Monday, May 21, 2012

“Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing”

Second Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing"
For the week of May 26, 2012
Equipping for Evangelism and Witnessing
One day, Hector decided to reorganize some of his belongings.  He was perplexed however, to find the blades of some of his knives, scissors and shears had either broken off or were bent.  Puzzled by what he saw, he could not figure out how this could have happened.  He thought maybe they were of inferior quality and cheaply made, and that this is what caused the tips to break or bend more easily.  Although this explanation made sense, it didn't quite fit and Hector couldn't wholly accept it.
The next day as Hector was in the kitchen, he saw a loosened screw on one to the cabinets.  Instinctively, Hector picked up a knife and used it to tighten the screw.  As he twisted the knife, he realized that its tip was resisting the pressure, so he pressed harder. Just as he did so, he noticed the tip of the knife bend.  At last it dawned on Hector that this was how the tips of the knives and scissors were disfigured or broken.
Because these "utensils" were only made to cut, the tips were not strong enough for tightening or loosening screws. Screwdrivers, however, are the tools made for these tasks.  Interestingly enough, no one uses, or ought to use, a screwdriver to cut anything because the blade is too dull.  Yet many, out of convenience, use screwdrivers to pry open lids, hammer lids closed, and to chip paint and or glue off.  But using the wrong tool, regardless of convenience, is damaging, whether to the tool itself, the person using the tool or to the items on which the tool is being used.  
Here is a fundamental principle: there is a correct tool for each and every need.  This in turn aids in greater efficiency, safety, and prevents damaged or broken tools.
In principle, doing the right thing produces positive results, while doing the wrong thing usually produces negative results.  This is not only true in using appropriate tools, but also in the use of appropriate methods to reach the unchurched.  
Many are realizing the methods and procedures currently being used in terms of witnessing are not effective.  Not only is the church not growing, but losing members.  Our youth are leaving in droves. And what of the apathy evidenced by decreased participation.   Yes, here and there we hear of increased church membership, but  the general trend is in decline. Many, if not most of the churches with phenomenal growth hardly resemble  the  Seventh-day Adventist church that most of us grew up in. Unlike our standards, the worship services of these popular, fast growing congregations are loud, less humbling  and without teachings of reverence. Missing are the testimonies of faith. The messages are tales to bring laughter, to keep us in our comfort zone; the words "sin" and "repentance" are rarely used, while the youth of the world hunger for meaning--something that will last. If we apply the tool illustration to reaching the world for Christ, then we must be using the wrong tools.  
First, there is a need to truly understand the meaning of the words in our lesson: equipping, witnessing, and evangelizing. Let us start with the word, "equip."  From the context of the lesson we get a sense that the term "equipping" is meant as "training;" but "equipping" actually means "providing," "supplying," and or "furnishing."  Who is it that provides for believers?  It is the Holy Spirit.  He provides all things: love, grace, fruit, gifts, etc.  He is the source of the provision, while we are the receivers.  
"Evangelism" – the giving of the good news of salvation (Gospel) – is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and is therefore not given to all believers equally.  Since the Holy Spirit is the source, evangelism is not something you can effectively train for in school, seminaries, or weekend workshops.  It is a skill that the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostles.  We could argue that William Miller was given the gift of evangelism.  He was a simple farmer with no training in theology or homiletics.  Yet, God used Him to preach the good news of Daniel 8: 13 within the United States.  Through Miller's ministry, the Lord built a group of believers from which the Seventh-day Adventist Church would grow. 
Did Miller witness? Yes.  But so did all the so-called "Millerites."  How did they witness? Many sold all they had and left all behind expecting Christ would come back on October 22, 1844.  This was a witness of their desire for Christ's return and to be with Him. There was no need for them to speak, although many probably did.  This action spoke louder than any words.  Christ called all to witness, but not all were made evangelists.
Christ also called us to be a royal priesthood.  As priests, we are to identify with others by interceding for and carrying each others' burdens.  We are to identify with others as Christ identified with us. He was touched with our infirmities, tempted in all things as we are (yet, without sin).  As witnesses for Jesus, we identify with Him, as His priests we identify with others.  How much are we to identify with others?  1 John 3:16 gives us the answer, we are to lay down our lives for the brethren as Christ laid down His life for us.  Consider Moses when he told the Lord, to blot him out of the book of life, if the Lord destroyed the Israelites.  Consider Paul: he was willing to die eternally if, by so doing, his people would be saved. This was the love of God manifested through Paul and thru Christ.  So should it be with us.  This is the greatest witness.
How do we become witnesses?  By experiencing life with God.  How do we become priests? It is through receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  If we consider these two ideas further, we see that they are similar: life with God is life with the Holy Spirit. This is how Christ lived.  So, is it safe to say that to live as Jesus lived, is to act as He did?  Ellen White seems to think so, this is apparent from the following quote:

Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, "Follow Me."  There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.  (Ministry of Healing, 143 – 144)
Why must we try other methods when the method of the One we profess to follow and worship -Who we claim is our Example -  has already shown us how to reach lost souls with an everlasting effectiveness?  Can we hear His words to the disciples, "O you of little faith, why do you doubt," … "and why do you reason among yourselves?"  "I am here waiting for you to come to Me.  Why do you waste your time and effort, when what you need, I have and am willing to give to you?"  Imagine His suffering when we reject what He so much wants to give to us: His Holy Spirit. He gave His life and left to go to the Father, so that we could have the Holy Spirit. He is our equipper for both to be witnesses and priests.
--Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz