preach the Gospel in Matthew 28, we find that Jesus wants us not to just teach His love and His name. He wants us not to just teach that He will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It's more. He wants us to teach all the precious and wonderful truths that we have been given-all His doctrines that we find in His written Word-all the admonitions for how we are to live our lives-admonitions which are interspersed in Scripture along with prophecies of the Kingdom found all throughout the Bible. Matthew 28 tells us we should never be one-dimensional in our teachings about Jesus.

Listed below are four lessons I've learned about evangelism. Am I an expert in evangelism? Oh no. But I have learned a few things about it over the years. And here is what I know based on my experience:

Number 1, when you evangelize, you don't always see the results of your labors immediately. Sometimes you work real hard to evangelize and you don't see fruits until months or even years later. Here is an example.

Years ago, a small congregation in Texas was going to attempt local evangelism. They placed an advertisement in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. And it wasn't cheap. It cost them about $200 back then in the 80s. As a result, some folks in the congregation complained rather loudly about spending this sum of money on just one ad. In spite of the nay-sayers, the group stepped out in faith. For several weeks after the ad appeared, you might have already guessed what happened. Nothing. And the nay-sayers said, "See? We told you not to do this. Think of what we could have done with that $200." This went on for several more months.

However, unbeknownst to the group, a guy named Hank (not his real name) had read the ad. Hank was busy at the time the ad was published and he didn't have time to call the number printed in the ad. So he cut the ad out of the paper and put it in his wallet.

Over a year later, Hank was going through his wallet and found the old ad. By then it was crumpled and torn and barely readable. But he was able to make out the phone number and he dialed it. Soon Hank and his wife were attending Sabbath services. They are part of the Church of God today-almost 20 years after finding a small ad in the Forth Worth Star Telegraph.

The second thing I've learned over the years is that you may NEVER see the results of your evangelism.

Never. Because you don't know what God has done as a result of your efforts.

Let me give you an example:
Years ago, I was going through some old issues of the Bible Advocate and I ran across an article which appeared in the November 1963 issue. Here is what was written:

"Over 82 years ago, a stranger came to my grandfather's home. (That would have been in 1881.) He discussed the Bible with Grandfather, and as a result of this visit, Grandfather accepted the truth (of the)...seventh day Sabbath.

"The other day, my mother and I were discussing this and we counted the number of persons who became followers of Christ as a result of that one visit by a stranger. It was hard for us to believe, but the total of the ones we know about who joined the Church of God down through the years, is a surprising sum of 66.

"I very much doubt that the stranger ever knew that my grandfather accepted and lived by this new doctrine to which he gave testimony. (Further), I do not know this stranger's name or where he was from. I only know he witnessed for God; and although I cannot call him by name, the heavenly Father knows and will reward him in the coming Kingdom...

"His visit to my grandfather's home was a seed planting that grew and grew and grew. In fact, it is still growing today as succeeding generations are born and grow up to accept Christ and the truth of God's Word...

"(The stranger probably died)...not realizing that the seed he sowed took root in the hearts of hearers and brought forth fruit.

"Are you discouraged when you see no visible results from the efforts you exert in the interest of spreading the gospel? This brief account ought to be sufficient to keep you encouraged. You can only plant and water the seed, but it is God who affects the increase, as Paul said in I Cor 3:6.

"Are you discouraged when you can see no visible results from the (financial) support you give the church? So was I at times in the past, but I doubt I will ever again become discouraged. What if we can see no results? In Ecc 11:1 we are commanded—Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days." This is a promise as well as a command.

"Perhaps it will not be during our lifetime that we will see results of our efforts to sow seed, but results will come. Our goal should be to reach as many as we possibly can with the truth, and then trust our heavenly Father for the increase.

"Since I learned how my grandfather found the truth, it makes me more determined than ever to TELL the blessed story of our Saviour, and to "SEND every piece of literature I possibly can so it will reach those whose hearts might be ready.

"How do we know when the seed we sow will fall onto good ground and multiply over and over? WE MAY NEVER KNOW UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS, AND THEN HOW WONDERFUL TO FIND THAT THE SEED SOWN IN TEARS WILL BE REAPED IN JOY."

And this is the way it should be because our main goal in evangelism should never be to increase the numbers of people in a certain corporation. Our main goal in evangelism should be bringing people to Christ.

The third lesson I've learned regarding evangelism is that it's important to understand what evangelism is and isn't. What if we put a lot of time and effort into trying to convince a person to leave one Sabbath-keeping COG organization and go fellowship with another? That's not evangelism. That's not preaching Christ to the unconverted. That's only moving sheep from one pasture to another.

It's important that we know our target market There are two groups that we should evangelize.

The first consists of those who do not know Jesus-those who believe that Jesus was the son who did away with his father's law, who was born on December 25th, who died on a cross on Friday, who was resurrected on Easter Sunday, who would have you eat unclean animals. If someone believes in this false Jesus, we have the Gospel of the Kingdom of God for them. That's our first group.

The second group consists of those who once believed in the true Jesus of the Bible, but left that truth because of sins and other problems in man-made organizations. Presently, there are thousands of these unfortunate souls out there who need the Gospel of Jesus just as much now as when God called them years ago. They need to be with us. They need our fellowship and our love. They need to be shown that they can find happiness within our congregations.

But are people from either of these two groups just going to show up at our doors? You know they probably won't. You already know that, if we want them here, we've got to come up with ways to get them here. If we want souls, we've got to become fishers of men! And notice that I said,'"IF" we want them. Someone says, "Of course we want them. Everyone wants them."

No, that's not necessarily true. I have found that there are some people in the Churches of God who do not want new people brought in! Here are some reasons:
—Some people in church get into a routine that they enjoy. They come to church every Sabbath and get used to seeing the same folks week after week after week. They get comfortable with those same people. And bringing in new people disrupts their routine.
—Some people in church don't like the responsibility that comes with bringing in new people. They don't like dealing with other people's problems. They're afraid someone is going to come into the congregation with a different viewpoint on church administration or doctrine.
—And then there are church leaders who actually don't want knew people. Yes, I have actually known church leaders who do not want people baptized and brought into the church. I was in a group once which had this attitude. I know it sounds crazy, but here is how it was explained to me:
"You know, we can attract the attention of people and get them on our mailing list. And we can send them magazines and tapes. And they can learn from our broadcasts. But if we bring them into the church, it seems like they get disillusioned and leave. We never hear from them again and then we're not getting any money from them. So we would have been better off not inviting them to church. At least back then, they'd send us money."

These attitudes really exist. I've seen them.

For those who expected this article to discuss the pro's and con's of radio, TV, newspapers, fliers, door-to-door efforts, etc., I apologize. I don't have all the answers. No one does. This topic needs to be prayed about by all of God's people. It needs to be discussed on a regular basis.

I've always felt that preaching the Gospel is like keeping the Sabbath.

I've always felt that preaching the Gospel is like keeping the Sabbath. When it comes to the Sabbath, God's Word says basically two things: Don't work and don't forget to fellowship. When it comes to preaching the Gospel, God's Word basically says to just do it. It doesn't give us any specifics about how to find target markets, how to do demographic studies, a list of things to do once you've made initial contact, etc. If we want to evangelize, it will have to be something that we learn together as brethren as the HS guides and inspires us.

When it comes to evangelism, no one can tell others what they must do. Everyone in God's Church answers only to the Eternal when it comes to doing good works. But there is one thing that everyone has the responsibility to do. It is everyone's job, your job, my job to make sure that we all welcome new people who visit us at worship services. Every visitor to our congregation should be warmly greeted. If you ever see a stranger come in or someone who hasn't been here for a while, it is your job to show love to that person. If a person ever visits your group and ends up just standing around while we chat with our friends, someone has failed to do his part in the evangelizing process.

Evangelism is not an easy subject to understand This is not a slam dunk easy thing. We've got a lot to learn and a lot to unlearn on this subject.

So let's make sure that we all go before the throne of God regularly-asking our Father to guide and direct us in our efforts to obey Jesus when he said to teach all the things that He commanded. Let's please our heavenly Father and our elder brother by being the shining city on a hill-letting our lights shine brightly into Satan's world of darkness.

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