I spent last week in Europe, meeting with leaders in the U.K., Berlin and in Istanbul. All three places have seen scores of missionaries and ministries come to their cities and countries, but all three regions have seen a dramatic decline in the influence of the Gospel upon the people and the culture. For example, in Turkey, there are only around 3000 followers in a country of over 70 million. At one time, some believe there were as many missionaries in the country as converts. What happened that so many resources have been spent, but with such miserable results?
I believe the Gospel is still good news but how we share this news can make all the difference. When I read the New Testament, I see three strategies for presenting the Gospel and I believe all three strategies have to be implemented in a culture before we will see significant results.
The message of the Gospel must be declared in public through preaching and testimonies. All of us must take every opportunity to tell our story and explain the simple truth of Jesus and His redemption of humanity. This can happen at a church gathering, in a classroom, or anywhere we are given a public opportunity. The early apostles looked for public settings where they could speak. It was done with love for the people who were listening and within the boundaries of common sense. The results were sometimes dramatic and sometimes not, but that did not stop them from proclaiming what they knew to be true.
When Philip overheard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Scriptures out loud in Acts 8, he asked if he could talk with him more. What followed was a conversation, not a sermon. As a result, the eunuch chose to follow Jesus. We must be willing to engage in meaningful conversations with people and not always try to get the “quick sell”. Many times, we confront people way too early instead of being patient with the work of the Holy Spirit. We are here on earth to cooperate with God and sometimes that means months and even years of conversation with people.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 NLT
Those who are not following Jesus should see evidence or proof in our own lives of real and radical transformation. The fruit of our lives should be so compelling to those around us that it allows the Gospel to be both seen and heard. I am not talking about behavior that is rehearsed or superficial, because the world can spot posers. I am talking about authentic servant hood and genuine compassion coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that in many cases, our message is not being heard because people cannot see the evidence of our own conversion.
All three of these strategies must be in place or we will not see significant transformation in the cultures where we live. Let’s proclaim the truth, engage in conversation at every opportunity and demonstrate the grace that has changed our own lives.
November 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm
I can understand countries like Turkey who have a super strong Islam influence. You could lose your life openly talking about Jesus so the real church is underground. I recently heard someone speak who lives in Turkey. He told how after one trip out of the country he returned to find out that his 3 partners who were Christians had their heads cut off an their building burned. Had he been there he would have lost his life as well. He still continues to proclaim the Gospel.