Tag Archives: Evangelism

Restoration Moments – The Final Day of Knowles Shaw

“Oh, it is a grand thing to rally people to the Cross of Christ!”

Those were the final words of Knowles Shaw, a preacher and hymn-writer in the late 1800s.

We present to you now a Restoration Movement Moment that comes from The Life of Knowles Shaw, Singing Evangelist (by William Baxter), which is available as a free download from the Gravel Hill church of Christ website.

—–

[Knowles Shaw] telegraphed to the church at McKinney, that he and I would be there the next day. Early the next morning there was a tremendous rain-fall, lasting two or three hours. The brethren tried to prevail on him not to go to McKinney that morning, urging that the weather was so unfavorable that he could not have a meeting if he went, and insisted that he should remain in Dallas that day and rest. He replied, “No; we have telegraphed the brethren we would be there, and we must go; that there was no time for rest now; rest would come by and by.”

I met him at the depot about seven o’clock that morning, as lively and cheerful as I ever had seen him. He had bought his ticket and was ready to start. We took a seat in the car, and, in a few moments, were off. We conversed a few moments in regard to the work at McKinney. He then took up the morning paper and looked through it.

While thus engaged, I left him, and went forward to the front of the car, and was about to pass out to the coach ahead, when someone called me by name. I turned, and saw a Methodist minister, Mr. Malloy, whom I had known years before in Arkansas. I sat down by him, and spent some time in conversation. He asked me about our meeting in Dallas, and Brother Shaw. I told him that Mr. Shaw was on the train, and just at that moment caught his eye, and beckoned to him, and he came to where we were seated.

I introduced him to Rev. Mr. Malloy, and gave him my seat, and took the next one. Mr. Malloy asked him to tell him the secret of his success in protracted meetings, which Brother Shaw proceeded to do in a very earnest manner, saying he depended much on the power of a song-preached Christ.  He always kept Jesus before the people, made them feel that they were sinners, and needed just such a Savior as he preached. That he never became discouraged, had confidence in the gospel truth as the power of God, that he loved his work, and became wholly absorbed in it.

Then he added: “Oh, it is a grand thing to rally people to the Cross of Christ.”

At that moment, I turned to see if we were in sight of McKinney, and I felt the car was off the track, bouncing over the ties. I did not feel in any danger; did not know that we were on an embankment, and expected that we would check up in a moment or two. I saw Brother Shaw rise from his seat, and realized at once that the car was going over.

Not a word was spoken.

I saw Brother Shaw alive no more.

All became as dark as night. When I came to myself, the coach was at the bottom of the embankment, and I was its only occupant. I looked round, but all were gone. When I got out, I saw the passengers on the railroad track above me, and made my way up to them. The first one I met was Mr. Malloy, with whom Brother Shaw was seated at the time of the accident. I said to him, “Have you seen Brother Shaw?”

“NO,” said he, “I fear he is under the wreck; but he saved my life by pushing me from the position in which he himself fell.”

I waited to hear no more, but ran down to the wreck, looked in, and saw a man’s hand pointing upward out of the water. It was Brother Shaw’s hand. I called for help, and in about fifteen minutes he was taken lifeless from the water. Portions of the wreck had to be cut away with an ax before the body could be reached and removed. I had the body placed in the baggage-car, which had not been thrown from the track, and sent to McKinney, where it was taken charge of by the brethren and placed in the church. I sent a telegram to Dallas, telling the sad news.

In a short time, a deep gloom pervaded the whole city, as from house to house passed the sad words, “Brother Shaw is dead.” Quite a number were injured by the accident; some very severely. My own injuries were of a serious nature, much more so than I at first supposed. Such was Brother Shaw’s last day on earth.

What Have I Done?

She was a friend.  A very kind woman who always was willing to listen and just talk whenever I came by.  It didn’t matter that I was a little kid and she was in her 60s.  It didn’t matter that I was a teenager and she was in her 70s.  It didn’t matter that I was now grown up with a family and she was in her 80s.  Mrs. Smothers, the woman who lived next door to my parents, was always happy to see me.

I mowed her yard on occasion.  When  the snow came, I always shoveled her walk (and she’d always give me a couple 50-cent pieces for my trouble).  When I got a drum set and banged horribly around on it, she complimented my ability to keep a steady beat.  When she was on her porch, she always invited me to come over and just talk.  But we moved ten years ago, and the visits with Mrs. Smothers became very few and very far between.

We have been traveling the past couple weeks, and we stopped in Illinois to visit my parents.  But along the way there, Mrs. Smothers entered my thoughts.  I realized as we were heading that way that though we’d talked before about religion in general (mostly about the fact that I was going to be a preacher), I’d never talked with her seriously about her soul.

So, I made up my mind before we ever arrived that I was going to talk to Mrs. Smothers about her soul, about Jesus, and about eternity.  I had prayed for God to allow her a receptive heart to hear the truth and at the very least to consider it.  But shortly after arriving, I asked my mother about her, and this was the reply: “Oh, didn’t I tell you?  She passed away.”  Mrs. Smothers was gone.

And I never tried to reach her with the gospel.

I had made up my mind to do so, but by then it was too late.  To say I am sad is an understatement.  I am so upset with myself over it.  I am incredibly tormented knowing that she died having never obeyed the gospel.

At this point, there are voices coming at me, saying Brad, you haven’t lived in Illinois for a decade, as though that’s some kind of excuse.  Or Brad, there are plenty of other Christians that live in the same town she does and none of them talked to her about it either.  It doesn’t matter what someone else did or didn’t do.  The fact is, I had the opportunity many times over throughout the years to talk to her about it, yet I never did.

I know that the Bible teaches each person will be judged based on his or her own works.  So Mrs. Smothers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for her own actions.  But God only knows what a word from me–a serious attempt to show her the gospel–would have done.  It’s possible that she would have been willing to listen, become a Christian, and serve God faithfully the rest of her days.  It’s possible that as a result, other members of her family might have been converted to Christ as well.

But none of that happened, because I never took the time to talk to her about Jesus Christ.  I bear the blame myself, because I did not act when I had the opportunity.  And I ask myself What have I done?

Then the words of the song echo painfully in my mind.

When in a better land,
before the bar we stand
,
How deeply
grieved our souls will be,

If some poor lost one there,
Should
cry in deep despair,
You never mentioned Him to me.

You never mentioned Him to me,
You helped me not the light to see
You met me day by day,
And knew I was astray,

Yet never mentioned Him to me.

I know she can’t read this now, but the only thing I can say is:

I’m so sorry, Mrs. Smothers.

And I don’t want that to ever happen again.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Are You Sowing the Seed of the King, Dumb Brother?

Years ago, a kind man named Dooley, after teaching the Wednesday evening Jr. High class at church, decided to share with the class some of the misheard hymn lyrics that he remembered.  I know he mentioned more than one, but I can’t remember the others.  The one I do remember is the title for this post: Are you sowing the seed of the king, dumb brother? (original words are: Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom brother?).

After discussing misheard hymn lyrics in one of last week’s posts, this one sprang to mind.  And when it did, it got me to thinking, and I began to ask myself:

Are you sowing the seed of the king, dumb brother?

And that is the exact question I want to pose to you today.

Before anyone gets offended, let me explain.  The word dumb still has the meaning of “silent” or “mute,” though it isn’t used that way much anymore.  For example, look at Isaiah 53:7 (KJV): as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.  This is the meaning I want you to think about.

Are you sowing the seed of the king, silent brother?

Evangelism is stressed in almost every congregation I know.  Bulletin articles are written about it.  Sermons are preached about it.  And every member agrees it needs to be done.  And the congregation doesn’t grow.  So more sermons are preached, more articles are written, and every member is even more convinced that it needs to be done.  But what happens?  Do we go out sowing the seed?  Or are we silent?

Preachers are oftentimes just as guilty as anyone else of being silent.  For some reason, we get it through our heads that we’ve spent hours upon hours studying for teaching class, writing sermons, preparing articles, and visiting the members, so we’ve “put in our time.”  Somehow we give ourselves a pass for not doing any evangelism outside of the invitation we put at the end of our sermons.

Are you sowing the seed of the king, dumb brother?

It’s easy to point at others and say, “they’re not evangelizing.”  And that is probably a legitimate accusation against many Christians.  But the question isn’t “are they evangelizing?”

The question is “are you evangelizing?”

I’m not comfortable evangelizing.  God never promised a comfortable life.  Those wonderful folks in the Bible who went out evangelizing did it because they wanted to do it.  Their mindset was that it was a glorious thing to bring others to Jesus Christ.  They were willing to do things that may have been uncomfortable—even risking being murdered—because they thought Jesus and His church were worth it.  Do you?

I’m no good at evangelizing.  Have you ever actually tried it?  There are many different methods, and you’d be surprised at how easy some of them are.  Some are as simple as handing a DVD to someone, and telling them, “I really think you’ll find this interesting.  When you get done watching it, let me know what you think.”

I’m afraid.  The one person who knows me best can attest to the fact that I am a massive fraidy-cat when it comes to needles.  I spent a month avoiding a shot, and then when it came time for me to give it to myself, I couldn’t do it.  I was afraid.  But I finally forced myself to do it.  And you know what?  It’s really not that bad.  If you will finally just start doing it, you won’t be afraid anymore.

This article was written for you.  It was also written for me.  Let us both challenge ourselves every day to speak out for Christ and not be dumb—silent—any longer.

Are you sowing the seed of the king, dumb brother?

–Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – The Man Born Blind

The Man Who Was Born Blind (John 9)

An entire chapter in the book of John is dedicated to relaying the time when a man was healed of his infirmity. While that might not seem like such a notable thing to point out, it is notable that though the entire chapter (forty-one verses) deals with this man, we are never told his name. He is called “the blind man” (John 9:6), “him who formerly was blind” (John 9:13), and “the man who was blind” (John 9:24). Though we don’t know this man’s name, we know that he was a man of great courage.

When you think of people in the Bible (or anywhere else, for that matter) who exhibited great courage, you generally think of people who have accomplished great things in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds. You might think of Gideon and his small band of 300 soldiers taking on an enormous Midianite army. You might think of little teenage David who ran out to meet a nine-foot tall armored soldier named Goliath in one-on-one combat. Events like these are what cause people to be viewed as heroic. But I want you to stop and consider the amazing amount of courage exhibited by a blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ.

Blind from Birth

The story of this courageous blind man begins with him almost being seen as an afterthought. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth” (John 9:1). However, this was no chance meeting. There was a reason that Jesus saw this man, and a reason that He took notice of him, and a reason that He healed him.

The disciples were like the typical Jews of that day – and much like many people today as well. They assumed that if something bad had happened to someone, it had to be the result of that person’s sinfulness. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin was to blame for this man being born blind, “this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Stop to consider how deeply ingrained this belief was in the disciples. They actually asked Jesus if this man sinned in the womb, causing himself to be born blind. This event which is recorded for us by the apostle John serves to put this false belief to rest, because Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

What was the purpose of this man being blind from birth? It wasn’t because of sinfulness on his part nor his parents’, but it was so that the power of God and His Christ could be revealed! It is very important to remember that this man was indeed born blind. Had Jesus healed a man who developed blindness later in life, it might have been touted as a medical marvel, reversing something that had happened. But the impressiveness of this miracle of Jesus is seen later when it is said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (John 9:32).

Healed by Works

This man was healed through an obedient faith. Jesus spit on the ground and made a clay, which He then put on the man’s eyes. But that didn’t heal the man. Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. This blind man walked to the Pool and did as he was commanded (John 9:6-7). Before you simply gloss over this fact, try blindfolding yourself and see how easy it is for you to walk very far without being able to see.

If this man had simply stayed put and said, “Sir, I have faith that you can heal me,” he would have remained blind until the day he died. Jesus required works from this man in order to achieve the healing that was being offered. This doesn’t mean at all that somehow the blind man earned his sight, but he did that which was required to receive it. In the same way, Jesus requires us to put forth effort in order to receive the spiritual healing that He offers. It is not by faith only. Instead, Jesus commanded that we “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). It isn’t that we somehow earn our salvation, but we still have to do what is required to receive it.

It was only after the blind man went to the Pool of Siloam and washed that he “came back seeing” (John 9:7). He was healed through faithful obedience.

The Courage of the Man Who was Born Blind

Many lessons can be learned from John chapter 9, but the one on which we will be focusing here is his great courage. He showed great courage by taking an unpopular stand. He showed great courage in not being like his parents. He showed great courage in correcting religious error.

He showed courage by taking an unpopular stand. It was most likely earlier that same day that the religious leaders took up stones to kill Jesus with (John 8:59). It was before these same people that the formerly blind man was brought to answer questions about Jesus (John 8:13, 9:13). They had already shown willingness to try to kill Jesus, so standing up for Christ wasn’t exactly a popular thing to do.

While the Pharisees argued amongst themselves about Jesus, some saying “This man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath” and others saying “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”, the blind man responded with “He is a prophet” (John 9:16-17). This proclamation did not sit well with the Pharisees. In fact, they began to accuse this man of lying about having ever been blind in the first place (John 9:18).

How does this make the man who was born blind courageous? Imagine yourself in front of a group of people who just tried to kill someone. How easy would it be to stand up for the person they wanted to kill? It would have been much easier to do what some others did and claim ignorance, or to say, “I don’t know.” So many people today, when faced with questions about Jesus, simply say, “I don’t know” or they look for other ways out of giving an answer because they fear what the other person will say or do. It takes real courage to stand up for Jesus and state the truth about Him. Even when it is unpopular, we still need to stand for Jesus.

He showed courage by not being like his parents. This man’s parents were called to speak before the Pharisees, and it was insinuated that they were liars as well. The Pharisees said “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?” (John 9:19). The parents did indeed state the truth that they knew he was their son and that he was born blind, but because they were afraid, they refused to say how he was healed (John 9:20-22).

They were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue for speaking up for Jesus, so they faked ignorance. They were more interested in social standing and the approval of people than they were in standing up for the truth. This is seen even more clearly when you realize that they were more interested in this approval than they were in their own son. When they were asked, they pushed all questions off on him (John 9:21). They knew that if he stood up for Jesus, he would be kicked out of the synagogue (which is what happened – John 9:34), but they seemed okay with that so long as it didn’t happen to them. This is much like King Hezekiah who was told that his descendants would be taken captive and many of them killed. His response was “at least there will be peace and truth in my days” (Isaiah 39:7-8).

Because he spoke the truth, the man was kicked out of the synagogue. As such, his parents would not speak to him, lest they be labeled as “Jesus sympathizers” too. But this man showed great courage, even though it likely cost him his relationship with his parents. He was more interested in following God than pleasing people.

He showed courage in correcting religious error. The Pharisees began again to chastise the man. In their demands upon him, they implied that he was giving glory to a sinner instead of God (John 9:24). They then re-questioned him on how he was made to see, and he was fearless in his response: “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27).

In their anger, the Pharisees reviled him, and treated him like he was worthless. They mockingly said to him, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from” (John 9:28-29). The constant accusations which are implied against this man are incredible. They had accused him of lying about having been born blind, they accused him of giving glory to a sinner instead of God, and now they are accusing him of rejecting the Law of Moses.

In the face of accusations like this, many people would back down and simply be quiet, or perhaps say the things necessary to appease the accusers (like Peter did in John 18:15-18, 25-27). Instead, this man who was unable to see until that very day stood firm and pointed out their hypocrisy and contradictions. He said very plainly, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet he has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:30-33).

Courage is seen in someone standing up for what is right in the face of those who are against it. These Pharisees were supposed to be the religious experts and leaders. But this man – who had been able to see for only a few hours – could see that they were wrong. And he did not hesitate to tell them so to their faces. As a result, he was accused of being a sinner from birth (something that Jesus said wasn’t true – John 9:3), and kicked out of the synagogue (John 9:34). These Pharisees didn’t care for the truth. They cared only for their own prestige and power. But even with being kicked out of the synagogue, the man whose name was never given to us proudly proclaimed to Jesus, “Lord I believe!” and worshiped Him (John 9:36).

Are You Courageous?

It is easy to imagine ourselves doing what is right when we have lots of people watching us as we face overwhelming odds. We know what the right thing to do would be in those circumstances. The true test of courage is this: will you show courage in the normal, day-to-day aspects of your life? When someone says something against Jesus, will you stand up for your Savior or will you remain silent? When a crowd of people makes fun of Christianity, how will you respond? If you own parents give you an example of trying to appease others, will you still stand up for the truth? Even if it means social rejection and being called a liar, will you stand up for Jesus Christ?

It takes courage to do what is right. Follow the example of the un-named man who was born blind and proudly proclaim your belief in Jesus Christ and follow His command to go to the water where your spiritual ailment (your sins) will be washed away!

–Bradley Cobb

Restoration Moments – The Conversion of Blue Dick

A miserable drunk.  A congregation who wanted nothing to do with him.  And the power of the gospel.

Today’s Restoration Moment comes from the book, The Life of Knowles Shaw: Singing Evangelist (by William Baxter).  This book is available as a free download from the Gravel Hill church of Christ (scroll down to “Biographies”).  Enjoy!

Knowles Shaw was holding a meeting at some point on the Ohio River, where it was necessary for him to cross frequently. The first night of his meeting, he went down to the river, but found the only ferryman to be a poor, ragged, besotted wretch, no hat on his head, his hair matted, his whole person filthy in the extreme, and giving evidence that he was even then under the influence of drink. His appearance was so forbidding, and his condition such that Shaw was doubtful as to whether it would be safe to entrust himself in a frail skiff with such a ferryman. And had there been any other and safer means of getting across he would have availed himself of it. But there was no other chance, and with some misgivings as to the result, he entered the boat. He soon found that, though under the influence of liquor, the ferryman knew how to manage his skiff, and feeling at ease on that matter, he began to talk with him. He asked him his name.

“Blue Dick,” was the reply.

“But,” said Shaw, “that is not really your name.”

“Well,” said he, “if I have any other, it has been so long since I heard it, I have almost forgotten what it is.”

Changing the subject abruptly, he asked, “Why don’t you quit drinking?”

“I can’t,” said the poor wretch.

“Yes, you can,” replied Shaw.

Wondering that a stranger should take any interest in him, he said, “Mister, do you think I could?”

“Of course you can,” said Shaw, in a kind and assuring manner.

The poor fellow sat for some time in silence. It was long since any word of sympathy, interest or encouragement had fallen upon his ear, and the kind words of the stranger reached the heart which all his neighbors thought had ceased to feel. Deeply moved, he looked up and said, earnestly:

“Mister, do you really think I could quit drinking?”

“Have you a wife and children?”

In a voice choked with emotion, and weeping bitterly, he said that he had. The way was now open. Shaw told him he was a preacher, and asked him to come and hear him.

“Why,” said he, “you would not let such a one as me come; and if you were willing, others would not like to see me there.”

Shaw urged him to come, assured him that he should be welcome; that instead of being out of the reach of mercy, that it was such as he that Jesus came to save. Tenderly and earnestly he besought him to change his course, until the poor ferryman began to think that there might be hope even for him. On reaching the other side, Shaw paid him his fare, and, as he did so, he pointed to a saloon that was near, and said, “I do not like the idea of this money going to such a place as that; can’t you promise me that you will not drink any tonight, and I will come back, and you shall take me over the river again.” Blue Dick gave the required promise and they parted; the preacher going to the house of God, and the ferryman, with emotions such as had not stirred in his heart for years, standing in deep thought by the rapid river under the watching stars.

After meeting, Brother Shaw went down to the river, found Blue Dick waiting for him, showing by his manner that he had kept his promise not to drink. He gave him a few words of encouragement, and obtained his promise that he would come and hear him preach the following night.

Great was the astonishment of many to see Blue Dick at church, and greater still to see the preacher, who had seen him come in and drop into the first empty seat that he found near the door, come up to him, take him by the hand, speak a few kind words to him, and ask him to come again. Night after night he came, and the warm hand of the preacher never failed to give that of Blue Dick a friendly grasp, and the fitting words spoken did not fail to strengthen the new purposes that were beginning to take shape in his mind.

The coming of this one, and the marked attention shown him by the preacher, led some of the brethren to fear, yes fear, that this poor outcast might offer himself for membership. They even expressed their fears to Brother Shaw, and predicted that it would ruin the church if one such as he should attempt to enter the fold. Brother Shaw, however, did not fail to show, in their loveliest colors, the tenderness and compassion of Him who came to give hope to the hopeless, to seek and to save the lost. The lost sheep, and the wayward, wretched, ruined prodigal seemed to point to Blue Dick, and Blue Dick himself began to think they meant him; and one night, when the preacher, with even more than his wonted earnestness, urged the despairing and lost to come to Christ as their only hope, Blue Dick rose to come forward and accept the gospel offer. The preacher went half-way down the aisle to meet him; angels doubtless, too, at that moment gave expression to their joy in glad song, and He who died to save the lost was, doubtless, glad to see that the lost was found.

But, alas! while there was joy in heaven, the coming of poor Blue Dick to confess his Lord, to strive to lead a better life, did not send a thrill of joy through the church; some there were who, like the elder son in the parable, thought that the returned wanderer would never be other than a disgrace to the family, thought that Blue Dick had gone too far to retrace his steps, and that his newly-formed resolutions would be broken on the very first invitation to take a drink, and that he would soon sink to even a lower depth, if possible, than before. Such was the feeling of opposition with regard to him that Brother Shaw did not take his confession and baptize him for several days, feeling, doubtless, that until he could change their views on the subject, that their coolness would repel and discourage, rather than help and save.

Before the meeting closed, to the wonder of the whole community, Blue Dick made a public confession of his faith in Christ, was baptized, and by his consistent life soon disarmed whatever of objection remained, and was regarded as a standing proof of the power of the gospel.

Years passed by; the faithful evangelist revisited the same place. Blue Dick was no longer there; he was transformed into Brother George M., one of the best members of the church.  He was living in a comfortable home, surrounded by a loving and happy family, with every mark of neatness and thrift about them. As soon as Brother Shaw had entered this happy Christian home, the one who had been Blue Dick said: “Brother Shaw, kneel down and thank God for what he has done for me, that I, who when you met me was a poor, miserable, drunken sinner, have been lifted up, and, by the mercy of God, am what I am today.” Down they knelt; preacher, husband, wife, and children, all, all wept; but they were tears of joy; and when they parted it was in the glad hope of meeting in that blessed land where no partings shall be.

Miracle-Gro Evangelism

The idea for today’s lesson came from a statement by Jamie Beller.

Introduction:

A lot of people take a “Miracle-Gro” approach to evangelism.  They don’t do any work, and then pray to God to make the church grow—asking for “Miracle-Growth.” And then they wonder why the church doesn’t grow.

What they don’t realize is that—just like with “Miracle-Gro”—there are other steps involved. You can’t just go get Miracle-Gro and spray it on your lawn and expect to have a garden. You have to till the ground, choose your seeds, hoe the rows, fertilize the ground, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and then you use Miracle-Gro on a semi-regular basis. There’s a lot more work involved, and Miracle-Gro is only part of the equation.

In the same way, you can’t just pray for the church to grow if you’ve not done any of the other stuff that’s necessary. I Corinthians 3:6 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. Today we will be looking at the way that the church can grow, both here and throughout the world.

But before we get into that, I want you to briefly consider the question, “why should we evangelize?” The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can have a bigger congregation here. The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can build bigger buildings. It’s not about numbers or prestige. We should be evangelizing because souls are lost in sin, and Jesus has given us the tools to save them! We should be evangelizing because that is the mission that Jesus left us with (Matthew 28:18-20). We should be evangelizing because we love other people and we don’t want them to suffer eternal torment!

How does the Bible teach that we are to evangelize?

Plant the seed (“I planted”)

  1. When you plant a garden, you have to decide what crops you want to get from it.  If you want lettuce, you plant lettuce seeds; if you want okra, you plant okra seeds.   But make no mistake about it, if you expect to get certain crops, those seeds have to be planted.       It does no good to buy the seeds and then leave them in a bag or sitting on the shelf somewhere.
  2. The purpose of evangelism is to create Christians.   Because of that fact, the seed that must be used is that which will produce Christians.     To quote Jesus: “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).   The word of God—without any subtractions, additions, or changes—will produce Christians. The word of God does not produce Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, or any of the thousand other denominational groups.  The word of God only produces Christians.  The only way to produce those other groups is to change the seed.
  3. But make no mistake about it, just like with a garden, there will be no Christians grown without planting the seed!   Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9.  It began with a sower scattering the seed (the word of God), and showed how the seed fares in different soils (types of hearts). The seed took hold and grew (Christians began to grow), and in some of those soils (hearts) the plant (Christian) flourished.    But there would be no plant without the seed being put in the soil.   There can be no Christians without the word of God first being taken to them.
  4. Why isn’t the church growing like we want it to?   Reason #1 – The seed isn’t being planted enough.  “Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom, brother?

We must water the seed (“Apollos watered”)

  1. If a seed does not receive any water while it is in the ground, it will not grow.    This is why it is extremely important in drier climates to water the garden regularly.    If you don’t water it, you’ve just wasted your time in preparing the garden and planting the seed.
  2. When we teach the word of God to others (planting the seed), we must water it as well.    (a) This is done through lovingly teaching people and guiding them back to God’s word.   (b) This is done by placing the emphasis on only what the Bible says, and not on man’s opinions and theories.   (c) This is done by encouraging people to act on the information that is contained in the word of God.  Acts 2 records Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, but notice that after proving Jesus was the Christ, it says “and with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying save yourselves from this untoward generation” (2:40).  He planted the seed with his sermon, then he began to water it—to encourage them to let the seed take root and grow in their hearts.  (d) This is done by helping them along to the point of becoming a new creature. It’s no coincidence that the Bible connects becoming a new creature with water.  John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – being born is a becoming a new creature.  Romans 6:3-4 – know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. – new life comes from being baptized into Christ.
  3. It seems that many times, those who take the word of God to others just say “this is what it says” and then they leave it at that.  We need to not just be seed-planters, but be those who water it as well!

We must seek God’s help (“God gave the increase”).

  1. Sometimes, regardless of how hard you work to get a garden to produce, it fails.  Two years ago, there was a total of three tomatoes grown from all the gardens belonging to members of this congregation.  From this alone, we should realize that our own efforts can only get us so far.  God is the one in control, and as such, we should always seek His aid with everything we do.
  2. This is the part of the equation that we might call “Miracle-Gro.” Miracle-Gro is something extra added to better the chances that the crops will grow and thrive.  Miracle-Gro is added while you’re watering the garden.
  3. When we have done our part to share the gospel with others, we should be seeking God’s assistance.  We must constantly remind ourselves that it is not about US.  I cringe when I hear preachers say “I’ve baptized ____ people.” It doesn’t matter how many people YOU have baptized—because it isn’t about YOU at all. The focus should be on God.   I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither is he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.  Pray for God’s aid that you plant the seed properly.  Pray for God’s aid that you water correctly (not too much, not too little).   Pray for God’s aid that the seed will take root and create a new creature.

But wait! There’s more to do!

  1. When you have a garden, it is successful as soon as the first green sprout appears, right?    WRONG!  You consider your garden a success when you have full-grown plants which are producing—That’s the goal of having a garden in the first place!  If your seeds never get past the initial sprouting stages, then they’re no good.
  2. So, what happens if you stop watering your plants when they first sprout?   They are going to die. They will not grow, and they will never be of any use.  Instead, gardeners continually water their plants as it is needed, and continue to add Miracle-Gro regularly.   Gardeners must tend the garden, remove the weeds and do everything they can to give the plants an environment where they can grow and thrive.
  3. It’s not enough to get people to let the word of God take root in their heart and produce a new creature. If we get thousands of people to become new creatures, but they all fade away without producing fruit, we’ve failed. This is the problem of trying to get numbers in the church instead of trying to save souls. Just as new plants require constant attention, so do new Christians.  Some are more hardy than others from the get-go and require very little attention.  But others need frequent care and attention to help them grow.
  4. Christians must be encouraged regularly (just like a plant needs water) to grow.  I Thessalonians 5:11 – …edify one another.  Hebrews 10:24 – Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.  We must show our love and care for new Christians, constantly encouraging them.
  5. Christians must be fed the proper nutrients in order to grow.  Acts 20:32 – And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.  We must continue to help new Christians in their study of God’s word.
  6. And we must also go to God in prayer on their behalf (keep God involved).  How many times have you prayed for a new Christian, and said, “Lord, please be with _______ as he’s facing the devil’s onslaughts against him. And Lord, please help me to help him grow into a strong, faithful servant of you”?
  7. Keep the spiritual “Miracle-Gro” applied by keeping God involved.

Conclusion:

The goal of evangelism is to produce Christians who will bear fruit and who will be able to spread the word of God to others (II Timothy 2:2). The goal of evangelism is to save souls and teach them how to save others. The goal of evangelism is to make heaven the most crowded place it can be!

Here’s the catch – you are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to even try. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to plant the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to water the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to tend to the plant after it has sprouted. Those are all things you can control.

Spiritually speaking, how good of a gardener have you been? Have you been planting the seed? Have you been watering it? Or have you simply been looking at the weed-covered field of the world and said, “well, if they want to grow, they know where to find me”? Imagine a real gardener saying that—it’s preposterous!

Jesus Christ came to this earth and voluntarily took on our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to endure it. You must let that truth take root in your heart and believe it. Allow it to cause you to change your ways by repenting of your sins. Make the confession of Christ, and then apply the water—become a new creature by being baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

-Bradley Cobb

Spreading the Good News About Gas

One person I know used to call the local radio stations every morning and let them know which gas stations had the cheapest gas that day.  He wasn’t paid to do it, nor was he ever asked to do it.  Instead, he viewed it as a public service to let others know where they could save five or ten cents per gallon on their gas.  If you add that up, in a normal SUV, that’s perhaps $2.50 you can save!

The man did this every day.  Why?  Because he wanted to help others.

Sure, $2.50 isn’t much, but people sure do feel like ten cents per gallon is a big deal.  In fact, they’ll drive a mile or two out of their way to get their gas cheaper…never bothering to consider that they wasted a gallon of gas doing it—and thus wasted more money than they saved.

Because he thought they would be interested.  Saving money seems to interest most people, even if it is a little amount.  I know of one person (I won’t mention his name) who uses a calculator at the grocery store to figure out how much things cost per ounce.  And if it happens to save him a penny, he’ll buy the big container instead of four of the little ones—even if he’s not going to use all of it for months.

Because he hoped it would be important to them.  For some people who are on a very tight budget or a fixed income, every little bit helps.  And hearing about the best price in town is very useful.

Now, answer honestly: have you ever told a total stranger where they could find something cheaper?  I was in a grocery store once, and heard someone complaining about the price of Ritz crackers.  I then heard someone else say, “they have them for half the price over at _________.”

People spread this kind of news all the time, and many times it is to total strangers.

About this point, you’re either wondering where I’m going, or you’ve already figured it out.

Why is it that people (including Christians) are so eager and unafraid to spread the good news about cheap gas, but are so timid and scared when it comes to spreading the REALLY good news about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Do you want to help others?

Of course you do!  But what is more helpful, telling people how to save $2.50, or telling them how to save their eternal soul?

Do you find Jesus and the Bible and salvation interesting?

There’s a lot of other people out there who do as well.  What do you think is more interesting to most people?  $2.50 or freedom from the guilt and consequences of their past sins?

Do you think salvation is important?

If you don’t try to talk to others about it, then the answer is “no.”  Most people have no problem telling total strangers about good deals, all because they think saving money is important.  Do you think saving souls is important?

If you want to be helpful—truly helpful—to other people, tell them about Jesus.  And if you want to tell them how to save $2.50 while you’re at it, then they will have two things to thank you for: helping their pocketbook, but also helping their soul.

–Bradley Cobb

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 5)

Don’t forget to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 first!

The preacher laughed in teenage Victor Cross’s face when he said he wanted to be a preacher.  It was over 25 years later before Victor finally overcame his sadness and bitterness towards the church.  But when he came back to Jesus, Victor started working and never looked back.

We saw in yesterday’s post how Victor used the power of a simple question: “Do you read your Bible every day?” to open doorways of opportunity.  We saw the power of using tracts to spread the gospel throughout the world.  In this, the final installment of The Life of Victor Cross, we look at the power of the postal service in evangelism.

There are millions of people around the world who would love to receive letters from the United States.  Victor Cross learned this as a result of his tract-spreading activities.  He was contacted by someone in Nigeria who had received a tract he left on board a ship, and that led to over 100 correspondence courses completed within a year, with many of them obeying the gospel.

Once, a ship was actually beginning to pull away from the harbor when Victor quickly rushed up the gangplank to ask if anyone read their Bible every day.  A British man on board said “Sir, I read my Bible every day.”  So, Victor handed him a tract—“The Old Paths” by Batsell Barrett Baxter.  The man said, “If this is of any value, I’d like to hear from you further.”  So Victor quickly wrote his name and address on the back before running back to the dock, just barely making it.  Another fifteen seconds, and he would have had to swim back to the dock.

It was nine days later that Victor received a letter in the mail, stating: “your ‘book’ impresses me very much.  I can’t bear to part with it, but I’d like my wife to have one.”  He gave her address to Victor, and that same day, copies of the tract, and four Bible courses were mailed to the British West Indies.  Within a few short years, 16% of the entire island had completed the correspondence courses!

Victor Cross has since gone on to his reward.  But his life should be an encouragement to each of us to do what we can to spread the gospel.  We don’t have to be pulpit preachers.  We don’t have to be eloquent.  What we have to do is make the opportunities, and use what God has given us.

So, next time you go to church, pick up some tracts and hand them out.  Ask people “Do you read your Bible every day?”  Help get people interested in taking a Bible study course through the mail.  You can even help to spread the word about Bible study courses through email, Facebook, text message, and many other forms of communication.

You, too, can be an international missionary without leaving your hometown!

(Note: Victor Cross and his evangelistic efforts were discussed in Firm Foundation, March 12, 1968.  Much of the information in this series came from that article).

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 4)

To get caught up, read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Victor Cross wants to do more for Jesus.  There are so many lost souls out there that need the gospel, but how can I do it? Once again, Providence intervenes.

Victor took a job operating a crane, unloading cargo from ships that came into the bay near Houston, TX.  This job put him in contact with seamen from all over the world.  His first day on the job, he met some Germans who were bringing in a shipment, and he asked them about studying the Bible.  They were very enthusiastic about it, but not being fluent in English, a study would be difficult.

That very night, Victor wrote to Otis Gatewood, a preacher in Germany, asking for Bible material in German.  Within a few weeks, Victor started receiving tracts and Bible study materials in German, Finnish, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages.  Victor went to work.

He invited some of the sailors to his house for fried chicken (these foreign seamens had never had fried chicken before), showed them the filmstrips, and then gave them some tracts in their own language.  He soon had Bibles, tracts and materials in 17 different languages.

Victor met with thousands of foreign seamen each year, giving them tracts, Bibles, and encouraging them to read them.  But sometimes the people aren’t so friendly.  One day, he went aboard a Greek ship, and every single person refused to talk with him.  So, he simply left three tracts on the ship and left.

It was over a year later that the same ship came into port, and Victor again went on to see if he could talk with anyone.  He entered the mess room where he saw a man reading something.  It was a tract!  It was one of the tracts that Victor had left over a year earlier!  As Victor said “hi” and sat down, the man spoke to him.

“The Americans are the most wasteful people on earth.  Over a year ago, when we were here, some American threw this little book away.  And it’s the greatest message I have ever read!  Three weeks after we departed from Houston last year, we docked in Japan where I got a Bible, and I checked all the references given.  And everything in it is true!”  The man continued, “I will be discharged soon.  And when I get home, I’m going to tell the patriarch in our church that he has been teaching us a falsehood all these years!”

Victor never told the man that it was he who left the tract.

The captain of another Greek ship was asked by Victor, “Do you read the Bible every day?”  The Captain said he had no Bible, so Victor gave him one, along with a tract.  Later that week, the captain invited Victor to dine with him on the ship.  He told Mr. Cross, “This book is the greatest thing I have ever read!  Why didn’t you come along 25 years ago?”

Curious, Victor asked why.  The answer was astonishing.

“My father was a Greek Orthodox priest, and said that it shouldn’t be a Catholic Church or a Greek Church, but Christ’s church.  My father said the Lord’s Supper should be observed every Sunday, and that it should be accompanied with prayers, and songs, and study of the Bible.  But he could never find anyone who would agree with him.  Now he’s gone.”  Then the Captain concluded with these words: “I’m going home to establish the church that belongs to Christ, and maybe someday we’ll send missionaries back to evangelize the United States.”

To be concluded tomorrow…

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (Part 3)

If you missed it, here’s part 1 and part 2

Victor Cross is discouraged.  He wants to preach.  He wants to help bring others to Jesus.  But each time he tries, he runs into the same question: “What denomination are you with?”

It was late afternoon as Victor started to leave the doctor’s office.  He stopped before leaving, and asked the secretary if she’d be interested in studying the Bible.  And, as always, the question came, “with what denomination, Mr. Cross?”

After pausing for a moment in silent prayer, asking God, “How do I answer?” Victor turned and said, “Look at me.”

Confused, the secretary replied, “What do you mean?”

Victor turned again and said, “Look at me!  Do I look like a denomination?”

“You surely don’t.”

Victor quickly responded with a smile, “Then will you study the Bible, with me?”

She did, and later was baptized.

Victor has done the same thing with multiple thousands of people, and the success rate is amazing.  Others have followed his approach and found that it works for them too.  Why?  Because even people who aren’t willing to go inside a church building to save their lives are open to talking to an individual about the Bible.

It’s interesting that when you look in the Bible, you won’t see a single person converted by a sermon preached during the worship.  They’re all converted outside of the “church building.”

And though Victor Cross brought several people to Christ this way, his biggest impact for Christ—one that was felt world-wide—hadn’t even begun.

To be continued tomorrow…