TRA 10th November, 2002
Catching People For Christ
The major purpose behind the existence of the Christian church is to extend the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. The church is the gathered body of believers who serve the purposes of the Kingdom. Our main tasks as members of the church are to worship God and glorify Him. We then have the task of bringing other people to also acknowledge Him and to find salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life: the benefits of belonging to His Kingdom. This task of bringing others to acknowledge Him is called evangelism and is the task of every Christian. Jesus taught His earliest disciples what was involved in evangelism in one of the ten top miracles, and one which came right at the beginning of His ministry.
That task of bring others to acknowledge Him is the heart-beat of Wesley Mission. The strategy of the early church was to disciple the nations by winning people in the centre of the cities. Paul had a very impressive strategy which took him to the most famous cities of the ancient world: Corinth, Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Jerusalem, and Rome. His strategy was to win the empire by winning the great cities in it. Paul saw the cities as the decision-making centres, and the civilizing force for the rest of the Roman Empire. His strategy was to win the Empire by winning the cities. Over the centuries the church built great cathedrals dominating city squares, and church bells peeled across the city streets. In another era, the preaching from the pulpit of city churches had tremendous influence over the attitudes of people in the cities.
Today the church does not have any protected place in the life of the city. But it still has its charge to win men and women to Jesus Christ, and in a country like Australia where 86% of our people live in seven cities, to be effective in our evangelism of this country requires us to be effective in our evangelism of her cities, particularly Sydney. Greater Sydney, between Newcastle and Wollongong houses one out of every three persons in Australia. The Lord Jesus Christ has given us the task to proclaim His gospel especially by the media, to people in this country.
1. WESLEY MISSION LIVES BY EVANGELISM.
We believe the church is only the church when it is the church in mission. Every Sunday in Wesley Theatre, the message is a gospel proclamation encouraging people to consider the claim of Jesus on their lives. In the beautiful phrase of John Wesley, we "offer Christ". It is always a matter of rejoicing when we see people stepping forward as an outward sign of their inward commitment to Jesus Christ. Wesley Theatre is the scene of the main evangelistic services of Wesley Mission. For 100 years Wesley Mission has used a theatre to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday night, through wars, depressions and times of affluence. Its congregations have been varied. Hundreds of people from the widest variety of social, economic, educational, ethnic and vocational backgrounds, joined in one purpose: to worship God and to proclaim the gospel of grace. We use all the arts to help us proclaim: videos, dance, drama, mime, interviews, testimonies, music - all designed to present the Gospel of Jesus.
Staff performing chaplaincy duties must see their ministries as evangelistic endeavours. Retirement villages, hostels, disabled persons centres, employment offices, camps and conferences centres, child care centres and the like are great fields for evangelistic endeavour. The cutting edge of evangelism must be present in any effective city ministry. Wesley Mission has demonstrated over the past century that it is not enough for a church to just worship or serve, but that there must be the gospel of hope presented to those in the city streets.
Consequently, the evangelistic program of Wesley Mission is that its services of outreach are designed primarily for the person who is not a Christian. Sometimes musicians want to design worship and praise as if we were all Christians, ignoring those who are not. But here, the person who is not yet a Christian is our most important person present, and everything is designed to make you feel comfortable and at home. We make an effort to reach you with the good news of the gospel, at your point of need in a way you can understand. These services are so arranged that those people who are not Christians can understand what is happening and feel at home during them. Conversions are recorded. Lives are changed. The Mission has been true to the command of the Master to disciple people in His name. Every Sunday for the past century lives have been changed, challenged and converted through the power of the gospel presented by Wesley Mission ministers in services and through television and radio. WIMA students have a unique privilege in sharing in the presentations.
2. MANY ARE NEVER TAUGHT EVANGELISM.
Paul wrote that his calling was: Rom 15:16 "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God." Paul had a "priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God". He used a word for minister here from which we derive liturgy: lietourgon. Paul saw his ministry like that of a priest offering, not a sacrificial lamb but new converts: "that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." He was lifting up the souls of people as a sweet-smelling fragrance to Christ.
In many theological colleges young ministers are taught about liturgy: which prayers to read, what colour stole to wear, how to move and how to act and so on. But when the word for liturgy is used in the New Testament, it is used of proclaiming the Gospel in such a way that new people come to faith as a living sacrifice to God. At Wesley Institute For Ministry and the Arts we teach evangelism is the preaching of the Gospel as a "priestly duty". At Wesley Mission Sydney, we preach for commitment to Christ every Sunday. I never stand up to preach without praying for conversions and people making public their commitment to Christ. We pray every week that God will give us disciples not just decisions. Converted, changed, repentant lives. We look for conversions in this theatre, from our radio and from our television audiences. And thanks be to God, many find Him!
Evangelism is to proclaim Jesus Christ as God and Saviour, to persuade people to become His disciples and responsible members of His church. Note the high Christology in that definition, "Jesus Christ as God and Saviour". Further, note the twin emphasis on "proclaim" and "persuade". Note the emphasis on disciples rather than decisions. Finally, note the emphasis on responsible church membership. Much urban evangelism is intended to be little more than seed-sowing. This will not do. God has sent us to reap a spiritual harvest. It is not enough to distribute literature, use radio and TV to proclaim the gospel, and organize evangelistic crusades, visitation evangelism, and open-air preaching. Such efforts must be seen as only the first step in the evangelism cycle. New Testament evangelism brings men and women to Christ and incorporates them in New Testament style churches. Anything less is sub-Christian.
3. THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A DISCIPLE.
There are six simple steps:
- LISTEN TO JESUS v3 Evangelism begins with listening to Jesus, studying His Word, spending time in prayer, praying specifically for someone to win. Luke 5:1-11 "One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the word of God, He saw at the water's edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore."
- LAUNCH INTO THE DEEP. V4Jesus always wants us to go out deeper than we have been. We do not fish for disciples in a bucket, but in the deep! "Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
- OBEY HIS WORD. V5-6 Peter was unsuccessful, fishing all night, but at the word of Jesus he again let down His nets. "Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
- ASK OTHERS TO HELP YOU. V 7 Peter asked His partners to help. Evangelism works best with a partner who prays with you, and then helps haul in the nets. The catch is beyond your belief! "When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink."
- RECOGNISE YOUR OWN SINFULNESS. V8-10 When God blesses us with a catch, our immediate response is to realise afresh the glory of God and the sinfulness of ourselves. "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners." You may call out "Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man," but that is one prayer He will never grant you. He will never go away from you.
- DON'T BE AFRAID - JUST FOLLOW HIM! V10B-11 His call comes clear as of yester-year. He calls you to be a disciple, "a fisher of men." They left behind their aims and ambitions to follow Him. "Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him."
You too can be a disciple, a fisher of men. In Tonga, at the Wesleyan Theological College, 21 students have just graduated with their Bachelor of Divinity degrees. The college was named by Queen Salote in 1948 as Sia'atoutai College. This means in Tongan, "the place where fishing nets are prepared." They train ministers as evangelists! You can be a fisher of men. You must first listen to Jesus, be prepared to launch out into the deep, obey His word, ask others to help you, recognize your own sinfulness, and totally unafraid, follow Him! As I used to sing in Sunday School, "I will make you fishers of men, if you only follow me!" When the New Testament speaks of evangelism, it uses verbs, not nouns. In other words, evangelism is a personal active involvement of believers, not a subject that we discuss. Nothing is more important than working together to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is the highest calling from God. His only Son brought the Good News that God loves us, that our sins can be forgiven, and through faith in what Jesus did for us on the Cross we can live forever. Admit you are a sinner. Believe in God. Commit your life to Jesus Christ. Do it! Do not delay! Now is the time! That then prepares you for catching people for Christ!
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