When I was a kid my family and I attended a small rural church several miles outside of the town I grew up in. I remember going to VBS, Christmas programs and the fact the church didn’t have indoor plumbing. I remember that the pastor was in the outhouse when a bull snake presented itself. Let’s just say we were laughing about that for quite some time.
They were good people. I had a good time. I didn’t hear much about having a relationship with Jesus there. Then when I was in junior high we quit going. I’m not sure why, but there wasn’t an intersection with my life. So I didn’t miss it.
From junior high until the summer before my senior year in high school I did not have one person tell me about Jesus. My freshman year I met a guy after moving into Des Moines who invited me to church, but he quit spending time with me when I found excuses each time I was asked. I didn’t encounter anyone who had a heart for somebody like me who was outside the faith.
That isn’t the heart of Jesus.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:35-38, ESV).
He would look at those around him and have compassion on them. He saw past people’s facade and saw their brokenness and pain. He loved lost people. He knew as well that the harvest of those outside the faith would be plentiful if we would pray to Him to provide workers.
We’ve been looking at the Church in Jerusalem and we have seen a continual devotion to growth and obedience to God’s word. We saw that the enjoyed and were committed to the fellowship that they shared. They were also enjoyed God, worshipping him continually in small groups and large.
If we were to stop looking at this passage, we would have a very inward view of the Church. On its own Acts 2:42 presents a very lopsided picture of the church’s life. That wasn’t all that was going on though.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved, (Acts 2:42-47, ESV, emphasis mine).
It is important to realize, the Lord did it. It was He who added to their number those who who were saved. The Church was being the Church and He provided the fruit of their faithfulness. This first church had a contagious community and that was attractive to those on the outside looking in.
They were also faithful in getting the good news of Jesus’ death & resurrection out. They couldn’t contain themselves.
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ, (Acts 5:42, ESV).
Praise and proclamation were both the natural overflow of hearts that are full of the Holy Spirit. And as their witness was continuous, so continuously were people being saved.
The great 19th century American evangelist D.L. Moody was once approached by a woman who criticized him for his methods in attempting to win people to the Lord.
Moody replied, “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?”
The woman replied, “I don’t do it.”
Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”
The key is faithfulness, not so much our methods. We do need to be relevant. We do need to be winsome. But we also have to remember that the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist, not us. Our goal is not to see people as targets, and move on to the next person if they are not responsive (much like I experienced my freshman year in high school). Rather we need to faithfully share, with those whom we love and encounter, the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:16-17, ESV)
The Gospel is powerful. We shouldn’t be ashamed to share it. It is good news, why would we not want to pass the word along?
Do you intentionally look for ways to build bridges with those outside the faith that you know or encounter? Do you have compassion for those without Christ, or are you like the woman who spoke to D.L. Moody? Do you partner with others to share Christ with your friends, family and coworkers who don’t know Him? Does your church have a heart for those who need Jesus? Do you know how to share your faith effectively?
It is my prayer that you and your church will seek to be contagious for Jesus.
Read Full Post »