2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (Matthew 11 NASB)
Ministers – you have done a good job teaching Christians what to say. Christians – likewise, you have done a fabulous job learning what to say. We are very good at saying the right thing. We are so good at saying the right thing that it is amazing Millennials and Gen Z seem to want no part of us? Who would not want to hear “you don’t have to go through this alone,” or “I will be here for you,” when going through a divorce? Who would not want to hear “I will be praying for you,” when experiencing health problems? Certainly it is nice to be in a community that says “I love you” when you are feeling depressed or down. All of these are soothing sentiments, aren’t they? Let’s tweak the question just a bit. How many times has a Christian told you during a dark time “you don’t have to go through this alone,” and then they seemed to disappear? Okay, now put on your steel toed work shoes…. how many times have YOU said, “I will be praying for you,” and then never prayed?
Notice in the passage above, John the Baptist (of all people) was doubting. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness, prophesied about in the Old Testament, who would announce the Messiah…. was doubting. John who, when Jesus passed by, announced, Behold, the Lamb of God! (John 1:36b) This John who baptized Jesus…. had doubts? It happens to the best of us. Look at what Matthew writes about the Apostles AFTER they had seen the resurrected Christ and were waiting on a designated mountain for Him to appear one last time before ascending to the Father: When they saw Him they worshipped Him; but some were doubtful. (Matthew 28:17) WOW! Like the Apostles John the Baptist also had times of doubt. So, from jail, John sent some of his students to ask Jesus Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? Do you know how Jesus responded? Jesus said, tell John about my great sermons. Actually, no He did not. Jesus said, tell John about my wise counsel. Again, no. Make no mistake about it, Jesus gave great sermons. Though I love Tony Evans, Voddie Baucham, Jim Majors and Mylon Avery…. I think I can say unequivocally that Jesus gave the best sermons in the history of the world (see the Sermon on the Mount)…. Jesus also gives impeccable advice. Be that as it may, Jesus did not point to those things as proof that He is the real deal. Jesus said, tell John what I DO (paraphrase).
An Evangelism Strategy?
In America we have now raised up two generations that seem to be asking a question similar to the one John asked Jesus. Many today, even those raised in church, seem to have doubts as to the validity of Christianity. And this during a time when just about any American can pick up their phone and with just a few clicks / within a few seconds, hear great sermons. This generation of doubt is taking place during a time when the Body of Christ really seems to know what to say. Well maybe, just maybe “saying” isn’t enough. Maybe Millennials and Gen Z don’t need more or better sermons. Maybe they don’t need to hear the right words. Maybe, just maybe doubters today need to see a sermon!
Am I proposing an evangelism strategy? Absolutely not! Living out what the Bible teaches: loving and sacrificing for each other, giving of our time and resources to meet needs, is not an evangelism strategy. But when God’s people are Spirit filled and Spirit led…. or in other words when Christians are who they were born (again) to be – salvation is a delicious side-effect. The book of Acts describes the beginning of the Christian church which exploded in growth through the Jewish community and then the Roman Empire. The end of Acts chapter 2 speaks to this growth: And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (verse 47b) Oh how our country needs this today! However, just prior to the verse printed above in bold, the actions of the people in that early Christian church are described:
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people.… (Acts 2)
When the people of the world looked at the Christians in Acts 2, they saw a contrast to the legalistic religious community and certainly a stark contrast to the immoral world. The Acts 2 church was so new that most were not yet schooled in the proper way to express their faith with words. But what they did do was fill up on the forgiveness, grace, fellowship and love that Jesus offered – and then respond in kind to other people. Consequently the world took notice and wanted what they had!
From Ears to Feet
Does it seem strange to you that the Christian church in America has been on the decline for decades but the church in China is flourishing? China, where professing Christians lose benefits from the government and many end up in modern day concentration camps. Yes, the American church is declining but the Chinese church is growing. Moreover, the fastest growing Christian church in the world is in Iran! Praise God, it is reported that about 3,000 people are coming to Christ each day in Iran! Most of us probably realize that to be a Christian in Iran is not the safest route to take. But the church there is growing; why? Maybe part of the reason is when the world views Christians in Iran and China, it sees Christ in their actions. The world sees people willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. Maybe in Iran and China Christians are a stark contrast to the world and the religion that citizens are familiar with – just like the people who were being added day by day in Acts 2. People in those nations can see a sermon delivered by the Body of Christ.
Christian – you were not saved to go to church. You were not saved to gain knowledge. You have been saved to be transformed in the image of Jesus Christ. You have been saved to be the physical representation of Jesus on earth. Church attendance and Bible knowledge is a means to that end. I encourage you to read Acts chapter 2. You will read about people born again, Spirit filled and uninhibited in their responses. In this chapter there are two questions asked by observers: 1) What does this mean? (verse 12b) Then Peter preaches a pretty good (inspired) sermon of his own. After which, the second question, 2) … what shall we do? On that day, about three thousand people were saved. I’m afraid that many in the church today expect the world to hear us and ask, what shall we do? without seeing Spirit filled responses and first asking what does this mean? Maybe this doubtful world today simply needs to see a sermon. A sermon preached as a personal response to the forgiveness, grace, fellowship and love of Christ. Respond church – and let’s trust God for the delicious side-effect.