Commissioned to Share the Gospel
By Rev. John Kimmons
“Theology is worthless unless we live it.” Erick Metaxas says he learned this in his study on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was from a wealthy family of prominence and chose to go against popularity and the liberal theologians of his day. “The Cost of Discipleship for resisting Nazi Germany cost Bonhoeffer his life.
Like Germany, America is becoming complacent. It’s a place where the absolutes of the Scriptures are laughed at; restrictions on Christian freedom to share the gospel are increasing; and the name of Jesus is not heard in most homes. Christians are often the butt of jokes; the “church lady” was adored on TV; and Jesus is often seen only in the light of some poor Christian witness’s behavior that breaks God’s heart.
We are commissioned to share the gospel and become fishers of men and women who are lost. The focus of the Great Commission is definitely about making disciples, not simply presenting the gospel on a chance meeting. Is your ARP Church making disciples who are influencing the world in which you live? Better yet, are you seeing people trust Jesus for salvation and continue on to become faithful, available, multiplying disciples? Are we training the next generation to be fishers of men?
Jesus used the illustration in a society where people caught fish with nets as well as hooks. Fishing with nets then, just like today, takes a plan, training, and a team effort in hopes of reward. Fishermen want to learn to fish more effectively, but ultimately the catch belongs to the Lord. That’s why we call it “fishing” not “catching.”
Becoming a fisher of men is the challenge Jesus gave to His disciples. Becoming a good anything – a good cook, a good student, a good hitter, a good parent – requires learning. Christians learn to fish from good models, by being challenged from the pulpit, through family devotions, and in personal study.
Are you seeking to become a better fisherman or do you think it will just happen? We need to hear how others in our churches fish. We need to be trained in methods to help us fish. We need to be inspired by stories of fish that were caught and attempts that produced little.
Make God the Focus
The first man I remember sharing publicly about how he had come to Christ was Ed Egee. My pastor, Dr. Marshburn, had him address a men’s group and his story impressed me – even at age 17. Mr. Egee told about the power of God to draw men to Himself. God was the focus, the emphasis, and the hero of his story. It was not about Ed, but the wonder of God’s redeeming grace.
Sharing Christ, witnessing, presenting the gospel, or fishing, should always begin with the power and majesty of God. Pre-evangelism is as important as the presentation of the gospel. We should all be praying for people we know who are lost. Ask God to use you in their lives as His agent of grace.
Our church uses a tool called The Ten Most Wanted list so each of us prays for 10 specific people, asking God to bring those people to Himself. If you have 100 people, that means 1,000 people are being prayed for each week. My heart races as I see or call one of my Ten Most Wanted, trusting God is wooing them. Perhaps God will use this encounter to pull them closer to Him. This list encourages me to be more available to them because I am praying. As Paul says in 1Corinthians 2:4-5, “…my message and preaching were not with wise, persuasive words, but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so your faith doesn’t rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”
Be Ready to Share Faith
1 Peter 3:15 says, “…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” Are you ready to share your faith? Have you thought it through? What would you tell someone who asks you how you came to Jesus, so they could do the same? Would it be clear, concise, and would you be ready to ask for a response?
Jim Polhill, a fellow ARP student at the University of Georgia, made the gospel clear to me while I was in graduate school there. His pastor had encouraged him about the importance of being ready to share his faith. Jim built a relationship with me by playing football, basketball, and sharing his life with me. He and his wife, Betsy, fed me, talked to me (didn’t preach), and loved me in my sin, but encouraged me to change. They were God’s magnets that drew me toward Jesus. They were ready to share the gospel plainly and clearly.
As ARPs, we should desire to be fishers of men. We aren’t all gifted in evangelism, but we can all be trained. We are on a team called the local church. Some people on my Ten Most Wanted list have come to know Jesus through others in our church. Some on my list have been invited to church by members I didn’t even know they knew. Our primary job is to pray, be prepared to share, and lovingly build relationships with lost people.
We have been commissioned by God to go! Be prepared with a plan, a presentation, and power from God. We must do our part, because on the cross He has done His part.
First, my parents prayed for me, taught me the Scriptures, and took me to church. Ed Egee shared his story, which helped me to see how God worked in him. When Jim Polhill, now an elder in the Louisville ARP Church, shared the gospel with me, I responded, because God had been preparing my heart. It is all about God who calls, prepares, and has perfect timing.
He uses people like us! Pray for opportunities and be ready when He calls on you to share your hope in Jesus Christ.
John Kimmons is supply pastor at Adams Farm Community Church, Jamestown, NC; and director of Evangelism & Care with Outreach North America.