Monday, May 11, 2009

Evangelism Equipping

On the blog of a fellow LCMS pastor, Rev. William Cwirla, is a somewhat humorous, but perceptive 7-step “program” for how we as Christians should prepare ourselves for evangelizing (spreading the Gospel!). The 7 simple steps are listed below:

Rev. Cwirla's 7-Step Evangelism Equipping Program™
1. Talk to people about sin and Jesus' death and resurrection wherever and whenever you can.
2. Don't worry that people will think you're weird, you are.
3. When possible, invite them to church and hang with them through catechesis to their Baptism.
4. Practice talking sin and Jesus with folks in your congregation, most of whom are Christians already, but hey, if you can't talk about sin and Jesus in church, where can you?
5. Memorize the small catechism so you'll have something intelligent to say and don't just blather on and on about yourself.
6. Don't worry about failure; God works through that too.
7. No ifs, ands, or buts when it comes to faith in Jesus or it isn't "good news." If you don't know what that means, go back to catechism.

I want to share this with you all, so that we start to think about our Christian calling to help spread the Gospel. Oftentimes I think we “psyche” ourselves out of ever doing or saying anything to anyone else, in the way of talking about Jesus. We convince ourselves that we will sound ridiculous or people will think we are weird—which Rev. Cwirla lightheartedly reminds us that we are. We convince ourselves that we aren’t “professionals” and don’t have the right experience or words to say, and that even if we did blurt something out, that it wouldn’t be very meaningful, or likely to change their hearts anyways. Or we simply think it’s not our job! That’s for the pastor or an evangelism committee to do!

But we make it seem more difficult than it really is. All we need to do is start talking to people about sin and Jesus’ death and resurrection. Does it seem like your everyday conversation could never end up there? What about when people start talking about problems in their lives, and they are struggling with what choices to make? Some of their options may be selfish or immoral, but may seem like the easy way out of a situation. Simply ask the question: “Don’t you think that’s wrong (a sin)?” Sin (although they won’t call it that) is endlessly the topic in the media and magazines, as any tabloid can prove. The news is full of issues that relate to morality, as our society increasingly wavers over ethical issues like abortion, the definition of marriage, warfare, the human rights of prisoners, the conduct and education of our children in schools. You don’t have to look far for a topic that is a natural bridge point to talking about your faith in God’s Word. You don’t even need to have any expertise on those issues to simply ask questions and begin to talk about the effects of sin in the world. Maybe the people you talk to are experiencing grief, or loss, or guilt in their lives. Then you have a ready opportunity to tell them about the forgiveness of sins and Jesus’ death and resurrection!

Worried that you won’t know what to say? Bring them to church and bible study. If they want to attend a class like Christianity 101 to learn more about the Good News, offer to attend it with them, and discuss things together. Practice talking about your faith with people at church! Really! Do we ever do that? Or is it just the sports and weather that come up? If we aren’t comfortable talking even with fellow Christians about faith matters, then we probably never will be with someone outside. So practice! Memorize the Small Catechism so that you know the basic parts of Christian teaching. And don’t try to take credit for or expect to be the one responsible for changing someone’s heart. As long as you are sharing the good news about what Jesus has done, God can work through that. His Word is effective to create faith (Rom. 10:17). We just need that Word on our lips.

We have to know that this Word is definitely for them because it’s definitely for us and its given for all. We need the saving truth of Jesus Christ because we are sinners ourselves, and therefore don’t exalt ourselves above others. We know that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, and that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus (Acts 4:12). So try it yourself! Practice talking about your faith, memorize the Christian basics, and pray for God to show you opportunities to tell the good news. Don’t be afraid of the opportunities when they come. Just speak, and be a vessel for God’s work! “If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus, you can say He died for all. If you cannot rouse the wicked with the judgment’s dread alarms, you can lead the little children to the Savior’s waiting arms” (LSB 826).

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