Mission Refresh

Even when we’re scattered, the fountain of opportunities for witnessing never runs dry.

This post was adapted from a message given by Matt Gorr,
a preacher at Grandview Christian Assembly

Yes, this is a post about sharing your faith with people.  Before you get sweaty palms, and click out of here, I assure you I share the same feelings of disquiet.  Not long ago I was with a person I see regularly, and overheard him tell someone else, “I just can’t believe in a God who would do some of those things in the Old Testament.”  I had a visceral reaction, and suddenly wanted to enter battle with the guy.  As someone who studies the Bible, I knew all the sort of things I could say.  My second reaction though, was one of resignation:  Just put the sword away.  I don’t want to bother with this right now.  A lot of us have the same experience, and bypass an opportunity to share our faith because we don’t want to risk an argument, and possibly wreck a relationship.  

You’ve had these kinds of conversations before, and they weren’t fruitful.  

Maybe you think your words won’t mean anything, that nothing you could ever say to your friend, or family member, or that stranger, would have any weight to it.  There’s no way you’re going to change their mind, or bring them to Christ, so that must mean you’re not the person for the job.  Maybe you don’t want to be the one to rain on their parade.  They’ve gone their whole lives thinking and doing and being something, and here you come, saying, “Let me tell you the truth here. I think you’re wrong.”   

During the pandemic, we have an even better reason for not sharing the gospel with others.   After all, we’re distanced from people in general with the exception of some friends or family.  Who are we going to share the gospel with?  Many of us are working from home, or quarantining, so we’re not out and about.  And our neighbors are doing the same.  

Talk about barriers.  

Yet when we gather in whatever capacity, even if it’s only with a few in a living room, the Lord is there to enliven our spirit and refresh our mission toward others.  This doesn’t come by self will, or some intense religious training, but through the Holy Spirit given by Christ.  

Check out John chapter 20, verses 19 through 23, the night of the resurrection.  Jesus appeared to the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit, not just for their own enjoyment, but to enable them to go forth on their mission to bring the gospel to the world.   

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors from people who just a few days prior had crucified their Lord.  But then Christ appeared to them, announcing peace.  He didn’t tell them everything was going to be fine, and that they could unlock the door.  Rather, He comforted them by showing them the wounds on His hands and side, demonstrating His resurrection.  This brought them great peace.  

They’d been following him for the last several years and had seen Him make claims to be God.  He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  He forgave sins with authority.  Now as a resurrected man He stood there before them showing the truth of those claims.  You can imagine what gladness and peace came over them.  

The lyricist for Jesus Christ Superstar, Tim Rice, was not himself a believer.   When asked why he collaborated to tell stories from the Bible, Rice said he would rather tell a story that was true, rather than a fictitious one.  Yet Jesus Christ Superstar ends with the cross, not resurrection.  At best the musical became an unchristian message, for resurrection is central to our faith.  Paul pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 15:17, when he said, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  He also adds, If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (v. 19).  But on that evening in the room, those disciples were far from pitiful.  They had become the recipients of great news.  

The resurrection of Christ proved all that He said was true.  Romans 4:25 says that Christ “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”   His rising validated His work on the cross to deal with sin.  That makes our gospel a peace-bringing message. 

Continuing back to John 20,

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (vv. 21-22). 

The disciples had heard and witnessed that their Lord was was resurrected, but He went on to give them something—the Holy Spirit.  This gift would make their message more than words humanly powered.  It would give them power and divine reality.  

Consider Peter, who denied the Lord three times.  Later, he witnessed the resurrected Christ, and received the Holy Spirit.  He would go on to be arrested for healing a man and preaching the gospel.  That meant being taken before the very Jewish leaders he had previously feared.  But it says in Acts chapter 4, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Rather than run away, compromise, or try to try to get out of this moment of witness, Peter preached the gospel to them. 

Not only did he not deny Christ, but he said to them, This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (vv. 11-13). 

The apostle’s impact came not from education, but through having been with Jesus and receiving the missional power of the Holy Spirit.  The power of our own outreach also comes through this means.    

When we think of outreach, it’s easy to consider it something we owe Jesus.  Because we’ve been enjoying salvation benefits, we reason, now it’s time to preach the gospel, and therefore “give back.”  But it’s actually more than that.  The very desire to witness, to be sent, is inspired by the Holy Spirit.    

Furthermore, this gospel of peace is a message not of fighting, but forgiveness.  In verse 23, Jesus continues, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”  Peter adds to this thought, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).  When the punchline of the message is forgiveness of sins, we know we’re dealing with a message of peace. 

This is not the same as self-help Christianity.  That’s when you think of the gospel primarily as a tool to solve one’s problems.  Jesus can do that, of course, but an emphasis of that type actually misses true peace with God.  The Lord sent us to promise people forgiveness of sins, not the elimination of their hardships.   Nor is the gospel merely about situating oneself in a good faith community—finding a church, we call it.  Too many people sit in pews, while still being short of redemptive peace.  Nothing short of the forgiveness of sins will do.    

As for the friend I mentioned earlier, he must have seen me twitch when he brought up his disdain for God, and so he brought it up again.  This time, rather than opt out, or enter combat with him, I just started asking him questions.  We entered into a productive discussion, free of swordplay.  I wish I could say that he accepted the Lord and now he’s following Jesus, but I think it’s going to take a little more time.  I’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit to send me into more conversations with my friend.  

How do we share our faith with others during the current pandemic, when we’re with so few people?  Well, first, think of the people you’re still around—family, friends, neighbors.  Talk  to the Lord about them, that you would love for them to know Christ, to have forgiveness of sins.  The Holy Spirit will lead. 

Maybe you can arrange a conversation over coffee.  Be a resource.  Say, “Hey I’ve thought about something you said, and found an interesting passage in a book on that very subject.”  It might be the Bible, or simply another helpful volume you’ve been reading.  Remember, we want to keep our friends engaged, without allowing them to give up.

Or here’s something radical, emerging right out of the pandemic, and that’s inviting someone over to watch church with you.  There are no more barriers in an invitation of that kind—no imposing religious structures, or large crowds for your friend to overcome.  Afterwards, you could sit there over snacks and field simple questions.  Take cues from their own curiosity that will keep the gospel moving.

Though it seems like a lot of our gospel strategies have been disabled, in fact we’re discovering new opportunities. 

Germs can’t stop the fact that we’ve been sent.  

   

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