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Acts #54 (chapter 15:36-16:10)
The Book of Acts
Evangelism the Right Way
Acts 15:36-16:10
Our study for tonight will begin at Acts 15:36 if you would like to find that text.  Studying the earliest days of the church has always been interesting to me because that was the church in its purest form.  They were the closest to Jesus.  Many of the church fathers spent time with Him personally.  So it stands to reason that how they "did church" was the nearest example we have to what Jesus had in mind for the church to be. 
And even though the church has changed drastically in many ways, such as schedules and staff and buildings and programs, there are some core things we still do that they were doing then.  Things like preaching and teaching and giving and ministering and serving are foundational to the church. 
One thing in particular rises to the surface and that is evangelism.  And even though we are better equipped than we've ever been and have more tools available to share the gospel, it is still a challenge to get people to get involved in the doing of it.
But the fact that the early church has deeply and directly involved in preaching and witnessing to the Lord is obvious.  And I have found it interesting in our study through the book of Acts at how many times we are given examples and cases of how they did it.
And most of the time, they aren't presented in a lecture or lesson plan for doing evangelism. 
Instead they are woven through the texts in and through the experiences of these early church members and leaders.  That's why it's important for us not to just study our Bibles academically or to gather more information, but rather to read and study it in an effort to extract from it the principles that are there so we can learn and benefit from them.
In fact, I would suggest that is the key to effect Bible study.  We are to learn how to study the Scripture and extract from what we read the principles that are there, either by direct statement or by implication, and then apply those to our lives and circumstances. 
So as we make our way through this text, it is never my goal to just present a history lesson and just tell you that Paul and Barnabas did this and that and then they went to Derbe and there they met Timothy and then they went over there and then they did that and goodbye, God bless you, have a nice day.
That isn't the goal.  It's good to look at some of that and you know I love to dig into the history and customs and language and see what they mean and provide you with some historical background.  But underneath all of that, there are some principles and life lessons that need to be seen and learned. 
Now, I've said all of that to point out to you that what we have here is some of those principles that emerge concerning how to do evangelism the right way.  There are six principles given and we won't have time to deal with all six tonight, but we'll cover some of them and finish another night. 
As we come to verse 36, the Jerusalem Council has completed their work.  They met to discuss the tension that had surface about how Gentiles are saved.  They discussed it, allowed the Spirit to superintend the meeting, came to a decision and have announced that decision by way of a letter that was delivered by church leaders.
And as a result of their decision, there is great rejoicing and celebration over the fact that salvation is by grace alone and available to all men.  SO what comes next?  We've got the doctrinal statement settled, so now we can just go home and relax, right? 
No, now it's time to deliver that message, which is really nothing new for the church.  For several years now, the gospel has been being preached.  It was opposed by Satan, first of all, by outside persecution.  But the church just kept preaching.  Now he has tried to slow down the gospel through inward division, but that didn't work either.  And true to form, the church is out there sharing the good news.
So we are now on the verge of Paul's second missionary journey and implied in this narrative, there are some foundational principles for doing evangelism the right way.  We'll just look at them one at a time and as they occur in the text.
First of all, effective evangelism begins then with
1. The Right Passion
verse 36
So we are now past the Jerusalem Council, and I think it can be safely assumed that Paul and Barnabas were busy doing what we always find them doing.  But after some days, and we aren't given a specific period of time, but maybe a few days or weeks or even months go by, and Paul's heart begins to stir and he tells Barnabas, "We need to go check on things".
There we get a little glimpse into the heart of Paul. It wasn't that there wasn't anything to do where he was at.  I personally believe that no matter where he was, he lived like there was somebody there that needed the gospel. 
But tugging and pulling at his heart were the regions beyond. He had a passion for the Gentile world that is lying yet to the west of where he was located in Antioch, and always in his brain, there were simmering these great dreams of reaching people.
I don't think he ever saw a ship that he didn't think about getting on it and taking the gospel to somebody.  I don't think he ever saw a mountain that he didn't think, "There are people ont eh other side that need to hear about Jesus."
He was a passionate man driven by a desire to communicate Christ to the lost, especially in foreign places.  And if you study what he wrote you will discover at the root of his motivation to share the gospel with others was his gratitude for God saving him.  He was so thankful for his salvation that he considered himself a debtor to everybody else and to God.  And the fact that God loved him motivated him, constrained him to share that love with others. 
He is the one who told us that if any man was in Christ he was a new creation and that moved him! And he talked about the fact that one day he was going to stand before the before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for what he had done and that moved him.  He knew if he didn't speak the gospel, people who needed to hear might not hear. 
He was a passionate, motivated man and everywhere he went, he took that passion for souls with him.  And the truth is, nobody will ever be effective in evangelism who doesn't have that kind of passion. You can train people up to their eyeballs, but if they don't have that kind of drive and motivation to communicate the Gospel, all the training will never take wings and fly.
Paul was man who was passionate for evangelism. That made the difference. So how do we develop that kind of passion?  Some will say it comes by learning to see people and looking at their needs and problems and eternity. 
That may be on the right track, but it doesn't go far enough.  All of us are surrounded by people who need Jesus and most of the time, they irritate us.  They make us made by what they say and do and how they drive and stand in our way at Wal-Mart and cut us off in traffic.   And if we don't watch ourselves, we don't help them avoid hell, we wish they would go there.
Just seeing people in their sin is not motivation enough.  The passion comes from seeing them as Christ sees them.  He saw them as "sheep without a shepherd.  They were fainting and scattered.  And they were fields that were white unto harvest. 
So the passion comes from learning to see the needs as Jesus sees them.  So how do we develop the heart of Jesus?  We spend time with Him.  That's why Paul said, "Above all things, I want to know Him."  That's why he would say, "Be followers of me as I am of Christ that for me to live as Christ and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God."
In other words he was lost in Christ and Christ in him so that there wasn't even a dividing between who was doing the loving and who was passionate and who was caring. Passion that is legitimate comes when you are so lost in the mingling of your spirit with the Spirit of Christ, that it is He who is passionate through you.
You say, "How do you get there?" By studying the Word of God simply "as you gaze into His Glory" 2 Corinthians 3:18 "you're changed into His image." The only way to come into His image is to gaze into His glory; the only place to gaze into His glory is in The Book.
So first of all, true evangelism is built on the right passion and we cannot take somebody who doesn't really have that kind of passion and just give them some format.  We have proved that over and over.
Evangelism done right demands that that a person become so lost in the person of Jesus Christ that His heart becomes their heart.
Second thing, right evangelism not only needs the right passion, it demands
2. The Right Priority
verse 36 again
I don't know about you, but I don't think of Paul as a pastor, even though he had a passion for the church and spend some extended periods of time with certain congregations, I tend to think of him primarily as a missionary or evangelist.
But Paul was unique as an evangelist in that he not only saw his responsibility as winning people but also helping them to mature and grow. That's what we see in this verse.  It's time to take off on a second missionary journey, but his plans are to go back to where he's already been and make sure everything's going okay.
Why?  He understand that the priority in evangelism is never to just see someone make a profession of faith, but to become disciples of Christ.  And Paul wants to return and see his brethren in every city. 
So why does he want to go back? 
First, he loves his spiritual children.  He carries a responsibility before God for them.  And I think he wanted to go back just because he loved and cared about them on a personal as well as a spiritual level.
And secondly he went back because he was committed to discipleship.  There are all kinds of books and study guides available on how to do evangelism.  But the best way to evangelize is to produce one reproducing disciple.
Paul knew that leaving spiritual infants everywhere was not the way to effectively spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So he invested his time and energy in discipling those who were saved under his preaching.
Is that not the model that Christ set?  He didn't spend very much time speaking to large crowds,  Instead He spent His time investing in a small group of men so they could know His heart and passion.
My personal opinion is that in the long run, the work that a church does to grow faithful disciples of Christ will have a greater effect in evangelism than all the evangelistic crusades that are done.  I believe God uses them, but in the long run it is through reproducing believers that the effectiveness of the Gospel is multiplied.
So effective evangelism requires the right passion and the right priority.  By the way, it's worth noting that Paul never let the passion run ahead of the priority.  He could have been so passionate for the lost that he just went everywhere preaching and leading people to the Lord and never hanging around or checking up on them to see them grow.
But Paul sensitive to the Spirit and he knew the priority. So Paul had a right priority to go with his right passion.
The third thing is
3. the right personnel
But that's going to take some time to develop, so we'll save it for next time.
Let's pray.
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