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November 14, 2017

Evangelism success is not based on how a person responds

by Dave Malnes

The feelings of rejection and disappointment often accompany evangelism. Jesus provides an example of how we can respond when a friend or neighbor rebuffs our attempts to witness.

Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” (Luke 14:16-24)

I love how Jesus keeps things simple.

The gospel message is mind-blowing enough to satisfy intellectual longings of searching adults, yet simple enough that a child can understand.

Christians tend to over-complicate the spreading of the gospel, thereby choosing to say nothing rather than anything at all.

In Jesus’ parable, the man commissions his servants to say, “Come, for everything is now ready.”

Six words. But in these words, a short, succinct message can be proclaimed.

“Come and receive what Christ has already prepared for you.”

What has he done? Jesus died on the cross. He took the punishment of our sins. All our sins are fully forgiven right now because the work of full redemption is finished. Come, receive everything necessary for your salvation. “Come for everything is now ready.”

It is baffling to believers when people reject God’s grace. How can something so wonderful be dismissed with lame excuses? Jesus uses this parable to teach believers that they should not be surprised.

It is important to remember that non-believers don’t know that they don’t know. Rejection is a response that is prompted by our human nature. Faith is a response that can only be received because of God’s hand. His Word brings people to faith. The invitation in God’s Word is what causes people to come and receive Christ’s finished work.

God’s Word is the cause, and faith is the effect.

The sad reality is that many people are going to reject the invitation. Jesus tells us that the gate will be wide, and the road will be broad that leads people to eternal destruction. The road will be crowded with people.

Many people don’t know that they don’t know, and we are seeing examples of that in today’s news. A growing number of people are hurting, anxious, and feeling isolated and alone. To cope with these feelings, they are turning to cheap opioids in record numbers. They are using automatic weapons to destroy others before destroying themselves.

“Nobody can enter God’s kingdom without an invitation.” (Victor Prange)

The man in Jesus’ parable wanted to fill the banquet hall with many guests. What is the strategy?  “Go out into the country lanes.”

Pastors and church members want to fill the sanctuary on Sunday morning with many guests. What is the strategy? “Go and make disciples.”

“Go” Christians are those who step out in faith to share their faith with others.

Are they going to receive rejection?  Yes.

Are they going to hear excuses? Yes.

Are people wrapped up into the culture of today’s world? Too busy? Too distracted? Too untrusting that an organized church can have what they are longing for?

Yes.

But “Go” Christians go anyway, because Jesus wants his servants to do that. He desires all believers to go and find people instead of waiting for them to come.

Go and find the “poor” in spirit.

Go and meet those who are “crippled” from the consequences of sin.

Go and greet people who are “blind” to the Truth.

Go and invite those who are “lame” in their human nature and provide excuse upon excuse.

Last spring, Praise and Proclaim Ministries launched an outreach initiative at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Portland [Tigard], Oregon. The community surrounding the congregation was familiar with the congregation, but largely uninterested in coming to hear what God had to say about finding peace during uncertain times.

But that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to “Go!”.

Three congregations who participated in the outreach initiative have formed a group of “mighty warriors in Christ” who get together on a quarterly basis to go and proclaim the gospel. They call themselves Portland Praise.”

A few months ago, when they went out door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, they invited people to a delicious BBQ dinner that was free for the entire family. On the day of the feast, nobody that they invited at the door came to the banquet.

I’m confident that if the members of Portland Praise came back and asked, “How come you didn’t come to our banquet?” they would probably hear excuses like the ones in Jesus’ parable.

Faithful servants of the Word go and invite because that is what their beloved master commissions them to do.

Evangelism success is in the extension of the invitation to hear God’s Word – not on how a person responds.

“Come, for everything is now ready!”

Praise-and-Proclaim_RedGreyVert

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