Evangelism and Witnessing; Every Member A Minister

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back a lady went into the hospital for a few days. While she was there, a local elder, deacon and an elderly lady came to visit her. However she was released from the hospital before the Senior or associate pastors of the church could come see her. After her release, she was commenting to me that none of the pastors came to see her in the hospital. I corrected her, and told her that three pastors came to see her. According to 1 peter 2:9 the local elder, deacon and elderly lady are all pastors.

The New Testament church was an active church with everyone pastoring and evangelizing. In Acts 8, Philip, a deacon is evangelizing and baptizing. In Acts 7 you have Stephen who was another deacon. While Stephen was “just” a deacon he was stoned to death, and it wasn’t for taking up the offering or adjusting the Sabbath School classroom thermostat. No, he was stoned to death for preaching the gospel! Wait a minute. I thought preaching was the pastor’s job? Not in the New Testament church! In the New Testament church all the members were ministering and evangelizing.

In the dark ages a wide separation was made between the clergy and the laity but that was not the Biblical design. As we progress out of the dark ages the gap between clergy and laity must be narrowed, in order to get back to being a remnant of the New Testament model church.

Around 20 years ago I moved to Texas to be a Bible Worker. The church had thousands of Bible study lead cards that needed to be mailed out. The pastor asked a lady in our church if she could take them to the post office to be mailed. She responded, “Well if I do that then what is William going to do?” She felt since I was the paid Bible Worker that I should be doing all the work, and should mail them myself. Wrong! Fact is, if I am doing all the work then I am not doing my job. My job, along with the pastor’s job is to equip and empower the laity to do evangelism.  If I go by myself to give a Bible study then shame on me! I should always bring another church member so they can be learning how to give Bible studies and also to bond with the student and be another link to the church family. Currently I have about 8 adults in my Bible marking class where I am teaching them how to chain reference their Bibles and give studies and get decisions for Christ. I have also been teaching a Bible marking class at Tampa Adventist Academy, where young people are learning how to share Jesus. At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church our young people and lay members have been empowered to speak at our evangelism meetings, and to lead out in seminars. We also have several growth group Bible studies and the associate pastor and I are training and mentoring lay members to take over and lead out in these groups. We have also been taking members on door to door evangelism.

If a pastor or Bible Worker thinks of themselves as the ones who are to do all of the preaching and evangelizing then they are not  Biblical but are stuck in the dark ages. Very few pastors today still want to create a huge gap between pastors and laity, while more and more pastors are like Moses, when he said, “would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”   Numbers 11:29 With this spirit upon our paid clergy the gospel can spread like wildfire and turn the world upside down, just like it did in the book of Acts when every member was an evangelist! Please keep in mind that if the pastor or Bible Worker  are doing all of the preaching and teaching then they are not doing their job. You know the pastor and Bible worker are doing their jobs when they call you and give you work to do!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. You may download the SS lesson guide to your cell phone here.

Acts 20-24; The Life of The Gospel Worker

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].  Psalms 126:5-6

When God sends you out to work in his vineyard, as He did Paul, there is much joy but also amid much sacrifice and sorrow. It is not only a sacrifice for the gospel worker, but for their family and friends as well. Still, the love of Christ who left all for us, compels us to leave all for Him.

So to the apostle Paul, praying in the temple at Jerusalem, came the message, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” [Acts 22:21.] So those who are called to unite with Christ must leave all in order to follow Him. Old associations must be broken up, plans of life relinquished, earthly hopes surrendered. In toil and tears, in solitude and through sacrifice, must the seed be sown.   

     Those who consecrate body, soul, and spirit to God, will constantly receive a new endowment of physical, mental, and spiritual power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth His highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ, they are made complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence. 

     The Redeemer will not accept divided service. Daily the worker for God must learn the meaning of self-surrender. He must study the word of God, learning its meaning and obeying its precepts. Thus he may reach the standard of Christian excellence. Day by day God works with him, perfecting the character that is to stand in the time of final test. And day by day the believer is working out before men and angels a sublime experiment, showing what the gospel can do for fallen human beings.  –Gospel Workers 112-113.

Acts 16-20; Get your Own Relationship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This morning, as I reading through Acts 16-20, I first noticed a trend, confirming that we each need to have our own relationship with Christ. In chapter 17 verse 11, it reads, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  I find so much in this one verse. 1. They did not take Pau’s word for anything, but checked out what the Scriptures said. 2. They did not casually read. They searched. 3. They did this every day. They were developing their own relationship with God.

Later, in chapter 19 verses 13-17 I read, “Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.  And there were seven sons of [one] Sceva, a Jew, [and] chief of the priests, which did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

These vagabond Jews, were not sincere. They were trying to use the power of God for magic, to make money for themselves. This is something I feel a lot of Christians even have trouble understanding. The power of God is not magic. It is not mystical. Magic requires no relationship, or connection. It is quite legalistic actually. All the wonderful and even miraculous things accomplished by Christ and His followers were done, not through magic, but through a relationship and process. The first clue that these vagabond Jews had no relationship with Jesus is seen in the fact that they mention Paul’s name right along with Jesus. They had no connection to Jesus themselves, so they mention the name of someone who did. That did not work. They needed their own relationship with Jesus. If they had known Jesus for themselves, they would have had no need to mention Paul. So today, when sharing Jesus, if we have a real relationship with Him, we need not mention what others know about Him, or what He has done for other people. We need only mention what great things He has done for us personally. Our relationship with Him should stand on its own merit.

Acts 6; The Seven Deacons

A recent deacon ordination at the Tampa First Sventh-day Adventist Church where I am writing from today.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9

This chapter is based on Acts 6:1-7.

The appointment of the seven to take the oversight of special lines of work, proved a great blessing to the church. These officers gave careful consideration to individual needs as well as to the general financial interests of the church, and by their prudent management and their godly example they were an important aid to their fellow officers in binding together the various interests of the church into a united whole.  {AA 89.2} 
     That this step was in the order of God, is revealed in the immediate results for good that were seen. “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests  were obedient to the faith.” This ingathering of souls was due both to the greater freedom secured by the apostles and to the zeal and power shown by the seven deacons. The fact that these brethren had been ordained for the special work of looking after the needs of the poor, did not exclude them from teaching the faith. On the contrary, they were fully qualified to instruct others in the truth, and they engaged in the work with great earnestness and success.  {AA 89.3} 
     To the early church had been entrusted a constantly enlarging work–that of establishing centers of light and blessing wherever there were honest souls willing to give themselves to the service of Christ. The proclamation of the gospel was to be world-wide in its extent, and the messengers of the cross could not hope to fulfill their important mission unless they should remain united in the bonds of Christian unity, and thus reveal to the world that they were one with Christ in God. Had not their divine Leader prayed to the Father, “Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are”? And had He not declared of His disciples, “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world”? Had He not pleaded with the Father that they might be “made perfect in one,” “that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”? John 17:11, 14, 23, 21. Their spiritual life and power was dependent on a close connection with the One by whom they had been commissioned to preach the gospel.  {AA 90.1} 
     Only as they were united with Christ could the disciples hope to have the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of angels of heaven. With the help of these divine agencies they would present before the world a united front and would be victorious in the conflict they were compelled to wage unceasingly against the powers of darkness. As they should continue to labor unitedly, heavenly messengers would go before them, opening the way; hearts would be prepared for the reception of truth, and many would be won to Christ. So long as they remained united, the church would go forth “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10. Nothing could withstand her onward progress. The church would advance from victory to victory, gloriously fulfilling her divine mission of proclaiming the gospel to the world.  {AA 90.2} 

Does the New Testament give us an example of all the churches acting alone or in unity with each other?

 The order that was maintained in the early Christian church made it possible for them to move forward solidly as a well-disciplined army clad with the armor of God. The companies of believers, though scattered over a large territory, were all members of one body; all moved in concert and in harmony with one another. When dissension arose in a local church, as later it did arise in Antioch and elsewhere, and the believers were unable to come to an agreement among themselves, such matters were not permitted to create a division in the church, but were referred to a general council of the entire body of believers, made up of appointed delegates from the various local churches, with the apostles and elders in positions of leading responsibility. Thus the efforts of Satan to attack the church in isolated places were met by concerted action on the part of all, and the plans of the enemy to disrupt and destroy were thwarted.  {AA 95.3} 
     “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. He requires that order and system be observed in the conduct of church affairs today no less than in the days of old. He desires His work to be carried forward with thoroughness and exactness so that He may place upon it the seal of His approval. Christian is to be united with Christian, church with church, the human instrumentality co-operating with the divine, every agency subordinate to the Holy Spirit, and all combined in giving to the world the good tidings of the grace of God.  {AA 96.1}

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.