Sunday, October 03, 2004

While "door-knocking" today I wondered what we might do if every place began to say "no soliciting," or "no leafleting," or "no handbills".

What would we do? How would we accomplish the Great Commission? Of course, common sense says quite simply, that door knocking and the Great Commission are not one in the same.

Certainly in the fervor that many churches encourage their people to go "soul winning," which is in the majority of the cases door-knocking, may leave some scratching their heads as to exactly how the church would promote witnessing if door-knocking (for whatever reason) was no longer possible.

It causes us to ask ourselves to basic questions. First, what is the responsibility of the average Christian in witnessing? Secondly, what methods does God approve or even mandate for getting his gospel out?

God has chosen the "foolishness" of preaching (I Cor 1:18, Rom 10:14) for this task. God has chosen to use men to do his work in this regard. The Christian cannot sit back and do nothing- for the gospel has been committed to every Christian by which Christ endeavors to reconcile the world unto Himself (II Cor 5:19).

We have not yet even mentioned the so-called "Great Commission," possibly the most quoted verses on this topic:

Mat 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

It could be said that the Great Commission only applied to the apostles (Act 10:42). But I will not say that, in light of verses that we have already seen in I/II Corinthians and Romans. In addition, all Christians are "disciples" though they are not apostles; and verse 20 indicates that if the apostles are to teach the disciples to teach more disciples what they have been taught, then certainly the teaching of the Great Commission is intended to apply to all Christians as disciples.

It is self-evident that to teach the gospel requires communication of some form, and that requires taking initiative in approaching non-Christians. So our first question can be answered that God has indeed entrusted us with the message of the gospel and expects us to communicate that gospel to the world.

As to the methods we should use to communicate that gospel to the world, we have to ask if the Bible specifically commands a particular method or if there is a pattern established in the NT of what the early church did; and if we find patterns, are they binding or useful to us today?

The first verse out of the hat for many I know, is Acts 20:20:

Act 20:20 ESV how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,

Of course, this verse is used to back up door knocking as a scriptural principle, but does it say that? One key element is who Paul is teaching from house to house:

Act 20:17 ESV Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

It should be plain enough by now that Bible is not speaking of what we think of as door knocking or canvassing. What the Bible is speaking of is early church's method of meeting in homes, but this is another topic entirely!

Another verse is used to indicate a method by which the gospel should be given:

Luk 14:23 ESV And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.

By this verse it is preached that we ought to be on the streets stopping people with the gospel, but is Christ trying to teach?

In this parable of the wedding feast, certainly Christ's bride, the church, is view. (The realization that the parable refers to such a grand theme should make us pause in attempting super-literal application.) Since the church is composed of the saved (Acts 2:47) the remaining question is to be asked what people are those that are invited beforehand, and who are those in the highways and hedges.

Christ came, not for the Gentiles, but for the Jews (Mat 15:24). The rejection of the invited guests is a picture of the Jews rejection of Christ (Mat 23:37) and the command to go into the highways and hedges is representative of Christ giving the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11). Certainly Luke 14:23 has nothing to do with how a Christian should communicate the gospel.

Some ways the gospel preached in the NT:

1. In the synagogues (Act 6:9)

2. The temple at Jerusalem (Mat 26:55)

3. In forums of public discussion/debate (Mars Hill, Acts 17)

4. Privately to those of high station (Gal 2:2)

5. On request (Act 10:33)

So we see many different ways, and there are possibly more, that the gospel was preached in the first century. What is evident is that the early church spoke when they could, when there was an opening. Different societies and cultures provide different venues through which a Christian may express the gospel. The gospel today is available by Internet, TV, radio, and telephone hotlines...

It seems evident that instead of locking us into certain methods, the Bible gives us a picture of Christians adjusting and taking advantage of the dynamics of the society and culture they were in.

One serious danger in being particular about methods is missing new methods entirely. It is in this way that more traditional churches often lose their influence. Certainly if a method requires a person to commit sin, then it shouldn't be used; but many methods called sinful are open to debate as to whether they are sinful or not.

On last consideration is this: that "preaching" is often taken to exclusively refer to speech. It is in this way, for example, that the use of music is said to be not appropriate for spreading the gospel. To begin with, the word "preach" means to proclaim, or make known, and does not by definition exclusively refer to speech. Secondly, it is important to point out that the Bible directly calls for Christian music to reach the lost- church services are to be conducted in such a manner that challenges the unsaved:

1Co 14:23-26 ESV If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (24) But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, (25) the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (26) What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Verse 26 is specific- all things are to be done to build the saints, or edify, because this will also convince the unbeliever. Hymns are part of this.

Satan would love to restrict our methods for getting the gospel out. As we have seen, he does it by appealing to a Christian's sense of piety (causing pride in holiness). Satan also restricts our methods by means of pragmatism, or by judging methods in terms of what "works".

It is evident that although Jesus was sent to Israel, they did not receive Him (Jhn 1:11). According to some teachers today, he was a failure- but most vertainly Jesus was not a failure. Stories are told of missionaries toiling for years with little fruit. Yet the efforts of these missionaries, like Christ's efforts, were vitally important as we see the fruits come later. Some sow the seed, some water, some reap. We are not responsible for results, we are merely responsible to get out the message in any way we can:

1Co 3:7 ESV So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

In conclusion, we should be creative in thinking of new ways to spread the gospel. No one way is THE right way. Just do it! ..and leave the results to God.

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