Sequential Evangelism and Witnessing
(1 Corinthians 3, John 6)
Introduction: How complex is this witnessing stuff? Last week we learned that the demon-possessed, naked, crazy guy was sent to witness to his town after Jesus cast out his demons. That guy did not have an advanced education in witnessing, yet Jesus sent him out right away! The title to our lesson indicates there is an order (sequence) to evangelism. Let's jump into our Bible study and explore this idea that math and order have something to do with effective evangelism!
- Milk and Meat Loaf
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. Would you be insulted if Paul wrote this to you?
- What kind of teachings are "milk" and what kind of teachings are "solid food?" (Solid food, according to the Bible, is food the world is not ready to accept.)
- My wife tells me about one of her aunts who attended church, wanted to become a member, but would not because the church prohibited her from being baptized into membership unless she gave up her jewelry. She was not ready to give up jewelry. She never joined the church and ultimately lost interest in it. Was the local church guilty of a milk/solid food mistake?
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:3-4. What is the "milk problem" for these Corinthians? (Jealously and quarreling with regard to teachers. "I'm better than you because I follow a better teacher!")
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. What is Paul's answer to this problem? (To explain to the "milk" people that they do not have a proper understanding of the role of the teacher and the role of God.)
- Have you noticed this issue with new or immature believers - that they get caught up in controversies and disputes that reflect a type of pride based on a lack of knowledge?
- Here are two examples from my teaching past:
- Perfect strangers or new believers come to my class and rebuke me because I teach from the NIV instead of the KJV.
- A first-time visitor to the class points out that I was wearing jewelry. She thinks I need adult supervision.
- Do these examples reflect a superior attitude? (These new people are apparently thinking: "Whoever taught me is better than this teacher, so I will rebuke him!" None of the KJV people who talked with me later had even a rudimentary knowledge of the real issues at stake. My "jewelry" was a plastic Ten Commandments bracelet. See Deuteronomy 6:6-8.)
- We've discussed the problem. We have the example in the Bible and the two examples I gave. What "milk" response should be made? If you have to start with milk, something that the world can accept, then how do you deal with the excited pride of milk level Christians? (If we review 1 Corinthians 3:3-8 we see Paul doing two things. First, even though they are "milk" level Christians, he rebukes them. Second, he explains to them the proper view of things.)
- Read 1 Peter 2:1-3. Since our lesson is about order, is "milk drinking" the first level of evangelism? (Notice how the Holy Spirit and the student work together on this. The first order of business is the confession of sin. The second is a desire for good spiritual teaching. This requires a decision of the student. The prompting and conviction of the Holy Spirit are essential.)
- Let's look at another practical problem. If we are to start out with milk, what specific, practical approach to evangelism is suggested?
- Many years ago, my church was debating how it could best reach the community. One group in the church thought we should pass out a book on the life of Jesus. Another group thought we should pass out a book about the history of the conflict between good and evil and prophecy about the future. Which do you think should have been passed out and why? (The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is milk. The other book seems a lot more like meat loaf.)
- Read Matthew 25:34-36 and Luke 9:11. Is there another aspect to the "milk first" approach that we have not discussed? An approach suggested in these verses? (Yes! Going up to a disinterested stranger and trying to convert the stranger is difficult because you have no credibility. The first step is to make strangers into friends. Helping others is a way to turn strangers into friends. Once they become friends, we have the credibility to talk with them about the gospel.)
- Let's review. There is an order to evangelism. The first step is to be a helpful friend. The second is acceptance of Jesus and repentance of sin. The third is to teach things the new believer will accept, and hold the more difficult teachings for a later time. During this process, we need to be on the watch for pride and error, and not be afraid to gently rebuke error and explain the truth.
- Meat Loaf
- Let's return to 1 Corinthians. Read 1 Corinthians 3:10. How does Paul view his work? (He is an "expert" who is laying a "foundation.")
- What warning does he give to more mature Christians? (Just as milk Christians can be arrogant, so meat loaf Christians have to be careful about how they build.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:11. What is the solid food, the meat loaf, that must be kept central in all teaching? (Jesus! We just talked about how Jesus is milk, but He is also meat loaf. We cannot exhaust our study of what He has done for us. Teaching which focuses on other, minor, issues is not a proper foundation.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:12-13. Is there a difference in the quality of the work of Christian teachers?
- How can we tell gold-standard teachers from straw-standard teachers? (Examination (light) will reveal it. Fire (tests) will reveal it.)
- What if you are a teacher and (like me) some new person rebukes you? (You need to seriously consider the rebuke to determine whether it is uneducated pride or truth.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:14-15. If you are a teacher, and you read this, aren't you glad! Who loses with a straw-standard teacher? (The student! The teacher survives, but just barely.)
- Who gains with a gold-standard teacher? (The student and the teacher.)
- Read John 14:15-21. What foundational, meat loaf, truths do we find in these verses? (The Holy Spirit is essential to our Christian walk. Obedience is essential to our Christian walk. Obedience shows that we love God.)
- Meat Loaf Test
- Read John 6:35-37. We now have an example of solid food. (Jesus calls it bread instead of meat loaf.) Why does Jesus compare Himself to bread? (You need bread to live. There is a natural progression. We start out with milk, we progress to meat loaf.)
- Read John 6:41-42. Should Jesus have given them milk instead of this meat loaf?
- Read John 6:43-51. How would you characterize Jesus teaching here - milk or meat loaf? (Accepting that Jesus is God is foundational. It has to be "milk" teaching.)
- Read John 6:52-57. Is this milk or meat loaf? (I think this is more advanced teaching. This is meat loaf.)
- Read John 6:66. What does this teach us? That Jesus made a mistake by not sticking with milk messages? (No. This teaches us that even if we follow the correct progression of help, milk and meat loaf, we are going to have people who cannot accept the truth. More milk is not the answer. Instead, we must realize that God gives us free choice, and for most the Kingdom of Heaven is not a priority.)
- Friend, will you be conscious of the order for evangelism? First help, then milk, and then meat loaf. Why not start today?
- Next week: Personal Evangelism and Witnessing.