Engaging Our Societies
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Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.—Acts 17:16–171
The effectiveness of Paul’s evangelism was not just a consequence of divine calling, but also of careful planning. An important principle he applied to his listeners was to teach what is unknown by means of what is known. If our attempts to communicate something new begin with the unfamiliar, we will almost certainly confuse our listeners and leave them disinterested. But if we start with what is already familiar and carefully build a bridge to the unfamiliar, we are likely to gain interest and understanding.
Paul looked for a common platform on which he could build a bridge that would take his listeners from their familiar territory to the unfamiliar truths of the Gospel. … In the one recorded Scripture of Paul preaching in a synagogue, he connects with his Jewish hearers by addressing them as ‘children of Abraham’, and begins to talk about the dramatic deliverance from Egypt under Moses, all very familiar territory to them. To a group of women in Philippi, worshipping a God they didn’t know, Paul joins them and introduces a positive message about a God they could know. To the pagans of Lystra, he finds common ground in creation, and how a living God sustains it all, putting food on their tables and joy in their hearts. To Greek philosophers in Athens, he refers to futile attempts of men to express God in terms of gold, silver and stone, and tactfully leads them to a God who gives life and breath.
When reaching people for Christ, our starting point should be in the thinking, culture and presuppositions of our hearers, so that we first get into their territory. Then, like Paul, tactfully building that bridge that will lead them to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.—Charles Price
Jesus indicated that our problem is heart trouble. The greatest need of our great cities at this moment is evangelism. The apostle Paul stood in the heart of pagan, secular, immoral, and violent Corinth and said, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks [Gentiles] foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”2 The proclamation of the Gospel is still the desperate need of men today. We are never going to reverse the moral trends without a spiritual awakening, and we are never going to have a spiritual awakening until the cross of Jesus Christ is central in all our teaching, preaching and practice.—Billy Graham
Many sincere Christians everywhere find themselves in situations where the Lord leads them to invest more time in building relationships with people, in being willing to be patient as they live their faith, witness as the Lord leads them, and wait for the fruit to come in God’s time. As the “salt of the earth,” the Lord is putting more of us in situations where we can build relationships, friendships, and give a more in-depth witness over time, which will allow people to discover the truth and the Lord’s Spirit for themselves as a result of seeing it lived before their eyes by faithful Christians.
Many past methods of reaching people still work. Of course, much depends on individuals and their needs, as well as the culture and mores of the society you’re in. In general, however, the world has become more skeptical, and more people are looking for “proof” and have a need to be fully persuaded before accepting spiritual concepts. Your example and your interactions with them can go a long way toward convincing them that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
Jesus is the ultimate businessman. Nothing in His creation is squandered, from the tiniest molecule to the greatest star. So if He places you somewhere, He will bring people across your path who need you.
If you’ve been discouraged and thinking that your efforts to share your faith are not accomplishing much, look again. Your words and example of His love shining through you can convince others of the truth of His love and power in ways that will cut through the skepticism and unbelief that is so prevalent today. Your actions, words, and love for others can cut through the darkness of this world to reach those who need the truth.
Whatever situation you may find yourself in, God can raise up opportunities for you to be a force for good. They may be visible and far-reaching, or they may be less visible and small, but He has promised that if we are seeking, He will help us to find.3 The Holy Spirit is always working, always guiding people in their search for happiness, in their search for “the unknown God.”4 He wants to become known to them, and you can be the instrument He uses to help them to make that connection.—Maria Fontaine
The Great Commission gives every Christian the privilege and responsibility of preaching the Good News until the end of history: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”5 Every Christian alive today is linked, through a complex chain of historical events, with this pivotal moment. Each of us has a family tree of faith reaching back into the mists of time. Down the ages, like runners in a great relay race of history, others have passed this Good News from one generation to another. And now the baton has been handed to us. It’s our turn.
We have been entrusted with passing on the Good News to those around and beyond us. It is an exciting thought. For a start, it helps us to see how we fit into the bigger picture. Yet for many it is also a rather challenging thought. It seems too big a demand. Are we really up for this? How can we cope with such a weighty responsibility? It is important to realize that Christians have always felt overwhelmed by the challenges of passing on our faith. We feel that we lack the wisdom, insight, and strength to do this—and we are right to feel so. But we must appreciate that God knows us, exactly as we are.6 He knows our deepest secrets, our strengths, and our weaknesses. And God is able to work in us and through us to speak to the world for which Christ died.—Alister E. McGrath
Daniel did not protest as an observer outside the system: he protested as a participant. It is important to bear this in mind, not least when we hear the term “apocalyptic literature” being used in connection with the book of Daniel. This description tends to conjure up the idea of some wild and irrational prophet of doom, warning people to flee society, barricade themselves like monks or hermits against the world and await the imminent, all-engulfing cataclysm that marks the end of history. Well, if that is what “apocalyptic” means, it clearly does not apply to Daniel or his friends. We do not deny that Daniel has much to say about the future in his book, some of it bleak in its implications. But, far from leading him to run away from society and responsibility, the revelation he had of the future led him to live a very full professional life at the highest levels of administration in the empire. Daniel’s understanding of God did not lead to his developing a ghetto mentality but to taking a full and prominent part in the life of Babylon.—John Lennox
True holiness does not mean a flight from the world; rather, it lies in the effort to incarnate the Gospel in everyday life, in the family, at school and at work, and in social and political involvement.—Pope John Paul II
The word evangelism often stirs strong and conflicting emotions, even for the follower of Christ. Engaging with others in this seemingly daunting task may incite enthusiasm as well as discomfort. Yet one thing is certain, as article four of the Lausanne Covenant recognizes: “Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Savior and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God.” As such, evangelism done properly will awaken a sense of need within the hearer, and more importantly, evangelism done persuasively will show that if Christianity is true, it will provide an answer to that need. Christ must be seen not only to be the answer: His words must also be seen to be true.—Ravi Zacharias
“Ye are the salt of the earth.”7 Salt makes one thirsty. Does your life make others thirsty for the water of life?—Billy Graham
Published on Anchor September 2015. Read by Carol Andrews.
2 1 Corinthians 1:23–24 KJV.
3 Matthew 7:7–8.
4 Acts 17:23.
5 Matthew 28:18–20 NIV.
6 Psalm 139.
7 Matthew 5:13 KJV.