Corporate Evangelism and Witnessing
Posted: 19 May 2012 05:00 AM PDT
Introduction: Adam Smith was born about 200 years ago. He began his life as a minister, but ended up writing one of the most important books on modern economics: the Wealth of Nations. His thesis, bluntly put, is that your selfish desire to make more money improves the economic standards of those around you. Isn’t envy, greed and covetousness sin? While I have no doubt that Adam Smith is correct, I’ve often wondered how his theory can be reconciled with faith. What complicates the issue is that God, who told us not to covet, continually puts rewards in front of us. He does it with our money(Malachi 3:10)and He does it with our actions (Matthew 25:34-36). Should envy, greed and covetousness be part of successful corporate evangelism? What place does pride of opinion about our own religious convictions play in evangelism? Let’s dive into our Bibles and learn more!
Read Ecclesiastes 4:4-6. What does Solomon say about Adam Smith’s view of economics? (He agrees with Smith! “All labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor.”)
Read Philippians 1:15-18. How does Paul view those who are spreading the gospel out of envy and rivalry? (He says it does not matter!)
Read Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:16. What is the reward for those who promote the gospel out of envy and rivalry? (They get what they seek – self promotion – and that is all.)
Read Revelation 22:12-14. What reward do we seek? (Eternal life. To enter in through the gates of the holy city.)
If we are all seeking a reward of some sort, does the difference in our motives matter?
Let’s revisit Philippians 1:15-16. What motivation should we have? (Love and goodwill.)
What if our motives are mixed? (We are still promoting the gospel (a good thing), but we need to be alert to our motivation because of the vast difference in the reward.)
Rules of Engagement: The Theology of Two and Three
Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I use this in weddings, and I think that is its primary application. However, how does this apply to evangelism? (Read Luke 10:1-3. Clearly, Jesus suggests working in pairs.)
Read Matthew 18:19-20. Is there a “theology of two,” and thus a problem with “one?” (There is certainly an advantage with two. Both in witnessing and in prayer.)
Why is God “three” if such advantage lies with two? (Re-read Matthew 18:20. How many do you see here? You see at least two and God. That makes three. Two together need the Holy Spirit to make their effort complete.)
Read Romans 12:4-5. What number comes to mind when you think of the design of the body? (Two. Two eyes, ears, arms, hands, legs, feet. Even our one nose has two nostrils.)
Why do you think God designed us that way?
Why do you think the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to describe the church as being like a body? (In the body there is a primacy of “two.”)
Have you seen “lone wolf” Christians? (In my religious liberty litigation, those who are not connected with a church (a body) are generally those who are off on some odd path, or are not really sincere in their religious beliefs.)
Let’s contemplate the “two by two” rule of engagement and the problem of being motivated by envy and rivalry. What impact does the two by two rule have on the motivation problem? (It helps to cure the problem. If two are working together, then it is hard to take personal glory. Your partner may be able to recognize and correct the selfish motivation that you might not see.)
Evangelism and the Church
Read Acts 15:1. Is this evangelism? Or, is this pride of opinion? (Certainly it is evangelism in the eyes of many Christians. My church has a teaching that you have not yet accepted, so I will witness to you and evangelize you on this point of greater knowledge.)
How many protestant churches are named after a doctrine they think other Christians need to know or a religious leader that they think is superior to others?
Read Acts 15:2. What did Paul and Barnabas think about the “brothers” witnessing? (They disagreed that this was the correct witness. It was a “sharp dispute.”)
How did the believers decide that this should be resolved? (They would consult with the “apostles and elders about this question.”)
What does this teach us about evangelism beyond the rule of two and three? (It shows that we should consult with the greater body of believers.)
Read Acts 15:4-5. Was there agreement between Paul and some of the leaders at headquarters? (They were welcomed, but there was a debate at headquarters.)
Read Acts 15:6-11. How would you describe the process of resolving this controversy over witnessing? (People get to say what they think. Peter invokes the actions of God to make his point.)
Read Acts 1:8-9. Jesus’ last instruction to His disciples was to evangelize the world. How could there be any doubt about going to the Gentiles?
Is Peter missing the issue? Isn’t the issue circumcision instead of evangelizing the Gentiles? (Peter is saying more than it is right to go to the Gentiles. He is saying that God accepted the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit and justifying them by faith – even though they were not circumcised.)
Is there a lesson in this for us: that fellow Christians might not accept our unique views on what the Bible requires, but the acid test is whether God gives them the Holy Spirit and justifies them by grace?
Read Acts 15:12. How did people of various viewpoints treat each other in this debate? (With respect.)
Read Acts 15:13-21. What are the grounds for James’s “judgment?” (The leading of God on this issue, both from the Bible and in the lives of people.)
What reason does James give for the rules (see verse 20)that remain? (God, speaking through Moses, requires at least these things?)
Moses and God actually required more of Gentiles. Read Exodus 12:48 and Ezekiel 44:9. What is James saying? (James’ words will offend the Christians with Jewish backgrounds. My best guess is that he is trying to limit the offense.)
What does this suggest about church authority? Do you understand James to be making the decision for the church on the evangelism message?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:7-13. Two questions. If James is handing down a ruling for the Church, has Paul just overruled him in part? Or, are Paul and James in complete agreement, and the only reason why James prohibited the things listed in Acts 15:20 is to avoid offending the faith of “weak” Jewish converts? (The most logical answer seems to be that James and Paul agree, giving offense is actually the problem. However, that logic evaporates when you notice that Acts 15:20 includes “sexual immorality.” I cannot imagine that adultery is fine for “strong” Christians.)
Read Acts 15:22-29. What does this letter say about the authority of James? (The authority in the letter is “the apostles and elders.” This shows that it was the group which was the authority behind the decision. The letter itself shows that it was intended to be a ruling.)
We have (or at least I have) not completely understood all of Acts 15. What can we understand from our study? (That God suggests that our corporate evangelistic work be a group effort. The group may be as small as two, but we are strengthened by working together. Working together is an antidote to pride.)
Friend, will you determine today to find a partner and a group for your evangelistic efforts? You should still nudge those around you towards the gospel in your day-to-day living. But, when you engage in formal outreach, you need at least a partner.
Next week: Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing.
Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study