In my short article about Relationship Evangelism I got two responses. One encouraged me to keep writing. The other follows.
“Charles, you’ve written on what is the “in-thing” in churches today. It has its place, but Jesus said preach the gospel to every creature, He doesn’t mention friendship. You quote Acts as a basis for your view, but let’s not forget we read there in ch 7 how Stephen gave a message that told the truth and “cut them to the quick” – and they stoned him to death. We must tell the whole truth, hell and all, no matter what the reaction. Also, while we’re “making friends” forming a “relationship” the person can be hit by a truck.”
Yes there are a lot of churches that are doing some form of Relationship Evangelism. But non that are taking it to the extremes I am suggesting the Lord wants us to go, and do.
Yes Jesus said “preach the Gospel to every creature”, but He did not say open the doors of your building and preach to every creature who darkens the door.
Yes Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel. But he was not preaching in a church building. He was out where the people were. He was doing the work God gave him to do. We fear to go outside the doors of our comfortable churches and meet the people face to face.
As an example, our church threw a block party for the community. In my estimation this was a good thing as far as it went. Those who attended enjoyed a lot of fun things, food, and they heard the Gospel. They had to register when they came. All that was great. But no one went to their home afterward to find out if they had needs. If they were members of another church. If they were seeking the Lord. Nothing.
Luke 14:23 NIV Jesus says “Then the master told his servant, ‘go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house well be full.
Throughout the Gospels Jesus set the example. He went out into the streets and homes of the people. Yes He went into the synagogue, on the Sabbath, But the rest of the time He was out meeting the needs of the people.
My idea is perhaps a radical, or extreme form of Relationship Evangelism. It is to form teams who will go out into the roads and country lanes and meet the people where they live. To write down what they find. (church members, obviously lost, hurting, needs, etc.) The purpose of the first visit is to make the initial contact. If the Lord leads and the door is open yes at that time you should lead them to Christ. But the primary reason for the call is to establish a relationship. To break the ice so to speak. To begin to show that you care. On the first visit you are planting a seed.
After that first visit, if there is no immediate need the church could meet, perhaps a month later go back to follow up to build a positive relationship. You would pray for the Lords leading as you went. If there was an imediate need, and the church could meet it, it should be done as soon as possible. Otherwise the exact length of time is not what is important. What is important is that you go back time and time again to see if they have a need the church could pray for or meet directly. The follow us is when you are watering the seed or tender plant.
Teams could be husband and wife or two men for the initial contact. If they find a single mother of a widow or just a woman living alone, the follow-up call could be made by, preferably, a team of two women, or a husband and wife.
If it is a family, the follow-up could be made by a husband and wife.
In most churches there are those who are good at fixing things, carpenters, handymen, mechanics, etc. Say you go to a home and find a widow with a broken or rotted board. A team of handymen or carpenters could go to the home and replace the damage. Say a single mother has car problems and no money to fix it. A mechanic in the Church could go with a partner to the home and fix the car. Or tow it to his shop to fix it, no charge. Many just need someone to talk to. That conversation can be directed around to the subject of salvation.
But you first have to get in the door. People are more and more reluctant to open the door and let strangers in. You have to build relationships first. In order to get in the door to talk to them.
Jesus went about meeting the peoples needs. He walked up and down the roads and country lanes meeting the needs of the people, and talking to them about the things of God. What compelled them to come to Him was that he met their needs. He healed the sick. As a carpenter I am sure he did a little of that from time to time.
We will never know in this life all that Christ did. We see a small fraction of what Christ Jesus did in the Gospels. We see a small fraction of what the Church did throughout the rest of the New Testament.
There are six other days of the week. During those six days Christ was out walking the roads, looking for needs he could meet.
Then there are those who attend the church regularly. In many churches they never receive a visit in their home. When they stop coming no one visits them to see what is wrong.
In most churches only a small few do most of the work. Many will never volunteer, no matter how much you beg from the pulpit. But what if someone visited them on a regular basis. Say you scheduled a visit for members at least every six months or better yet every quarter. Just to touch base and see how they are doing, or if they had a need the Church could help with.
Don’t you think that may encourage them. If we really got to know the people and asked them they would likely get involved too. Say you had four men and two women who said they would help start the ministry of relationship evangelism. Once that core group got comfortable with the ministry they could each invite others to help at specific times. They could go with them until they are at a point where they are willing to do the same.
There are some who would just go out and make the first contact. Say on a specific street a church member lived. One of the team members could team up with that member to visit those on his or her street, who are un-churched. It makes sense that at least one member of the follow-up team be someone who has been there before.
The point is that what ever the interval, we need to visit the people where they live. When people come to church they don’t have time to spill their guts, so the speak, about the challenges in their lives. They are not likely to do it too much on a first visit. But if we keep coming back, showing them that we care, eventually the Spirit will work in their lives and cause them to respond.
If they don’t come to us, and we don’t go to them, we have not done our duty of going out into the roads and country lanes to bring them in.
Thousands of church members each year, fall by the wayside, because no concerned member bothered to visit and water that tender plant that was growing in the church, but the cares of this life pulled them away, because they did not think the church really cared for them, or their needs.
Jesus told Peter to feed His Sheep. Feeding the sheep is not just preaching the gospel. That is an important part of it. But it is important that we go to the sheep, on a regular basis and check on them.
A real shepherd will not turn the sheep into the pasture, and leave them there for a year, then go out to sheer their wool. No he will check them to make sure they have food and water. He will make sure they are not being abused by wolves or other animals that could harm them.
A gardener will not plant his seed and come back at the end of the season to harvest his crop. If he did that he may not be able to find the crop. No, he will cultivate, he will water, he will prune where needed, throughout the year. He will work to keep the wild animals away. He will remove damaging insects.
In the same way we should not win the lost, then leave them to their own devices. Surely the world will lead many astray. The cares of this life are many. They can get in the way of spiritual growth.
Discipleship is not just about winning the lost. It is about showing the people that they are not just a number. It is showing the people that you care. That your church cares.
We get so busy doing the work of the church. We get comfortable. We grease the squeaky wheel. But leave all else to their own devices. Those who actually ask for help are only a fraction of those who really need help of some kind or another.
Yes, my brother, we need to preach the gospel. But first we have to get inside the door. If we don’t get in the door we cannot preach. If we hit them over the head with the Gospel on the first visit, rather than depending on the leading of the Spirit, we may not be allowed back in.
We must show the people we care first, like Jesus did. Then they will be asking for the reason, why we care. Then the Spirit will have free reign to work through us.
Yes, someone we visit could get hit by a truck and die before they can receive Christ. It is our job to go, It is God’s job to save. If we go in our own strength, and pound them with the gospel we may get some honest conversions. We will have few who will repeat what we have done.
If we go out in love depending on the leading of Christ, we may talk to a person seven times or more before they actually accept Christ. But if we then invite them to go with us to visit others and show the love of Christ to their neighbors, they are more likely to do it.
We are not responsible if we go and they don’t accept Christ the first time. We are responsible to go and to keep on going, until Jesus comes again.
The Big Idea of the sermon is technically called “the Proposition”. It is a summary of your entire sermon in one sentence. Some call it “the sermon in a sentence.”
Getting accurate on the Proposition is the most important step you can do as you begin work on your sermon. Accurately capturing all you have to say in a single sentence will propel you forward to a successful sermon. Arriving at the Proposition can be some of the hardest work you do in your sermon preparation. It may take a couple of days to really nail it; you may have to precede it first with exegetical study of the passage, and an understanding of the culture into which the passage speaks.
But once you have the Big Idea, the Proposition, the Sermon in a Sentence, you are almost half-way there!
A finely crafted Proposition can deliver a powerful punch.
Sermon Example: Ezekiel 18:1 – 30
This is a very long passage and argument from the Lord God to the people of Israel. It is difficult enough to explain to adults, but what about mid-schoolers? How would you explain this passage to teens, ages 12-14?? Nathan Miller of Brooklyn Park EFC taught this passage to just such an age group by really nailing the sermon in a sentence. Here’s his Proposition, Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence for Ezekiel 18:
“Your soul is your responsibility.”
That captures it really well.
Once you have the Proposition, you are on your way to putting together a good sermon. Work hard at it, and you – but especially your people – will be rewarded.
For great preaching,
Sent to make difference – reflection on Mark 6:7-13
Let me retell the story titled “Is your Jar Full?” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz.
An expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students. It was nothing unusual till he took out a one-gallon mason jar and began to fill it with stones. When the jar was filled, he asked: “Is this jar full?”
Everybody answered: “Yes.”
The expert replied, “Really?” He reached out for a bucket filled with gravel and loaded the jar with it. Then he asked, again: “Is this jar full?” By this time, the students got the point: “Probably not,” they said.
“Good,” he said. He picked up the plastic filled with sand and threw it into the jar. It filled the space between the rocks and the gravel. Then he asked again: “Is this jar full?” All the students answered: “No.”
“Good,” he said. Then he took a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then, he asked: “What is the point of this illustration?”
“No matter how full your schedule is, you can always fit some more things in it,” one student responded.
“No,” the expert answered. “That’s not the point.”
Words and actions have an impact on us. Jesus used them to touch and transform people’s broken lives. The disciples of Jesus were given a share in Jesus’ authority and were sent to make difference in the world. They performed well: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (Mark 6:13). Two thousand years have gone by and we are left with the same mission: to make difference in the lives of others through our words and actions.
Someone said that our words are never neutral. They can work either for good or bad. They can either encourage or put us down; they can either subjugate or set us free. Take these commonly use phrases in many of our conversations: “You are good for nothing;” “I am so stupid;” “S/he is awful.” You never find such words on the lips of Jesus. To the prostitute, he said: “I don’t condemn you. Go now and live your life without sin” (John 8:11); to the tax collector, he said: “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). We have associated the preaching of repentance with strong rebuke and judgment. It can be a part of the process towards change in life. The preaching of repentance, however, is about helping people to realize that they look at life from wrong perspective. Jesus effected change in Samaritan woman by conversing with her about her situation. He began it with a simple request: “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7). And he ended it up with the revelation of his identity: “I who speak to you am he (Messiah)” (John 4:26). There are many other Jesus’ life-changing words recorded in the Bible, for example: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12); “Don’t be afraid, just believe” (Mark 5:36); “You shall do even greater things than these” (John 14:12); “If anyone has faith like a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20); “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you” (Matthew 7:7). All of them have just but one purpose: to effect change in one’s life.
Jim is the youngest in his family. He is a political science graduate from one among the top universities in the world. Happily married, and successful in his career, he is not aware that twenty eight years ago his life was being decided in one of those unnoticed conversations by a cup of coffee between his mother and her friend.
- I don’t know what to do. We are so financially stretched. This pregnancy is the last thing we need right now. How can we afford another child?
- Look! You have only two wonderful children and you are doing great. It will stay that way. Nothing will change.
- Everything will change! Where shall we find the means to support such a big family? John is already complaining that we need a new car.
- What if this child is destined for something? What if he or she will bring you blessing and perhaps fame and financial support in your old age? Did you think about it?
- No. I worry about now.
- Don’t you think that God can provide for you? Why not put faith in God and see this child as a blessing for you?
- Maybe. I still need to tell John about it. He might get mad.
- I don’t think so. I am sure, he will be happy.
Our words are never neutral. They effect change in life either for good or bad. In the case of Christians, however, the words we use should build up, encourage, strengthen, give direction and meaning. Do you know that one word or sentence can make you famous for generations to come? I am sure you are familiar with this phrase: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8)? It was said by a Roman centurion, stationed in Capernaum during Jesus’ time. These words will always exemplify the faith we should have in Jesus. Never underestimate the power of your words.
If our words have such great impact on us and others, our actions are even more powerful. They can either harm or heal; they can either destroy or create. Jesus’ actions were always for good, recreating the broken lives of people. Yet, the striking factor of his actions was simplicity. Aside from preaching and praying, the actions that affected people the most were simple acts of care and concern: listening to people’s problems and stories of life; embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. “The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33); “And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16); “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man” (Mark 1:41); “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinner’ were eating with him and his disciples” (Mark 2:15); “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born from above” (John 3:3). These are simple actions, and yet they meant a lot for those who experienced them.
She came to the Philippines for study. The program was interesting and her classmates were friendly. One day after the class, she felt dizzy. Reaching the boarding house, she laid down on the bed, trying to rest. By evening the fever ran up to 39°C. Her roommate called for help. Many people came, deliberating whether to bring her to the hospital or not. The question was: who was going to pay the expenses? Then her classmate, a Filipina, sat by her, took out a small container and began massaging her body with oil. Another classmate of her, a Chinese, brought a small capsule of herbal medicine, and still another one, from Tonga, prepared an orange juice. In two hours, the fever was down to 38°C, and in three days, she was back in the classroom.
Our actions effect change. Jesus does not expect us to do things that are beyond our abilities. Yet, He loves to see us listening to people’s problems and stories of life, embracing, touching, eating and having fun with others, giving advices and explaining the riddles of life. Are you aware that one action can make you unforgettable for generations? The Gospel of Mark relates a story of Jesus being anointed in Bethany by an unknown woman. Many were scandalized by her action and the waste of the expensive perfume, made of pure nard. Jesus, however, gave her a promise: “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9). Don’t underestimate the influence of your actions.
“No,” the expert answered. “It is not the point. The truth that this illustration teaches us is: if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the “big rocks” in your life – time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these “big rocks” in first or you’ll never get them in at all.”
Preaching repentance, expelling demons, and healing the sick are all about making difference in the world. Our words are never neutral; our actions impact others. They outlive us in those who were influenced by what we said and did. Let us leave behind the traces of goodness, care and compassion that will affect others for life.
How does God convince sinners that they need a Saviour?
God makes Himself known through the preaching of His Gospel.
The apostle Paul asked some relevant questions: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Romans 10:14
Must preaching the Word of God take priority?
God has many channels by which He communicates the Gospel to needy people. The spoken Word is His primary method.
Preaching can be short and simple and preaching can be lengthy and complex.
Paul summarises the Gospel in eight words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1 Timothy 1:15
That is the core message of the Bible. Preaching that message is vital for the human race. Every one of us needs God to make us into new people by the Holy Spirit working in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. To hear “the Word preached” is essential. Hebrews 4:2.
Where does praying come in?
Is prayer less important than preaching? Is it equally important with preaching?
Neither. It is much more important than preaching. Much more.
In the early church, the preaching of the Gospel had an amazing effect on its hearers. God saved thousands through the apostles’ preaching.
What preceded that powerful preaching recorded in the early chapters of Acts?
Prayer. Prayer. And more prayer.
When a practical matter threatened to claim their attention, the apostles insisted that they must give themselves, “Continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4. Giving priority to prayer gained power in their preaching.
Must praying always take precedence over preaching?
Absolutely. Preaching without praying is preaching without power.
Every preacher needs an infusion of the power of the Holy Spirit if he is to preach effectively. Only in close communion with God can he receive that potential. Without it, his preaching will be both weak and useless.
After the American athlete Billy Sunday was converted in 1886, he became an evangelist. He said, “If you are strangers to prayer you are strangers to power.”
Why was the Lord Jesus Christ effective in His earthly ministry?
Prayer. Constant communion with His Father.
“In the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35
What did He do before He appointed His twelve apostles?
“It came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” Luke 6: 12,13.
What did He do the night before He rescued the disciples on the stormy lake? “He departed to the mountain to pray.” Mark 6:46.
What did Jesus do before He set out on that great final journey to Jerusalem?
“He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered.” Luke 9:28,29.
Powerful praying is crucial for powerful preaching.
Disregard that fact and our declaration of the Gospel is a waste of time.
How many of our churches invest heavily in technology and techniques?
Do we similarly invest heavily in praying?
Are we absolutely convinced that the best of human ingenuity is no replacement for prayer?
Gene Jackson, a former Assemblies of God minister in the USA, wrote, “The Book never changes. God never moves. He stays eternally the same. The address where we meet Him will be forever unchanged. It is an altar of prayer! If we don’t pray until we get right with God, forget the re-organization.”
The apostles gave themselves, “Continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4
If we don’t have time to pray, we don’t have time to preach.
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1
We are continuing on this series of How to Prepare a Sermon. I’ve already given you the Ten Steps to Sermon Preparation to lead off the series. Then step one, “How to Pray about your Sermon“, and step two, “Select your text and topic“. So today let’s talk about studying the passage.
Studying the passage on which you want to preach is key. Listen, you can’t have quality preaching without putting in the time to study. It doesn’t matter how much you think you may know about the topic or text, there is always more to learn. Shallow study makes for shallow preaching. so put in the time and do it right. But how do you study the passage?
Number one rule, don’t run to the commentaries first! Study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you through it; then later on you can apply the commentaries to get the historical, grammatical, cultural facts you would not otherwise know.
So, what are the steps to studying a passage of Scripture in preparation for preaching a sermon on it?
- Read the passage multiple times.
- Read the passage in a few different translations.
- Read the entire book.
- Read it in Greek or Hebrew, if you are familiar with the original languages.
- Identify the key verbs.
- Identify key themes.
- Look for repeated words, comparisons, contrasts, conclusions, assumptions.
- Look for historical references to previous Biblical history and locations.
- If necessary, diagram the passage.
- Outline the passage.
To begin to make sense of all this Biblical data, you can ask and answer three questions:
1. What does this passage say?
2. What does this passage mean?
3. What does this passage mean to me?
Once you have organized the sermon by answering the above three questions, you are ready to move on to Step Four of sermon preparation.
Yours for great preaching,
Dr. Bill Miller
Just came across an article in Christianity Today online about using FaceBook to help with your sermon prep.
Here is the link.
He makes some good points, mainly Facebook helps with:
- “Understanding the hearts of my people”
- “Understanding the hearts of the unchurched”
- “Bringing people to church”
- “Generating sermon material”
- “Extending the sermon’s impact”
What’s been your experience with Facebook? Is it a plus for sermon prep, or a distraction, or something else?
For great preaching,
Dr. Bill Miller
Stewardship is a biblical perspective that can be applied to your business. Stewardship simply means managing possessions and property that are not yours. You may say, “My business belongs to me.” According to Psalm 24:1, the earth and everything on it belong to the LORD. The world and its people belong to him (CEV). Based on this scripture, your business belongs to God; therefore, you are a steward managing his business. He has blessed you with the talents, time, and treasures that you need to properly manage that which you are responsible for.
There are five principles of biblical stewardship: persistence, planning, proportionate, pleasantness, and purpose. Let’s see how we can apply them to your (God’s) business.
Persistence: Scripture teaches us that faithfulness is a necessary quality to possess as a steward. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful (I Corinthians 4:2 KJV). Being persistent and dependable is viewed as being faithful. If you have any doubts, you can’t move forward in your business. You have to believe it to achieve it. You have faith that you can be a successful entrepreneur and small business owner; therefore, you are persistent in making it happen.
Another symbol of your faith is your dependability. Your business is not fly-by-night; you are in it for the long haul. Your clients can depend on you being there and not skipping town. Also, they can depend on you to be faithful in completing their projects and tasks.
Planning: God wants everything to be done peacefully and in order (I Corinthians 14:33 CEV). Planning goes without saying in any size or type of business. It is highly advisable to have a business plan as entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as a marketing plan. A plan will keep you focused and on track; therefore, your business plans will be accomplished peacefully and in order.
Proportionate: If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better (I Corinthians 16:2 CEV). The proportion of talents, time, and treasures God blesses you with will determine what services and/or products you will offer to your target market. Remember, He gives you what you need to be good stewards. At the same time, you are serving God by providing your clients with excellent service and/or products, which come from your proportion of talents, time and treasures that He has given you.
Pleasantness: Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give (II Corinthians 9:7 CEV). Be pleasant in your business dealings, especially with your clients. It’s what’s known as providing excellent customer service. Don’t force it, give your pleasantness freely. Your clients would much rather conduct business with someone who is pleasant rather than with someone who is rude. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31 NIV). When completing their projects and tasks, do it cheerfully. God sent you that client as a way of providing you with treasures.
Purposeful: When you eat or drink or do anything else, always do it to honor God (I Corinthians 10:31 CEV). As a steward over God’s business, it’s important to honor Him by operating it with honesty and integrity. I remember reading in “The Prayer of Jabez,” written by Bruce Wilkinson where Bruce was having a conversation with some business executives. One of the executives asked Bruce, “Is it right to ask God for more business?” Bruce responded, “Absolutely! If you’re doing your business God’s way, it’s not only right to ask for more, but He is waiting for you to ask.”
Conclusion: Biblical stewardship deals with use of your money; however, it is a perspective that covers your entire life, including your business. As I have pointed out, the five principles of biblical stewardship can be applied to your business. This should be our business plan as entrepreneurs and small business owners. From time to time, we need to refer back to our plans to ensure we are on the right track. God has entrusted his business to you by appointing you as steward to manage it. The more God bless your (His) business, the more He wants you to bless individuals, the community and the world at large. This style of stewardship will bring honor and glory to His name. It is also a manner of serving God.
Original article here.