Everyone is Effected by Bitterness

In her book Having a Mary Spirit Joanna Weaver wrote in 2006, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Steve Farrar also wrote this in Finishing Strong: Going the Distance for Your Family, in October 2000. It’s always hard to tell who should get credit for an original quotation. The original quote was most likely about resentment and is credited to Augustine of Hippo, who said, “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

I remember when I first heard this bitterness quote, and it wasn’t from my reading. My friend Slip Gray said it while we were on a Caribbean cruise together. What he basically meant was that bitterness is usually caused by my anger at someone else, but takes its a toll on me rather than the person I’m angry at.

Besides Skip’s quip, I know that I have heard several sermons warning about the effect that bitterness can have on a person. As I recall, each of those messages were warnings about what bitterness will do in a person’s life – the person holding the bitterness.

Many people point to the New Testament book of Hebrews when they talk about this warning of the effects of bitterness. There it says, [See to it] “that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15b, New American Standard Bible).

There an important word that I noticed this morning in my devotional time. Let’s look at the NIV translation for another perspective: “that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” In both of these translations we find the word “many.”

Bitterness does not just poison the person holding it. Bitterness has the ability to defile “many.” In neither of these translations does the context solely point at the person with the bitter spirit. This verse is found in a section of the book that lists things the Hebrew readers should do (beginning with the word “therefore” at the beginning of verse twelve).

When I look at the immediate context of verses 14-16, there is a common focus – the community of Christ; the Church. We are to “see to it that” (1) “no one comes short,” (2) “no root of bitterness…causes trouble,” and (3) “there be no immoral or godless person.” Each of these “that” imperatives are for the protection of the Christian community.

Bitterness will, in fact, eat the soul of a person for breakfast. But it will also defile anyone who comes in contact with it. That contact could be innocent; like Covid-19 being spread without intention.

As members of the Body of Christ, we need to watch not only that a root of bitterness not spring up (NASB) in our own lives, but also expect that it might grow up (NIV) in someone else’s life. We simply can’t take the stance that “It’s not my problem.” By allowing bitterness to take root, we allow the defilement of every Christian that it comes into contact with.

Watch for it. Take action. Protect the Body.

Discipling by Assumption

I have read, and continue to read, a lot of books about making disciples. Currently, I’m finishing up The Multiplier: Making Disciple Makers, by Waylon B. Moore. Dr. Moore is a retired pastor who is known around the world for his teachings on disciple-making. He’s even been called “one of the living pioneers in the area of discipleship training.”

I just read this piece in Chapter Nine, entitled Have a Parent Heart: “Helping disciples means observing their conduct with the opposite sex. Honest and frank words on this subject, spoken in love, must be shared with both single and married disciples so they learn how to ‘keep they heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23).”

That sounds like sound advice and I can’t actually count how many men I’ve talked with about purity and their relationship with the opposite sex. However even though this book was written just three years ago, it’s missing something major in discipling others in the area of purity today.

Just one day before I read this quotation, I was having a frank discussion with a married couple about how we may be missing the mark when we talk with people about sexual purity. They told me the story of a friend of theirs who had been asked to intern with a disciple-making ministry. Recently, this friend had not only left the ministry, he left the faith and was becoming quite angry about the current state of Christianity. I think about him like the fellow in the photo above; all alone in his struggle.

I’ll call this fellow “Joe,” since I can’t even remember his actual name. Joe was attending a required ministry training course on sexual wellness, along with the couple who knew the story. They relate that Joe sat in the back of the room, fuming and rolling his eyes as the trainers spoke about maintaining purity.

Why was Joe so angry and disengaged in a subject that many men have eagerly, though candidly, talked about with me? Because the training wasn’t scratching Joe where he itched. Joe didn’t have a problem in his conduct with the opposite sex (to refer back to Dr. Moore’s quote). Joe wasn’t even interested in the opposite sex. Joe’s interests were in people of the same sex. The training wasn’t even considering that anyone in the room might have that kind of attraction.

One of the first rules of discipling someone is to know them. Know your man. Know your ma’am. These have been basic instructions in disciple-making since I became a Christian. Your disciple’s interests or inclinations, or even his activities in this area of life are based on deeply held ideas and feelings. If we don’t take the time to really know who it is that we’re discipling, we’ll most likely wind up with a disconnected, and even angry, Joe.

You may not be comfortable asking a question about sexual orientation or attraction. But think about how the other person feels if you never go there, and worse, you disciple them based on your assumption that he’s just like you. Quite frankly, I’ve never had anyone get angry when I asked them about this. And yes, I’ve asked it a lot.

What are the assumptions that you might be working under? There are probably a number that you would never even consider until you realize (or are told) that you’re headed the wrong direction. Do you ask someone you’ve recently met to get coffee in order to get to know them? Not everyone drinks coffee, including me. (I got asked to meet for coffee again today!) Do you assume there’s an interest in cars, or cooking, or video games? You might think that because you’re from the same generation that you have the same interests. And you’ll be wrong fairly often.

Check your assumptions at the door. Ask more questions; lots more! That’s the best way to disciple someone.

~ ~ ~

Photo credit: https://www.splitshire.com/solitary-man-pub/

Where Are Your Friends?

A few days ago, I came across a small card that I used to give to men that I was discipling. The title at the top of the card was “My Ten Most Wanted.” The card had ten numbered lines where we could write the names of ten Non-Christians that we wanted to see come to Christ. I found a similar card on the Internet that I inserted in the photo above.

I actually laughed out loud when I looked at it and thought, “It would be amazing if people had three names on one of these lists!” I recently asked one fellow that I’ve been mentoring how many Non-Christian friends he has. At first, he said, “One.” Later he changed that to “Three.” But only because he remembered to friends from college who now live in a different city. So locally, he only had one Non-Christian friend.

That’s not unusual. There has been research for years that shows that the average Christian no longer has any Non-Christian friends after three years in the faith. Often that is the result of someone teaching us not to be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), and to that we should separate from the world (2 Corinthians 6:17).

As I thought longer about it, I decided to see how my Facebook friends might answer the question. So, I created a survey, posted it on Facebook, and watched to see what happened. I removed some responses that I thought were extreme. For example, two people said they were personal friends with 50 co-workers. How is that even possible? Many of us don’t have more than ten co-workers that we regularly interact with.

Without those extremes, people indicated that they had no more than five Non-Christian co-workers as personal friends. One-third of those people said they did not have a personal friend among their Non-Christian co-workers. On average, Christians had two friends among their co-workers.

I also asked a question about personal friends among Non-Christian neighbors (either on their block or in their apartment building). I again took out the extremes. The same person who was friends with 50 co-workers was friends with 12 neighbors. Most of us can’t name 12 of our neighbors, much less call them personal friends.

Without the extreme neighbor responses, 80 percent of respondents consider five or less of their neighbors to be personal friends. This time only had felt that he had no personal friend among his neighbors. A pretty good improvement in the neighbor category! Unless you look at the average. The average Christian responding had 2.1 friends among their neighbors.

A third question I asked was among personal friends among Non-Christians in a “third place” (coffee shop, gym, playground, other regular social venues). Again, someone claimed to have 50 personal friends among this group (for a total of 112 personal friends who are Non-Christians). Those extremes were once again removed from the total.

In this third place category, the respondents claimed to have an average of 2 personal friends who were Non-Christians. Yet, 50 percent of these Christians did not have anyone among their third place venues that they felt were personal friends.

This survey is still active, and I’m looking for more results. Yet, it already helps me understand what people are facing about sharing the gospel in the most common places where they live, work, and play. On average, the survey shows that the average Christian only has 6.1 person friends among the Non-Christians around them. But many of those below the average do not have more than one Non-Christian friends from any of these three places where we are most likely to interact with unbelievers.

That means for more than half of the survey respondents, asking them to pray for ten Non-Christians who live, work, or play among them is futile. They simply don’t know that many Non-Christians.

~ ~ ~

Would you like to add your answers to this survey? You can find it at:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RP8MMW8

Are Small Groups “Churches”?

Photo from Visualhunt

Disclaimer: This article will be the first in a small series that addresses the concept of the local church. It reflects my opinion based on Scripture, meditation, and discussion.

I met with a friend who admitted that he struggled with the corporate church as he has experienced it. Recently, he and his wife have been meeting with another couple over the Internet, spurred on by the covid-19 virus.  He told me, for him, this feels much more like church than the organized meetings available, whether live or over the Internet.

I happen to know that this friend has been influenced by a group that focuses on small group meetings in homes. Those involved in this “movement” freely call each small group a “church.” A number of the leaders of this movement will point to Matthew 18:20 as a “proof text” for this idea. In the NIV, it reads: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

I will acknowledge that this verse lies within the context of Jesus’ teaching on dealing with the sin of another person. However, the term “church” is never used by Jesus here. Yet, that isn’t the focus of my point in this case.

I have been studying the book of Acts chapter by chapter for several months. Most recently, I have moved from chapter 18 to chapter 19. The two chapters are connected by the introduction of Apollos, an eloquent traveling speaker. At the end of chapter 18, it’s pointed out that he was accurately teaching things about Jesus. Yet, Aquila and Priscilla took him aside to teach him certain things more accurately. He then went to Corinth, which is where Priscilla and Aquila had met the Apostle Paul.

Chapter 19 opens with the return of Paul to Ephesus on his third missionary trip. When he arrives, he finds a group of disciples who he (for some reason) asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They replied that they didn’t know anything about the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Two things to note: 1.), Luke, the writer of Acts, calls these people “disciples.” That’s a term that is only used for Christians. And 2.), Paul is quoted as acknowledging that they had “believed.” We shouldn’t miss that these were Christians who apparently gathered together for some type of worship in a place where Paul could find them. After Paul explains the baptism of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they “began speaking with tongues and prophesying (v. 6, NASB).

Because this story is part of the larger story of Apollos visiting Ephesus, I believe these disciples came to faith through him. It’s possible they were his “first fruits.” But what is clear is that, like Apollos, they didn’t have all the details needed for a full faith. That may be why some commentators refer to these as “disciples of John the Baptist.” (I think it would be strange that someone who heard John the Baptist teach a baptism of repentance could go about 20 years without hearing about the Holy Spirit as Jesus taught. John’s disciples would have heard that the Spirit would be poured out on men [Luke 3:16]. Besides, Acts 18:25 says that even Apollos only knew about the baptism of John – so he’s mostly like reproduced himself.)

That’s where this gets complicated. While Priscilla and Aquila were in Ephesus and had spent time with Apollos to help him be “more accurate” in his teaching (Acts 18:26), no one made sure those first fruit believers understood the Holy Spirit’s coming. Neither Apollos nor Aquila and Priscilla.

It’s fair enough to guess that Apollos left for Corinth before having a chance to teach his new believers what he may have learned from Priscilla and Aquila. But where were Aquila and Priscilla during this time? When Paul left them, he traveled by ship to Palestine, then up to Antioch, traveled on foot across Asia Minor until he reached Ephesus. Most biblical commentators think Paul was gone for a full year.

In a full year, Aquila and Priscilla either never came across this small band of believers or, doubtfully, never asked the same crucial question that Paul did in Acts 19:2. My guess, because the story is silent on this detail, is that this small group of disciples was meeting in another location away from any other believers produced by the initial work of Paul (Acts 18:19-21), or by Priscilla and Aquila who lived in Ephesus for a year before Paul’s return.

I assume that there were at least two “churches” in Ephesus. One attended by the disciples who only understood John’s baptism, and the other that may have been established by Paul and that Aquila and Priscilla fellowshipped in. While Ephesus at this time had about 200,000 inhabitants, those with a Judeo-Christian leaning should have easily found each other through the local synagogue.

And there’s my point about a small group being a “church” disconnected from the larger body of believers. A small group that exists outside of a larger body of believers will be missing something. They can also be easily swayed toward a focus preferred by the group leader, or in the case above, not know what the leader doesn’t know.

While we can easily point out things that are wrong with the corporate church, avoiding that large group only leads to other problems. (Wasn’t the rise of non-denominational churches supposed to bring us closer to the First Century church? And look, we’re still in the same predicament!)

While an entire church, including its elders, can sit under the teaching of a pastor and learn universalist thinking (shades of Rob Bell here), it’s even easier for a small group to go off the theological grid.

There are positives to small groups, especially the intimacy that we can find there and is usually absent from a mega-church. We can have potluck meals and meet anywhere we happen to be. Because of these benefits, we’ve seen a substantial rise in small groups (a.k.a., cell, life, community, etc.) across the Western world.

However, we should not be so naïve as to think that our small group is the “end all, be all.” We need to be a part of a larger body of believers, especially to see all the gifts of the Spirit function among us. (No small group should be so gullible as to think they have all the spiritual gifts covered among six-to-eight people!)

We need to the local church. And the local church needs us!

Being Teachable

Stubborn

A young missionary living overseas posted a political opinion on a popular social media site. One person responded in agreement. A few people responded with a different opinion, as did I. After I replied, I then began to get notifications that other people were commenting; and several of them were also “liking” the comment I made.

I sent a private message to this missionary to explain a concern. As missionaries, either abroad or at home, we are usually dependent on the financial support of others who care about our mission. Many of these supporters connect to us through social media. Like it or not, everything that we post there can be an extension of our ministry.

I explained that I am quite careful not to post controversial topics on my social media. I suggested that he might consider doing the same. It’s simply not worth upsetting prayer supporters or losing financial support just to express our latest political opinion.

His response to me was that he’d known the people who are replying for at least a decade. He was sure that they would not respond to him negatively. This might be true. The people who are responding might not be negative toward his opinion. But what about the people who read the post and do not respond? How does he know what they are thinking?

In choosing a man to disciple, an essential element is that he be teachable. If someone doesn’t stop long enough to consider what you’re trying to communicate to them, call it stubbornness if you’d like, you won’t make progress in helping him grow into a disciple of Jesus.

There’s a pretty good chance that if a man doesn’t listen to you, especially when you’re speaking out of love and concern, he may also not be willing to listen to Jesus (who speaks not only through the Bible but also through other believers). This doesn’t mean that he has to do everything you say, but he should at least hear you out.

If someone doesn’t appear to be teachable, take things slow and address this most important of topics. Try to help him or her understand that being teachable flows from an attitude of humility – a trait that the Bible often focuses on (Proverbs 6:3; 11:2; 15:33; 16:19; 18:12; 22:4; and 29:23 from just one book!).

Give him or her the opportunity to develop some teachability. But if after a few tries and a couple of months things have not improved, invest yourself in someone else. The missionary mentioned above responded this way: “I’m not going to be silenced just because someone might be offended.”

This is not just being unteachable. No where in Scripture do we get the opportunity to be offensive. This stubbornness has its roots in pride. Until someone’s character trait is transformed (Romans 12:2), trying to disciple (or mentor or coach) a man or woman like this will be fruitless.

Teachable men can be difficult to find. Men who are faithful, available, and teachable are especially hard to find. But better to look for a F.A.T. man than waste valuable portions of your life on someone who won’t heed your discipling.

In the end, it’s not how many men you’ve discipled; it’s how well you’ve invested the things that you’ve been given. That’s when we will get to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

~ ~ ~

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

Recognizing Burnout

Zeal Without Burnout Book cover

A couple days ago I came across the book entitled Zeal without Burnout, by the English pastor Christopher Ash. I remember reading about burnout in ministry years ago but couldn’t put my finger on the details. So, I thought I’d take a try at this short book. It was well worth it to be reminded of the things that can burn us out in ministry, whether personal or professional.

While Ash writes from the perspective of burnout as a full-time pastor, he also writes as someone who has experienced burnout himself. And he includes several stories of others who went through similar, but different, things. There is plenty in this book that a layman in a church setting can learn and use to evaluate how close he might be coming to burnout – and what to do to prevent burnout from taking hold of your life.

Here are a few quotes that I thought were “post worthy.” (I left the British English as it was.)

“Many zealous Christians juggle the responsibilities of pressurized work and busy family lives with a desire to serve the Lord in the church as Elders, Bible-study leaders, or ministry with children and young people. Those of us who are pastors can be guilty of underestimating the stresses they face as they seek to serve the Lord in ways that are often invisible to us.” (page 16)

“There’s always more we can do in ministry, but God is not asking, “Can you do more?” He is asking, “Do you love me?” Some of those extras are not always as vital as we think them to be.” (page 32)

“Or perhaps you are still in that successful career, but serving whole heartedly in your local church. The prestige and status given you by that career matter more than perhaps you realize. The wholehearted local-church service you squeeze into a busy life gives you very little affirmation and praise from others. It is tempting to pitch our energies into the activities that result in praise from others.” (page 86)

“The really important stuff—changed hearts—cannot be measured. Go din his grace sometimes gives us a glimpse, an encouragement, some evidences of grace. But it can’t be measured. You pray for someone and they don’t change. Who knows but they may change years later under someone else’s ministry (I planted, but Apollos watered). Or the fruit may come after you die. I don’t know; you don’t know. But we do know that in the Lord Jesus our labour is not in vain. (page 99)

And finally, spiritual “gifts without grace save no one’s soul.” (page 106)

That quote about not seeing measurable ministry outcomes spoke significantly to me. My tendency when not seeing the outcomes I desire causes me to consider working (ministering) all the more, harder and harder to reach an objective. And that, Ash explains, is what leads so easily to burnout. He provides seven things that can help us avoid burnout; although none of them are simple steps. They require us to speak the truth to ourselves and allow others to do the same – to speak to us whenever we need it.

Words like: “Remember, there is only one Saviour of the world; and it’s not you, and it’s not me.” (page 62)

This book took only about five hours to read. I would recommend everyone read it once, and keep it somewhere that you can read it again, perhaps each year.

Does This Picture Represent Your Workplace? Probably not!

Group Meeting

Look at the picture above. You’ve probably seen many like it. When I was writing in the corporate world, this might be the exact picture that I wanted in a document facing the customer or even those we wanted to recruit to work with us.

How could you not love that photo? An equal number of men and women. They’re interacting with one another. Multi-ethnic, although not fully, when you really look at it. And while that might not be a glaring problem, there is another.

This photo most likely does not represent your workplace.

As I write this article, thousands of young 20-somethings are finishing college and are excited to begin their new jobs. They’re coming from a place that looks pretty much like the photo. And they’re expecting to work at a place that looks pretty much like the photo.

I was talking with a friend that I mentor who finished his bachelor’s and masters last year at Vanderbilt University. He had spent six years learning his profession with people that were as diverse as the photo but were basically all the same as him.

Something that he said relates to what’s wrong with the photo above. “I’m the youngest guy on my Everyone else is at least 20 years older than men. Many of them have kids around my age. I simply can’t relate to them; at all.

I remember feeling the same way as a new nurse. I was paired up with Lois, who constantly reminded me that, “I was a nurse before you were born.” Most co-workers are not as spiteful as Lois was, but it’s quite difficult to relate to someone the same age as your parents. (Actually, Lois was almost old enough to be my grandmother!)

The fact of life is that in most first full-time jobs that we land, we will be the youngest person on the team. Not only are we adjusting to work-life that requires us to be to work on time, looking appropriate, and awake. We can be stumped at how to talk with co-workers that are significantly older than us.

They haven’t seen the same movies we have. (I say “we” when I’m actually not one of you!) They definitely do not listen to the same music as we do. And they don’t tend to go to the hipster bar or bistro we enjoy. In fact, most of them just want to go home after work because they need to help their spouse with the kids and housework.

It’s a dilemma for which college didn’t prepare us. (Okay, there are several things that college didn’t prepare us for.)

With all the discomfort of adjusting to living on your own, probably not even in the same city as your parents, who needs to try to relate to a bunch of old geezers? Why not just mumble, “Okay, boomer” under your breath and retreat to your space at work and home?

Why not? Because these people are a goldmine. They’ve been there and done that more times than they can count. They are a wealth of information, not only about the job but about living life.

So set your preconceived idea (that you didn’t even know that you had) about being on a happy team of people all your age and get on with your personal growth at work and home. Include older co-workers in your life, and surprisingly, many of them will include you.

Life will become more vibrant with them than life without them.

~ ~ ~

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

If this article was stimulating, you might enjoy this 15-minute TEDx video of Leah George, Ph.D., who talks about five generations all working together in this decade.

Praying about a Relationship doesn’t Help without This!

Praying Hands on Bible

One of the guys I mentor has been going out with a pretty sweet gal. But then life got in the way. At my encouragement, he divulged to her some personal struggles that he was facing over the past year. She did not take it very well. And like many relationships, once there is one hole in the dike, more tend to appear.

She couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t just fix the problem. One way she responded was to spend more time at his apartment. He then revealed that he needed some space; he wasn’t comfortable spending every free moment sitting with her. Yes, she needed reassurance in their relationship, but he needed some time to process.

Like many relationships, this one seemed headed toward failure. In desperation, she decided to go home to her family for a couple of weeks. They agreed that while physically apart, they would each pray about where they were going together. While that sounds good, it’s actually a bad idea.

Nope, I’m not against prayer. I think that prayer is significant in many ways. The Bible says we should pray about everything at all times. Just not this way.

Whether someone is married or single, when relationships hit hard times, the idea of separating for a time of prayer and reflection sounds good. What exactly would you be asking God to do when you pray?

For the other person to change? For you to be more understanding? How exactly will either of these happen?

I encouraged my friend to set up some phone calls to begin talking about the differences between him and his girlfriend. But more importantly, to start digging down to learn why he is the way that he is, and why she is the way that she is.

Without some of these hard conversations, we will never get down to the bottom of our conflict. It’s not all his fault. It’s not all her fault. It’s two people trying to become one without losing their own personal identity.

That takes talking to each other. Hearing both sides. Seeking to not only understand but also to help the other person grow while you grow yourself.

This type of self-examination together can be very scary. What if she doesn’t like who I really am? Why do I feel so passionate about something? Does the other person need to adopt my passion? Can I love her without owning her passion? What might happen if my passion is misplaced? Is my identity tied up in a particular passion?

For a relationship to grow strong, both people need to understand themselves and the other person. And we can’t assign a value to the other person’s traits. His love of the outdoors isn’t a rejection of your desire to cuddle on the couch. It’s not wrong; it’s different.

When you begin to have difficulties in your relationship, take the time to think about why you’re reacting the way you do. Why does your partner feel or think the way they do? How do those differences actually complement you as a couple?

By all means, pray about your relationship. Yet, spend at least as much time talking to each other as you do praying. And talk about the hard things, not just the casual things that are safe. If you’re headed toward marriage, you must tackle these issues. You can do it now or later, but they won’t just go away on a wing and a prayer.

~~~

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

100×23 San Antonio Challenge

splash-438399_1920

Throughout the years, different organizations and individuals have created challenges to reach some sort of goal. One of the best-known recent challenges was the “Ice Bucket Challenge” developed by the Pete Frates and Pat Quinn in 1984. It resulted in $115,000,000 in donations to research and fight ALS. This is proof that at least some challenges work.

I have spent several days reflecting, praying, and reading certain passages in my Bible and decided to start a local challenge in San Antonio. Called 100×23, the name is looking for the goal of one hundred new disciple-makers by December 2023.

I’m not sure that I have ever heard of a challenge in the Christian realm. Sure, we have the Great Commission to make disciple of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and that’s definitely a source verse for my challenge. In the in recent past, many Christian organizations pulled together to each all the unknown people groups by 2020. While we missed the goal, there are still plenty of groups working to reach the unreached.

But to do either of those two examples, we need disciple-makers (sometimes referred to as disciples who make disciples). How can we ever reach the uttermost ends of the Earth, including the unreached, without a plan to make and equip disciple-makers?

In my home, I have a map of San Antonio on the wall. There are blue dots spread across the map where I know of people who are actively making disciples. There are also red dots of people who are disciples. Perhaps they are ministering to others, but they have yet to make a disciple themselves.

What would happen to San Antonio if we raised up another one hundred new disciple-makers over the next three years? What if we had one or two new disciple-makers in every local church in the city (knowing that there are more than one hundred churches in San Antonio)?

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matthew 9:35-38). There’s simply no way that pastors in the city can equip every disciple to be a disciple-maker. The real work (labor) in the harvest will come from disciple reproducing themselves.

Over the next two weeks, I want to establish a baseline of how many active disciple-makers we have in the city. Many of them will be essential in raising up one hundred more disciple-makers. Each time I think about this challenge, which has been very frequently the past few days, I get excited about the possibilities of what God can do with one more disciple-makers in San Antonio.

Would you mark your calendar to pray for this challenge on the 23rd day of each month? Of course, you can pray on other days as well!

 

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Are We All Called to Be Evangelists?

Soapbox - Photo credit - lastonein on Visual Hunt

This will be the first in a short series on Evangelism and Witnessing.

Recently among a group of college students (all who claim to be followers of Jesus), a discussion broke out. One of them confidently said, “We all need to be evangelists.” A few heads nodded. Then someone disagreed. Sides formed – for and against.

Is there truth to the statement that we all need to be evangelists? I’ll join that fray and express my opinion, which I believe will be grounded in Scripture. So, let’s start there.

The word evangelist appears in most New Testaments only three times. Twice, the writer is speaking of a specific person. Philip is referred to as an evangelist in Acts 21:8. And Timothy is told by Paul to “do the work of an evangelist” in 2 Timothy 4:5.

Those are quite specific references, and I think we can all agree that it would not be a good Bible study application to make these citations into broad commands to the Body of Christ. In both these cases, the work of an evangelist set these two men apart from other believers.

Isn’t it interesting that the verse in Acts is referring to Philip, who welcomed the missionaries, Paul and Luke, into his home as an evangelist? At no time was either Paul or Luke given such a title. Paul is usually referred to as an apostle, and Luke as his co-worker, but never as evangelists. Yet, there’s a probability that no one preached the gospel to more people in the first century than Paul.

That brings me to my first point. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon describes the Greek word εὐαγγελιστής (euaggelistēs) as the name, “given in the New Testament to those heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.”

We find apostles and evangelists mentioned together in Ephesians 4:11 and 12. There, Paul writes, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (NASB).

My second point will be made as we look closely at this verse from Ephesians. Note that the verse says that “some” of the people mentioned were given by God. In the common Greek of the first century, “some” was not a separate word but part of the noun (apostle, prophets, evangelist). The King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New Century Version, New English Translation, New Revised Standard Version, and World English Bible all use the word “some.” In the English Standard Version and New International Version, the translators opted to use the word “the” instead of “some.”

But here’s my point. Whether you say “the” or “some” evangelists, it’s pretty clear that these people were not everyone in the local church. As a matter of fact, all of these apostles, evangelists, and teachers were given by God to “equip the saints.” The majority of the Body of Christ is not functioning in one of these four or five roles. The majority is being equipped by the minority.

These are the three places where the word evangelist occurs. None of these are telling the “average Joe Christian” to be an evangelist. Just like no verse tells every Christian to be a pastor or a teacher.

Based on the three uses of the word evangelist in the New Testament and my two discussion points, I would strongly contend that we are not all called to be evangelists.

God called us all to be His people, but as His people, we have different roles, in the same way that we have different gifts. Paul made it clear that everyone does not have the same gift (1 Corinthians 12:27-30).

Let’s stop trying to make other people experts in the gift that God may have given us. Let’s enjoy our diversity as given to us by God and help one another function well in the gift that the Holy Spirit decided each of us to individually have.

In my next post, I will discuss whether my conclusion that we are not all called to be evangelists relieves us from telling others about our faith in Jesus.