Lesson 1

Defining Evangelism and Witnessing

(Luke 24, Acts 1, 5 & 10)
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Introduction: Sharing the gospel is something that all Christians can do. The question is, "How do we do it well?" Normally, I think of evangelism and witnessing as being the same thing. However, when viewed from the lenses of a lawyer, the two are much different. In most legal briefs, the facts of the case are discussed first. Next comes the legal argument. The first section is about the witnesses and what they say happened. The second is about persuasion. When I write the facts in a brief, my goal is to persuade. However, no good lawyer would be confused about the difference between stating the facts and making the legal argument. Is that true for Christians who want to share the gospel? Should we be sure we understand the difference between the facts and persuasion? How much of a persuader role do we have? Let's dive into our Bibles and see what we can learn!

  1. Witnessing versus Evangelism


    1. Read Luke 24:45-48. These are some of Jesus' last recorded words to His disciples before He returns to heaven. Jesus tells them that they are to be "witnesses." However, He started out (verse 45) teaching them about the Bible. Are the disciples told to testify or persuade? (Their unique role is to testify. Jesus taught them that the Bible predicted certain events in Jesus' life. The disciples are fact witnesses that this happened just as the Bible predicted.)


    2. Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-21. Is this witnessing or persuading? (This is clearly persuasion.)


    3. Read Acts 1:8. Here are some more of Jesus' last words before returning to heaven. Why would we need the Holy Spirit in order to testify?


    4. Read Acts 5:30-32. What do we see here? Witnessing or persuading? (Peter starts out talking about the facts, but he then moves to a legal argument ("repentance and forgiveness of sins").


      1. Notice how the Holy Spirit is used. I do not read where the Holy Spirit is giving any facts. How is the Holy Spirit a "witness?"


    5. Let's take a peek at what preceded this. Read Acts 5:12-18. This is why Peter and the disciples were arrested. How is the Holy Spirit a witness? (The Holy Spirit is corroborating the factual testimony and the legal argument of the disciples by performing miracles through them.)


    6. Let's see how the disciples put all of these elements together. Read Acts 10:39-41. What is going on here? (Witnessing. The disciples are reciting the facts that they know.)


    7. Read Acts 10:42-43. What is going on here? (This is the legal argument side of it.)


    8. Read Acts 10:44-46. What is going on here? (This is the Holy Spirit's affirmation of the truth of the facts and the accuracy of the legal argument.)


  2. Today's Witness?


    1. Hearsay is a statement of facts not witnessed by the person testifying in court. What is wrong with hearsay? (You cannot test it to be sure it is true. If I testify that I saw someone strike another person, I can be cross-examined about my ability to see the event and asked about my prejudices and biases. If I testify that my brother told me that he saw someone strike another person, my testimony cannot be tested to see if it is accurate.)


    2. Are Christians today stuck with a hearsay gospel? (It certainly is hearsay for us to say that Jesus lived, died and was raised from the dead. The disciples were witnesses of that, but we are not.)


      1. So, is the witnessing part of the job unavailable to us? (No. We can tell what Jesus has done for us.)


    3. Remember that I said that every brief requires a statement of the facts before the legal argument. I also said that poor lawyers get the two mixed up. Should all of our gospel work start with a witness before we get into persuading? Or, has time eliminated the importance of the facts because our facts are nothing as exciting as Jesus being raised from the dead?


    4. One day I was visiting a church, and a very large man stood up to give a praise about his witnessing that week. His story was this: he was doing prison ministries, and he saw that the correctional officer in charge was eating a ham sandwich. He told the officer that eating ham would cause her to go to hell. The man, who was about 50-75 pounds overweight, was thankful that God gave him the opportunity to witness to this officer.


      1. Let's break this down by the elements of what we have learned. Did the church member witness to any facts? (He had a health message, but his non-verbal "facts" showed he had a mixed message at best.)


      2. What was the man's legal (persuasion) message? (That the Leviticus 11 command against eating unclean meat was a salvation message. Whether or not this man was right on his underlying theological assumption, this does not seem to have anything to do with the gospel message of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.)


      3. What was the witness of the Holy Spirit? ("Ham man" did not report any.)


    5. Read Matthew 15:16-18. This suggests that the ham man needed to do a little bit more work on the legal (persuasion) side of his evangelism. More importantly, what does it teach us about witnessing? (The important thing is what we say.)


    6. Read Matthew 12:36. What does this suggest about witnessing? (That every word we say is significant.)


      1. Is that how you look at evangelism - as a moment by moment, word by word process?


      2. Consider our large ham man again. What do you think was his hope? (That the correctional officer would repent of eating ham, and be converted to membership in the ham man's church. It did not happen. But, the ham man thought he should mention it during the "praise" period so someone would consider him worthy of praise for at least trying. No doubt this was the only witnessing event the ham man could recall during that week.)


    7. Read Mark 4:13-16. To what does Jesus compare sharing the gospel? (Like words being tossed out along the path of life.)


    8. There is a popular book I've read whose title is "Nudge." It is about government, economics and decision-making. At the same time, there is a less popular religious book I am reading also entitled "Nudge." The religious book is about evangelism. The two books have a common theme: small attempts to influence can have large results. How would you relate the "nudge" idea to the three Bible texts that we have just read: a)"every word counts in the judgment;" b)"what comes out of the mouth is critically important, not goes in the mouth;" and, c) "evangelism is sowing words?" (All of Jesus' statements tell us that our every word has a nudge effect. We either nudge people towards the gospel or away from the gospel.)


    9. How would your outlook on witnessing and evangelism change if you viewed it as a moment by moment thing, rather than the ham man's "one great opportunity every few months to hit a home run and convert somebody?"


  3. The Holy Spirit as Witness


    1. Read Mark 16:19-20. We see the disciples sharing the word. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in this? (It confirms the correctness of the shared word. It corroborates the witness of the person.)


    2. Read John 16:7-11. What work of the Holy Spirit do we see here? (That the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, guilt, righteousness and judgment.)


    3. Read Acts 8:29-31. What work of the Holy Spirit do we see here? (The Spirit directs Philip to a person who wants to understand the gospel.)


    4. What do these three texts teach us about the role of the Holy Spirit in our witnessing? (That He will bring us to the right people, He will bring conviction, and He will corroborate our testimony.)


      1. Have you experienced this in your life? (My guess is that you have stories to show the Holy Spirit brought you together with a seeker, and brought conviction.)


      2. How many of you have experienced the Holy Spirit corroborating your witness by signs?


        1. As you might have guessed, I thought the "ham man's" witness was unhelpful. I'm rather certain many people have an unhelpful witness, and sometimes I wonder about my own witness. Are you uncertain about the best way to witness?


        2. If we find that our witness has no corroboration by the Holy Spirit either through signs or conviction, should we take that as a sign we are doing this the wrong way?


    5. Friend, we have just started our study about witnessing. Will you do two things? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you insight into witnessing, and study along with us as we explore God's word on the subject?


  4. Next week: Every Member Ministry.

Discussion

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Lessons on Evangelism and Witnessing

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