Archive for category Evangelism
By Leonard C. Albert
Nearly every time I lecture on “Witnessing to the Cults” this question comes up: Are people who keep Saturday as the Sabbath a cult? Well, first of all, the answer is maybe—they could be cultists but the determining factor is not which day they go to church—the real issue is what they believe about Jesus. Cultists are people who deny the deity of Christ. Plain and simple. I do believe that they have a false doctrine because, contrary to the gospel of God, these people teach that the law is still binding on Christians today. Teaching “that the law of God is still binding on Christians today” is another gospel, which is really not another, but is a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The church in Galatia was troubled by this same false gospel (e.g. Galatians 3:1-3), except for them the focus was circumcision. For the Sabbath keepers, the focus is the Sabbath. Same issue but different subjects.
So the question remains, “What about all of these people who worship on Saturday and want others to as well?” It might be easier for me if the question was restated. Maybe the real question is something like, “Are Christians under obligation to observe a designated Sabbath day?” I don’t think so. I want to look to God’s Word because I think He has given us the answer here.
Religious groups, such as Seventh-day Adventists, still observe a Saturday Sabbath. While SDA is the largest of the groups, they’re not the only ones. There are many groups in this crowd including Baptists and Pentecostals! They are the “Judaisers” who want to create a form of legalistic Judaism, and Saturday worship is usually a centerpiece. Since honoring the Sabbath was part of the original Ten Commandments given by God, they believe it is a permanent, binding command that should not be changed. There are many scriptures which indicate that the whole law and commandments were completely abolished when the New Covenant came into effect. Consider Ephesians 2:15-16: “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (16) and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” (NKJV). Also, Acts 2:46 tells us that the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple courts and gathered to break bread together in private homes.
Read what Paul says in Romans 14:5-6 when he talks about our personal freedom regarding the observance of holy days: “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.” (NLT).
In Colossians 2:16-17 Christians are instructed not to judge or allow anyone to be their judge regarding Sabbath days: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (NIV).
In Galatians 4:8-10, Paul is concerned because Christians are turning back like slaves to legalistic observances of “special” days: “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. (NLT).
The earliest records of the New Testament period show that the first day of the week soon became a day of worship. When Paul wanted to collect an offering from the church at Corinth, he asked them to gather the money on the “first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2). And when he wanted to meet with the believers at Troas, the gathering took place “on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). In Revelation 1:10, the apostle John described himself as being “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Most writers have thought he was referring to Sunday, so that our use of “the Lord’s Day” as a term for Sunday comes from this verse.
Some Thoughts About the Sabbath
First, the meaning of the word. We always hear about “seventh” and “Sabbath” as though they refer to the same word. The words “sabbath” and “seventh” do not come from the same word. The Hebrew word for “sabbath” is “shabbath” (Strong’s #7676 ) and it simply means “rest.” What makes the Sabbath special is not the day of the week but the rest or cessation from work. This rest does not have to be on the seventh day.
Next, it appears from the Bible that Sabbaths were celebrated on different days and for different lengths of time. Leviticus 23: 39 seems to indicate that it was on the first day and the eighth day. “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest.” In Exodus 20:10 it appears to be on the seventh day. “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.” (NKJV). In addition, Sabbaths were of different lengths of time. In Exodus 16: 23-29 it was one day long; in Leviticus 23:6-8 it was two days long. In Leviticus 25:4 it was one year long. There is a future Sabbath in the Millennium so that all mankind can come before God to worship (Isaiah. 66:22-24 ; Ezekiel. 44:24 ; 45:17 ; 46:3 ). Scripture does not reveal what particular day will be observed in the future because the particular day is not the issue nor has it ever been the issue.
Thirdly, Constantine and the Pope did not change the Sabbath in 321 and 364 A.D. as is pointed out many times by Sabbath keepers. There is no way to validate this claim in history. In 321 A.D. Constantine made the Christian Sabbath, Sunday, the rest day for the Roman Empire, but it was observed by Christians for nearly 300 years before it became law by Constantine. The early Christian fathers worshipped on Sunday as well.
Lastly, man was not made for Sabbaths, but they were made for him (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 6:5). We are free from the law. In these passages Jesus was pointing out that the Sabbath was made to serve people, instead of people being created to serve the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a servant, not a master. He was addressing the relative importance of the Sabbath, not which specific people were given the Sabbath or the specific day of the Sabbath.
Why Christians Worship on Sunday
1. To celebrate the resurrection and the finished work of Christ in His victory over death, hell, and the grave (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; John 20:1).
2. The Lord’s manifestations to His disciples were on Sunday and our Lord Jesus ignored completely the old Jewish Sabbath. The first day is the prominent day after the resurrection (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; John 20:1, 19, 26).
3. The outpouring of the Holy Ghost came on Sunday. Pentecost was the first day after seven Jewish Sabbaths (Acts 2:1; Leviticus 23:15-21). Thus, both Christ and the Holy Spirit manifested themselves to the church on this day, completely ignoring the Jewish Sabbath.
4. Neither Christ nor any apostle gave a command to keep the old Jewish Sabbath, or any other day, but did command all people not to be bound by any particular day (Romans 14:5-6, Galatians 5:9-1, Colossians 2:14-17). The day early Christians observed–not by commandment but by choice–was the first day, Sunday (John 20:1, 19, 20:7; 1Corinthians 16:2)
5. Although no set day is commanded to be the Sabbath in the new covenant, as in the old covenant which was abolished, they did keep Sunday as their day of worship (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; John 20:1, 19, 26; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10).
6. The fourth commandment (Sabbath) was the only one not brought into the New Testament. Neither God nor Christ made it a part of the new covenant. One can easily find the other nine but the fourth one is just not in the New Testament. Jesus never once commanded any particular observance of any definite day. In fact He only mentioned the Sabbath four times and when He did talk about it He merely said it was lawful to do good on this day. Its sole purpose was to commemorate the deliverance from Egyptian bondage when Israel had no rest (Deuteronomy 5:15). It was only a type of future and eternal rest (Colossians 2:14-17, Hebrews 4:1-11 10:1).
7. The Sabbath commandment is a ceremonial law NOT a moral law. It is the only commandment that could be and has been broken without breaking a moral law. David and others broke it and were blameless (Matthew 12:2-5). The New Testament permits Christians to keep any day as the Sabbath, it being one of the doubtful things not covered by commandment in the new covenant (Romans 14:1-13 Galatians 4:9-11, Colossians 2:14-17).
In Romans 10:4 the Bible says that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The little word “end” is so powerful. The Greek word is “telos.” It means that Jesus is the “aim or purpose” of the law. Christians believe that Jesus came not to negate the law but to complete it—to fulfill it. When Jesus died on the cross he fulfilled the law. Read what Paul said in Ephesians 2:13-15: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” Jesus abolished the law of commandments (the Law of Moses which included the command to keep the Sabbath, Exodus 20:8). He abolished it “in His flesh;” that is by His death on the cross (Colossians 2:14-17).
Luke 16:16 says, “The law [including the Ten Commandments] and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (KJV). The new contract, which is the New Testament, is now in effect. The teaching of the Bible is plain. The Law of Moses was to the nation of Israel only. It lasted as a binding law until Christ died on the cross. At Pentecost, God’s new contract came into effect and this is God’s plan for all mankind today. From Paul’s writing in Colossians 2:16 it appears that the Bible allows evangelical Christians to worship on Sunday and other groups to worship on Saturday or whatever day they choose. The important thing is to not judge others as they choose their day of worship. The Bible clearly teaches that we are permitted to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week. This is the day upon which our Lord arose from the dead (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2-6; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). The day upon which the church began, Pentecost day, also was on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:9-16). Therefore, we can see why the Lord chose the first day of the week as the day of worship for Christians.
Personal Closing Observation
These groups all have false doctrine and teachings. The Seventh-day Adventist Church claims, based on the theology of Ellen G. White, that keeping Sunday as a worship day is the mark of the beast. That is just not true. In forty years of street and community visitation I have yet to see any of these groups out there preaching Christ. For that matter I’ve never seen them out there period! It seems their focus is on the perpetuation of their doctrine—not on winning the lost through the proclamation of Christ. It seems to me they are spiritually insecure, that they promote legalism in the church and that they desire control over others by not allowing the freedom to choose as the Bible teaches.
“Why,” a 76-year-old woman was asked, “are you seeking therapy at your age?” Reflecting on both her losses and her hopes, she answered, “Doctor, all I’ve got left is my future.”
Can you feel the force of that statement? All I’ve got left is my future! Well, think about it. Our interest should be in the future because we’re going to spend the rest of our life there. We have to be connected to the past but committed to what’s ahead. If all we do is look back it’s like the result of driving while looking in a rear view mirror: we’re headed for a body shop! If our vision is fixed on where we’ve been we risk a severe collision with the future! One writer said it this way: Your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror! Yogi Berra that great “baseball philosopher” also said it in his unique way: If you don’t know where you are going when you get there you will be lost. Like it or not, the future is upon us! My goal in this article is to help you see where we are now and where we are headed with personal evangelism training. I am very much aware of strategic planning but what about strategic thinking? It must come first. So here is some of my thinking.
Here’s What We Know
The only thing constant is change. More has changed in the past 50 years than in the past 500 years put together. Recently, I was on an airplane seated by a senior vice-president of IBM. This guy was one of the very top-level executives (he told me he usually has the corporate jet flying him to his various meetings around the world). He said, “Every 18 months IBM has to completely re-invent itself in order to keep up with the competition.” Why can’t the church do that? We have to know where we are and decide where we are going and we have to re-evaluate the process on a regular basis.
The most meaningful change takes place in the context of relationships. Relationships are the “glue” that hold people and programs together. Without real and deep relationships, the laity and leadership will feel no sense of community with one another. If we only call people together to “do” there will be no glue to hold them together when the planned event is over. Events attract people, relationships make them stick.
We cannot continue with “business as usual.” If we don’t move with the times we will die. What works today may not work tomorrow. I have always wondered why my suit coat had buttons on the sleeves. Well, I discovered one day that those buttons were originally used to attach ruffles to the sleeves, as these ruffles were not permanent attachments to the garment. They were simply an “additive” which went out of style. The Church has its buttons, too! They are programs, organizations, methods, and styles—still being employed long after their purposes are forgotten and their functions outlived. We must take a close look at our church’s “coat sleeves” so we can determine the difference between a permanent attachment and an additive which can go out of style.
Here’s Where We Are Going
We know that if we don’t have a vision for the future, then our future is threatened to be a repeat of the past. I heard it said this way, “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.” Our approach will be preactive and proactive. In the preactive stage we are planning for our future—designing the strategy and in the proactive stage we’re making our plan come true—we’re going to make it happen. Here are just a few of our strategic plans:
Laity Alive. A refreshing “new from the ground up” comprehensive strategy targeted for the local church. It involves consultation, planning, training and materials with the purpose of putting laity in ministry in the local church. The goal of Laity Alive is to set up a functioning lay ministry program that includes small groups, team ministry and personal evangelism in the local church through:
- Consultation and pre-planning: On-site visit(s) by qualified ministry personnel
- Education and motivation: The best books, videos and tapes available and special teaching events
- Training and coaching: “Hands on” personal involvement through actual participation
- Implementation and follow-through: Formation of “ministry groups” both inside and outside the local church
The “big idea” is to truly mobilize the laity on the local level and put in place qualified lay leaders who will know how to minister in today’s society. We believe that this new concept will become our “umbrella” covering and that all of our ministries will stem from it. The potential is awesome!
Personal Evangelism Training. The message never changes but the methods sure do. It is not longer “is it true?” but “is it real?” We are preparing all new, one-day “power” seminars that are H.O.T.—High on Touch and High on Technology! Our new conferences on training the laity are moving from illustration to animation. Did you hear about the sign of the glass door of a bankrupt bookstore? It said, “Words failed us.” We have to move with the times. We are teaching “relationship” evangelism. We are showing believers the vital importance of loving God and then letting that love spill over to their friends, relatives, associates and neighbors (someone has called this frangelism!). We are taking a new look the challenge of the cults in our nation and world. We are now told that by the second decade of this new century, Islam is expected to replace Judaism as the second largest religious group in this country. We will show new and innovative methods of dealing with the cults and stemming their growth.
Reach the “de-churched” and Win the Lost. We live in a society where, according to pollster George Barna, 85% of all non-churched adults have had a previous, prolonged period of time during which they attended a church. He calls them the “de-churched.” We must set our sights on reaching them and getting them back into the ministry and outreach of the local church. We want to be a part of a denomination that has as its focus reaching the lost. Consider our WIN Challenge effort. Did you know that last year the Church of God signed up 3,074 churches in America and thousands of others around the world who committed themselves to reach the lost in their communities? In the first eight months of 2000 these congregations came together and won 1,162,477 people to Jesus! It is mind boggling to consider what can happen when we all come together to win the lost.
Here’s How We’re Going to Get There
We are willing to take more chances with the future. We will not limit ourselves to the present. We will think “outside” the box. We will not be afraid to make mistakes, listen to others and take our “cues” from those laity who are on the cutting edge and live in the “real world.” We will treat each task as if it is the most important we’ve ever had. We will build a better and bigger network of friends and try to never let them down. Here are some of the new ways we will do all of this.
Resources vs. authority. We exist to serve and resource the local church. Our desire is to come alongside the pastor and local church leaders and assist them in reaching their goals. We will do this with great teaching and training conferences and up-to-date resources.
Purpose driven vs. event driven. A purpose statement provides focus and direction. Too often, local church lay ministry has been driven by events rather than purpose. We schedule events (hundreds of them!) and before long the laity perceive that events are the ministry. There must be a larger purpose to the events. We want God’s people to make memories as a result of working together rather than just attend meetings. This is what shapes the life of a church.
Involvement vs. talk. Have you ever heard this statement: Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I many not remember; involve me, and I will understand. We give “O.J.T.” (on the job training). We are providing opportunities for people to not only learn how to witness and share their faith but also to actually get out into the neighborhoods and meet the community. All of our training seminars are E.P.I.C.—experiential, participatory, interactive and communal.
Printed page vs. virtual reality. Leonard Sweet in his book Soul Tsunami says, “When a church sets out to construct a Web site ministry, it is actually building a postmodern cathedral.” Who knows where the Internet will take us? It is going to be an unavoidable force that we must use if we are to reach people (saved and unsaved!). We are putting time and money into developing the finest Internet resource available for teaching and training laity. We are planning a “virtual” Soul Winners Internet University where anyone can take online courses, browse our bookstore, talk with us in a “real time” classroom and do a host of other things right from their home or church computers. Did you know that already 16% of teenagers are claiming that they expect to find an online substitute for church within in the next five years? We want to be ready.
Make disciples vs. make workers. The Bible doesn’t call us to make “workers,” but “disciples.” Our goal is to make disciples and help them to reproduce themselves in others. People don’t enjoy being made to go on a “forced march.” True disciples will become workers out of the overflow of their growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Word from on high” vs. A.R.K. The key to vital lay ministry in the church is empowerment. Business gurus have found that empowerment requires three gifts: decision-making power, adequate resources, and the knowledge base from which to work. Spiritually, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be priests. True empowerment means giving the person with the ministry vision the ARK (Authority, Resources and Knowledge) of empowerment. If there isn’t enough money, we can allow the person to raise funds. If the person doesn’t know where to begin we can facilitate training. Pastor and board committees become coach and coaching staff rather than impediments to be overcome. Trust is the key element to release individuals to empowered ministry.
The future awaits us, a future which will not tolerate yesterday’s Church in today’s world, let alone the world of tomorrow. This is an hour of challenge—and of promise.
Any time we’re tempted to think that we can’t go any farther we should stop and remember a certain commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office. In 1895 he proposed to Congress that the patent office be closed because all the great inventions had already been discovered. There’s a whole lot more out there! My personal philosophy is “Don’t worry about what’s ahead. Just go as far as you can go — from there you can see farther.”
In his book Evangelism That Works author George Barna indicates that 7% of the un-churched plan to attend church this year. He says that another 33% of the un-churched are open to attending church and the most likely thing to attract them is the invitation of a friend. We are told that 70% to 90% of all Christians came to know Christ as a result of the influence of a family member or a friend. Have you ever wondered what attracted people to the church and ultimately to Christ?
People are not saved because they are in the company of Christians. It is not possible to “catch” a good case of salvation. To be saved, men must hear and believe the verbal testimony about Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). However, all of us can think of people who made their initial movement toward the Gospel message because they saw its transforming power in another person’s life. It is true that the way we live before others really matters.
In II Corinthians 2:12-3:3, Paul underscores that both individual and corporate (church) holiness establishes the credibility of our verbal witness. Jesus compared the church to a city set on a hill. When the message comes from that city by its official spokesman (the preacher) or by its individual citizens, people are watching to see if the walk matches the talk. The Bible teaches that we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and are capable of reflecting or displaying some of the characteristics that describe God. For example, God is holy; and we are called to be holy. God is love, and we are called to love. We also reflect the image of God in our ability to communicate. Woven into the very fabric of our humanity is the ability to communicate—to share the blessing.
Our goal is to show God’s grace. Paul emphasizes that whatever happens to us, wherever we go, or whatever we do, we are to recommend Christ through a lifestyle that communicates to others the work of God’s grace in us. The Apostle Paul was no stranger to setbacks and disappointments. During the height of his ministry, he discovered an open door to preach the Gospel in Troas (2:12). He immediately sought help from his friend, Titus, but could not find him. Paul had to change his plans, walk away from what seemed to him a great opportunity, and continue his journey to Macedonia (2:13). God’s mysterious providence created anguish in Paul’s soul (2:12). How did Paul deal with this sudden change of events in his life? He didn’t get mad or angry or upset. He used this unusual twist of fate to teach some important principles concerning the impact and influence of our witness on the world. He reminds the church that three things are true of us no matter what happens in our lives—we are Christ’s trophies, His fragrance, and His letters.
We are Christ’s Trophy
The first way we witness for Christ is as His trophy. We can learn a valuable lesson from Paul. His plans and circumstances changed, but he did not live in a state of sorrow, depression or anger. Rather, he burst out with a message of triumphant thankfulness. He viewed himself as a trophy being carried by Christ in a triumphal procession through the world (2:14). The metaphor conjures up the picture of the magnificent parades given for Roman generals who won victories on foreign soil. The general rode into Rome in a dazzling chariot; behind him, in order, followed his officers and soldiers with the spoils of battle (prisoners, beasts, weapons, and treasures).
The spiritual application is clear and succinct. God is leading His people through this world in the wake of Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Christ, the captain of our salvation, has come to this earth and defeated the arch enemy, Satan.
Our lives have been captured by Christ and as stated above we have counted the cost and have agreed to His Lordship in our lives. He now displays us to the world, not just on one passing occasion, but every day and everywhere. The truth is that in our lives every day we are “on exhibit” as a trophy of God’s grace. The question for us is: does our life manifest that Christ has taken us captive? We must realize that He is displaying us every day to the watching world. Our lifestyles and relationships must mirror the joy and gratefulness of a life that has been captured by Christ! The purpose of a trophy is to display it for all to see. Nothing speaks for the Gospel more clearly than showing by your life that Christ has conquered you by His grace.
We are Christ’s Fragrance
The second avenue introduced by Paul is a fragrance or an aroma (2:14-16). In the Roman culture the triumphal military procession was accompanied by the smell of sweet odors released from the burning of spices along the parade route. To a Roman citizen, the sweet smell symbolized reinvigorated security and stability. On the contrary, to a slave or non-citizen living in Rome, the aroma was bitter, signifying more servitude or restricted privileges.
Paul affirms that God “manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him (Christ) in every place” (v. 14b). Additionally, he asserts that Christians are the vessels from whom God releases “the fragrance of Christ” (v. 15).
The spiritual implications are clear. The great end of our lives is to make Christ known. Fragrances normally dominate or influence their environment. Christians must remember that everywhere they go they are emitting a “spiritual” odor that others can sense. Paul asserts that life and death issues are at stake in this aspect of our nonverbal witness before others (v. 16). The truth is that the difference we make in the lives of the unsaved people around us can really make a difference in where they spend eternity. Is your lifestyle a sweet perfume to other Christians (v. 16)? Does your witness encourage or impede the quest for godliness in other believers?
Thom Rainer, author of The Un-churched Next Door says, “Anyone who truly believes in and loves Christ can influence the un-churched, so we should be encouraged to have a passion for personal evangelism.” Rainer shares, “Strategically it takes 85 church members a year to reach one person for Christ. That breaks my heart. That’s telling me most Christians do not evangelize in the course of a year, and many Christians do not share their faith at all, even in the course of a lifetime. My plea is that people will understand the reality of a grace-given heaven, and the reality of a literal hell.”
We are Christ’s letter
The third avenue is the fact that we are compared to being “open epistles” or letters. Someone is reading our mail! (II Corinthians 3:1-3). In the early church, a number of bogus preachers and false prophets peddled an erroneous Gospel. These counterfeit clergymen penetrated congregations by bringing so-called “letters of commendation” on behalf of other people or churches (3:1). Paul insisted that he had a letter of commendation that could not be disputed—the Corinthian believers themselves (3:2). People knew that Paul was a genuine Christian because the Gospel he preached brought transformation in the lives of those who heard it. The people converted under his preaching were living and moving monuments to the authenticity of the Gospel. God’s law had been written in their hearts by the Holy Spirit, who in turn gave them the power and ability to be godly people (3:3).
The implications are many. The only place where some people will see the glory of God is in the behavior of His people. We may be the only epistle, the only copy of God’s law, the only Gospel that some will ever read! Does our life confuse people about the Good News or clarify it? Our lives must become “windows” not walls.
Dwight L. Moody once said, “Christians are the world’s Bible.” He didn’t mean that we as humans replace the Bible. He was simply reminding Christians that most unbelievers never read the Bible. Consequently, a large majority will see it truths only when they are being “fleshed out” in the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ. We are Christ’s letter! The purpose of a letter is to convey the message of its author.
Let’s pray that God, will help us to take advantage of these three avenues in our lives both verbally and nonverbally and by His help and grace we can become more effective trophies, perfume and letters! We are being watched! We are “the world’s Bible.”